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Lemons and Resumes and Lies, Oh My

September 19, 2010

I have heard of people lying on their resumes in order to get a job, so I should not have been surprised when a friend of mine recounted his own experience about doing the same thing in order to land a very high-paying job.

Our discussion was brought up after I mentioned to him the results from a recent study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showing that the gender wage gap has increased.

My friend — let’s call him Bob — mentioned he worked at a company a few years ago where he made more money than his two female coworkers, both of whom were much more qualified in terms of education, experience and skills. He had access to pay records because he knew someone in the pay department.

When Bob applied for the job, he told me that he lied on his resume by tailoring it to what was posted on the job website. Rather than submitting his true skills and experience, he listed on his resume everything the company was seeking in the ideal candidate. Bob had never worked in this industry, so he was not the ideal candidate, and he was very much under-qualified since he had no previous work experience. He managed to pass the interview successfully by lying during it as well, which was an assault on two fronts.

Bob managed to remain at this company because he researched anything he didn’t understand, in addition to having an absentee boss.

My purpose for writing this blog entry is not to chide Bob but rather to use his case as a good example of Akerlof’s lemon law, which states that the bad [ethics] drive out the good [ethics]. His story also illustrates that the gender wage gap between men and women working the same profession — even for those women who are much more qualified than their male counterparts — remains high.

Bob took advantage of his information asymmetry when he applied for the job and when he interviewed for it. Bob already knew his skills and qualifications, but his potential employers have no idea whether he was speaking the truth or if he was speaking lies. What it can ultimately set up is an environment where those who are very good at lying and thinking well on their feet during the interview will be considered along with those who are truly qualified. Employers in industry A will occasionally hire those who are not qualified.

But what if more and more people are able to do what Bob did? His case may be a rare example because he did have an absentee manager, but it’s not difficult to see that if under-qualified workers truly want the job, it’s quite possible to get the job simply by lying.

The startling part to all this is that Bob was rewarded with not just the job but with a higher salary than his two female coworkers, both of whom worked in the industry longer than he, went to very good universities and had a much higher skill set than his.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. oliver permalink
    September 20, 2010 6:27 pm

    my industry is small and my boss and the bosses of my competitors are on speaking terms, this might be down right collusion from many perspectives, but it disable cheating for characters like “Bob”. Then let us discuss this, my industry is so tight that everyone knows everyone to the point that this might suppress wages based on non-merit facts, but on the other hand big lies will end someones career. Which is better? To not get a real raise because jealous people collude against you, or liars get run out of town?

    • Trung permalink
      September 20, 2010 7:29 pm

      the one thing i found interesting was “bob” was paid a higher salary that his two female coworkers. what prompted my writing of this article was a discussion on the gender wage gap. obviously, in “bob’s” case, it was evident there had to be some type of gender discrimination going on. how does someone who is less qualified (even when he lied on paper) be paid more than someone who is more qualified? even “bob” admitted that there had to be gender discrimination taking place at his former work place.

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