Of course everyone crafts their resume to cast themselves in the best possible light, but most people know that fabricating their responsibilities and accomplishments is a huge mistake. So what do you if you’re asked to give a reference for someone whose resume doesn’t reflect their work?
Career expert Alison Green (aka Ask A Manager) helps this reader in an uncomfortable situation.
I got a voicemail today for a reference check on a former coworker/casual friend. I had no idea this call was coming, but I’ve been in management for a few years and get these often enough, so it’s not a big deal.
I reached out to him asking for some background and whether this was a personal or professional reference. He responded, saying that he mentioned us working together years ago and asking if I could put in a good word, yadda yadda yadda.
Then he forwarded me his resume.
Job #2 listed on it, from 2011 to the present, has him as an employee of mine doing a host of professional services. There is a paragraph longer than this email detailing it. It’s 100% fabricated.
Obviously, there is no positive reference coming. I just don’t want to be hasty and vindictive. Still, how would you handle this?
Whoa. It’s bad enough to lie like that, but it’s particularly bizarre that he didn’t even think he should mention to you that this was his plan, and ask you if it was okay with you. Letting the resume tell you the situation instead of telling you directly himself was a weird, weird choice. He even told you on the phone that he’d said you’d worked together “years ago,” and then forwarded you a resume that said you’re still working together now?
Anyway, I’d call him up and say this: “The information you included for the time we worked together is made up. What’s going on?”
After you listen to whatever weird yarn he spins, say, “Obviously I can’t attest to this because it’s not true. I’m not sure why you thought I’d be comfortable doing that.” Personally, I would say this in a cold, cold tone, one that conveys, “You have committed an egregious transgression,” but that’s up to you.
Also, tell him not to list you as a reference in the future, since even if he corrects the resume now, you can’t vouch for his trustworthiness and integrity. In fact, you could only really vouch for his lack of them. I’d also say this in a freezing-cold tone. Arctic cold is what you’re going for here.
As for the current reference check that he pulled you into: Because this person is a (casual) friend, you could do him the favor of simply not returning the reference call (and not returning any additional attempts the reference checker might make to get in touch with you). That would be better for him than if you actually did talk to the person, because if you did, you’d have to out him as a charlatan and an ass.