Using “catfish” (or “catphish”) as a verb means to present false information about oneself online. Commonly used to begin romantic relationships online, it also applies to the working world. when job candidates intentionally misrepresent their skills/experience in pursuit of new positions, they are catfishing employers.
In either case, it’s a very bad idea.
Law doesn’t specifically prohibit social catfishing, as it’s a relatively new situation. However, you can still be prosecuted for catfishing under various legal theories. Common avenues include fraud, infliction of emotional distress, misappropriation of likeness, defamation, and stalking or harassment.
In a 2014 catfishing scheme, an Indiana woman admitted to two counts of felony theft for persuading victims to deposit thousands of dollars into her bank account. The perpetrator had fabricated identities of two United States Marines and portrayed them as being involved in a covert, overseas operation. The sentencing judge in the case likened the wrongdoer’s actions to “mental torture.”
FAKE CLAIMS, REAL CONSEQUENCES
Prospective employees sometimes exaggerate their skills and accomplishments on personal profiles, resumes and job applications, or during interviews. This is equally deceptive and morally wrong.
In fact, a 2017 Harris Poll of over 2,500 U.S. hiring and human resource managers found that 75 percent had caught a lie on a resume. Memorable gaffes included an applicant’s claim to have written computer code the hiring manager had actually written. A separate candidate claimed that he had worked as a CIA spy during the timeframe in which he was actually still in elementary school.
You should never approach a new career opportunity by “filling in gaps,” embellishing or outright lying on your resume. In addition to being unethical, routine applicant background checks and verification of employment history typically root out these lies. Even if you land a desired position through what may seem like relatively innocuous “fudging,” you’re not in the clear. If the employer discovers that you lack the skills you claimed to have, it can be grounds for immediate firing because you’ve attested to the accuracy of facts by signing the job application.
Put another way, dishonesty may be more harmful than not getting the job in the first place. “In addition to losing your current job, you may find it more difficult to find future employment because you have a termination for cause on your employment record,” explains legal site FindLaw. What’s more, courts usually rule that employees who lied to land a position can’t sue their employer for wrongdoing. In that situation, cases about improper dismissal or being passed over for a promotion are immediately thrown out.
In addition, if you were hired based on false information, you’re taking a personal risk. If you’re truly unqualified to perform the required work, you won’t succeed in the long run.
GET REAL WITH YOUR SKILLS
Don’t take the risk of catfishing as it relates to presenting your job skills. Instead, spend your time researching actual fits for your talents and experience. If you find that you’re not qualified for the jobs you want, it’s time to attend trainings.
As a starting point, refer to Accounting Principal’s Finance & Accounting Career Guide for specialized tips for your career path.