Following Jesus in the Real World: Can you be honest and compete?


My youngest son, Brett, recently started a new job after searching for several months after his college graduation. He likely lost one job opportunity along the way because he was honest about his long-term commitment to the position. The temptation was to take the job at hand and worry about the rest later. He did the right thing and it worked out for him. Being honest can be a challenge when you feel like others are not playing by the rules. In this tough market more and more desperate job seekers are tempted to "pad" their resumes to rise to the top of the pile.

Background Information Services, a company that does background checks, has found that well over half of all resumes contain false information about work and educational credentials.

This hit close to home for me. A few years ago I was asked to write a bio that would be sent out with a press kit for my new book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. My educational background was, to be very kind, inconsistent. I was ADD before it was cool. Instead of having accommodations and testing and medication I was called into the guidance counselor's office and chastised for underachieving and laziness. Those are indeed great motivators. I loved the line from Donald Miller's book To Own a Dragon. Miller was describing the difficulties of paying attention in school: "I felt I was on a merry-go-round, hearing every fifth sentence. The rest of the time I wondered what a civilization of puppets would use for currency."

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is my brain. At any rate, I survived high school with good enough grades to pass. With a clean slate I enrolled at Marietta College with a determination to show I could do well academically. I stayed interested for one semester and did well, even making the correct Dean's List for a change. After proving I could accomplish that goal, my interest promptly turned to Ping-Pong, pinball, and Strat-O-Matic baseball for the second semester. Not surprisingly, I dropped out after my freshman year.

As I examined my educational credentials for my bio here is what I had to put on the table:

  • College dropout.
  • Marginal Ping-Pong player.
  • 1972 high game on the Play Ball pinball machine---Student Center, Marietta College

Not exactly Algonquin Round Table material. I would have loved to embellish the old academic credentials. But it was like my grandpa used to say when he noted that you can't polish a . . . uhhhh . . . well, never mind what Grandpa used to say. The point is my academic career was spotty. Like Donald Miller I found my refuge in reading and research. I did learn that you never stop learning. And I realized the miracle of how God can use anyone, even a slacker like me. Getting puffed up with pride is not an option for me when it comes to my academic credentials.

Had I known about a company called Fake Resume I could have pumped up the old resume a bit. The website offers a resume "tune up" that shows you how to fill in gaps, get fake references, and even get transcripts from any university with the GPA you want. Here is the rationalization taken directly from the firm's website:

  • The bottom line is if you know you can do the job, then why shouldn't you fluff up your resume a bit? We all know a great deal of people who have held jobs that they were not qualified to have. Yet there they were day in and day out collecting big paychecks while other people corrected their frequent mistakes. This underground guide will teach you how to take your real life experience and embellished on them so you get the job you deserve.
  • Can this be considered lying? Perhaps, but don't you deserve a shot at a job you know you can do?
  • What about your prospective employer's honesty? How open and honest are they to their employees and future employees? Anyone who's read the newspaper or watched the evening news has witnessed the lack of integrity that runs rampant in today's corporate world. In my experience very few employers will fully reveal any unpleasant details affecting the positions they advertise.

So why not "fluff up" the qualifications? As long as you know you can do the job that's OK, isn't it? Lying? Well if you are going to get all nitpicky you could say it's lying. The temptation is to drag out the gold standard of rationalization. That would be justifying one sinful act because of another sinful act that someone else commits. Companies are dishonest? Then you can be dishonest, too. That merely levels the situational ethics playing field, right? The website has subheadings like "How much should you lie on your resume" and "How not to arouse suspicion."


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