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Ethics Alive! To Be Sincere… Is It Okay for Social Employees To Embellish in Job Purposes and Job Interviews?


by Allan Barsky, JD, MSW, PhD

     After years of arduous work and private sacrifice, Fama and André are excited to be graduating with their social work levels. They’re trying ahead to their careers as skilled social employees with enthusiasm, but in addition with trepidation. Every of them is questioning, “How lengthy will it take to discover a job? Will I like my first job? What do I’ve to do to search out an incredible job?” Each have labored their method by college research by taking up quite a lot of jobs. Each have scholar loans that they might want to pay. Though they hoped their present subject practicum company would rent them, it now appears to be like as in the event that they might want to discover positions elsewhere.

     André and Fama resolve to work collectively, supporting each other of their job search. They share their skilled résumés to allow them to present suggestions to 1 one other. Fama is shocked to see how a lot info André has supplied. She thinks it’s an excessive amount of info…and never precisely correct. Conversely, André thinks Fama’s résumé is just too sparse.

     “How are potential employers speculated to get a way of who you’re?” he asks. “All you’ve performed is record just a few jobs and your subject placements. No person’s going to rent you should you don’t share info that reveals what an incredible social employee that you just’ll be?”

     Fama understands what André is saying, however she has grown up in a tradition that values humility. She says she doesn’t need to brag, and he or she actually doesn’t need to embellish her credentials. André says, “Everybody ornaments their résumés. Employers know that folks take liberties with how they current themselves on their résumés and at job interviews. It’s not against the law to current your self in one of the best mild. Moreover, we each want jobs, and we’ll show to our employers that we’re worthy of their belief.”

     Fama and André get into an intense dialogue about honesty and the ethics of embellishing.

Be Sincere: Isn’t It Apparent?

     At this level, you could be asking: What’s the want for an article on the significance of honesty when making use of for jobs? Isn’t it apparent? It’s not a difficult moral dilemma. There aren’t any conflicting moral obligations. Wouldn’t all affordable social employees, pondering prudently, recommend that mendacity about our backgrounds to safe a job is unethical? We’re speculated to be sincere, clear and easy. Integrity is a core precept within the NASW Code of Ethics (2021). If we don’t act with honesty and integrity, how can employers, purchasers, and others belief us?

     Though it could appear apparent that “honesty is one of the best coverage,” we’re all conversant in conditions by which folks looking for jobs should not fully sincere. A well-publicized instance arose after George Santos received a 2022 election for a Congressional district in Nassau County, NY. Whereas campaigning, he advised those that he was Jewish and his grandparents have been Holocaust survivors. He publicized that he had a finance diploma from Baruch School and an MBA diploma from New York College. He mentioned that he labored at Goldman Sachs and Citibank. None of this info was true.

     After Santos received the election, numerous information shops reported that these claims and others about his background have been false. Mr. Santos admitted that he had “embellished” his résumé however claimed he did nothing improper or unlawful. [1] A few of Mr. Santos’s supporters have agreed that he did nothing improper, whereas others view his false claims as egregious. How can folks belief somebody to symbolize them in Congress when he misrepresented a lot of his background and {qualifications}? Even when he retains his seat in Congress, his repute will ceaselessly be sullied (Pellish & Morales, 2023).

     Individuals who embellish their résumés might put forth numerous justifications for doing so. Some argue that everybody does it, so it have to be okay. Nonetheless, not everybody misrepresents their backgrounds when making use of for positions. Even when they did, it doesn’t make such habits moral. Ethicality is decided by the rightness or morality of explicit habits, not by the quantity of people that behave in a specific method.

     Some might argue that they should embellish their résumés to have an even taking part in subject. That’s, to have a good likelihood at being employed for a specific job, they’ve a proper to brighten their backgrounds simply as different folks do. Once more, ethicality just isn’t decided by what others do. Fabricating one’s background is dishonest, even when dishonesty by others makes the system unfair. If the issue is that individuals who act dishonestly have a bonus in being employed, then the answer is to not permit additional dishonesty.

     Slightly, the answer is to remove the inducement for being dishonest. Accordingly, many employers verify the veracity of the data put forth by candidates for positions. For example, they verify with previous employers and different references, confirm info with on-line background searches, or take a look at candidates to find out whether or not they have the expertise and expertise that they declare to own (e.g., having them display their communication, evaluation, and problem-solving expertise).

Aren’t There Grey Areas Concerning Embellishment?

     Some folks distinguish between several types of gildings or misrepresentations. Though some misrepresentations are blatantly unscrupulous, others should not as dishonorable. For example, André mentioned he graduated with a 3.7 grade level common (GPA). This info is inaccurate as a result of, when he was calculating his GPA, he by chance omitted a low grade that he obtained in a summer season course. Though he inflated his GPA, he didn’t truly lie. Somebody lies after they current false info, realizing the data is fake, however wanting others to imagine it’s true. In André’s scenario, mendacity would indicate that he deliberately tried to deceive potential employers about his GPA. An unintentional misrepresentation just isn’t as egregious as deliberately fabricating one’s credentials to mislead others. Nonetheless, André ought to have used due diligence, avoiding recklessness or negligence in calculating and reporting his GPA.

     In his résumé, André said that he supplied medical counseling to 220 purchasers in his subject placement. Though he met with 220 purchasers in his placement, a lot of his contacts concerned assist and referral companies reasonably than medical companies. His authentic assertion just isn’t solely inaccurate, but in addition is deliberately deceptive. André is aware of that the 220 determine was inaccurate. Nonetheless, he views the excellence between medical counseling and supportive counseling as comparatively minor. Fama asks, “If the folks interviewing you later found that you just have been offering solely supportive counseling to a lot of your purchasers, do you assume they’d be involved about your integrity?”

     André notes that whereas he might have embellished his résumé by including info, Fama embellished her résumé by excluding sure info that potential employers would need to know. He asks Fama, “How do you assume the interviewers would really feel in the event that they later found that you just omitted related background info, similar to the truth that you obtained your undergraduate training in Senegal or that you just needed to take a break from faculty while you have been experiencing despair?” Fama thinks that withholding info just isn’t the identical as deliberately offering false info. Additional, she contends that employers should not allowed to discriminate in opposition to folks due to their nationality, race, psychological well being historical past, or different prohibited grounds of discrimination. Ethically, there actually is a distinction between offering false info, significantly with intent to deceive, and withholding info, significantly with intent to keep away from discrimination.

    André asks, “So what would you say if the employer asks you about your nationality or psychological well being historical past? Would you lie or inform the reality?” Fama means that she might inform the employer that it’s inappropriate to ask about these matters in a job interview. As each talk about what they’d truly do, they notice that no matter how Fama solutions the query, the employer should discriminate when deciding whether or not to rent her. Nonetheless, they agree that it’s extra moral to be sincere in regards to the cause for not answering a query reasonably than fabricating the data requested.

Making use of Completely different Theories of Ethics

     Deontologists imagine that honesty is a common obligation, that means that folks ought to all the time be sincere, whatever the scenario. Making use of this strategy, Fama and André ought to absolutely disclose the reality to potential employers. In keeping with deontology, embellishing their résumés or withholding related info just isn’t ethically justifiable. They need to inform the reality, even when mendacity or withholding info might have led to raised penalties.

     Teleologists imagine that the ethics of the best way to reply in a specific scenario are outlined by which possibility would create the best good, maximizing utility or advantages for these affected by the choice. Teleologists imagine that performing truthfully is usually fascinating, as a result of when folks act truthfully, others will belief them and they’re going to be capable of keep higher relationships.

     In keeping with teleologists, nonetheless, honesty and full disclosure should not common rules. They contend that there could also be moral justifications for performing in a fashion that isn’t absolutely sincere. For example, Fama’s choice to withhold sure private info to keep away from discrimination by employers may very well be justified if the advantages of withholding info outweigh the prices of doing so. Fama believes that avoiding discrimination and acquiring a job are good penalties. In distinction, Fama believes that André’s gildings will do extra hurt than good. She says that the employer is prone to discover out that he embellished his résumé. Even when he will get the job initially, he could also be fired when his gildings are found. He might damage his repute and likewise harm the repute of different social work graduates from BSW or MSW applications.

     André asks Fama, “How have you learnt that your employer received’t discover out about your withholding info, however my employer will discover out that I embellished my résumé?” Fama validates his level. “When assessing potential penalties of varied programs of motion, it’s arduous to foretell the implications with a excessive diploma of certainty.”

     Whereas deontology focuses on the ethicality of the motion and teleology focuses on the ethicality of the implications, advantage ethics focuses on the best way to be an ethical individual (Barsky, 2023). Aristotle recommended that main a morally flourishing life means dwelling based on one’s core virtues. Virtues are enduring ethical qualities, similar to being caring, attentive, respectful, and sincere. In keeping with advantage ethics, being sincere is nice in and of itself.

     Advantage ethicists recommend that we will nurture our virtues in order that they turn into integral components of who we’re. Thus, it is very important observe being sincere on a regular basis. Being sincere in some conditions helps us to be sincere in different conditions, even in conditions when being sincere is tough. Fama and André are each involved about their funds and their skill to search out applicable jobs. Any incentive to be dishonest to acquire a job, nonetheless, is tempered by their advantage of being sincere. Additional, if they begin embellishing their backgrounds in sure conditions, then embellishment might turn into a behavior, and it could turn into simpler to slide into outright lies. Understanding the ethical significance of honesty implies that Fama and André might expertise ethical misery after they act in a fashion inconsistent with this advantage:

Each time you do improper, you bend your soul the improper method, and while you act rightly, you give your soul a brighter shine, a little bit magnificence. Performing rightly brings your soul into larger concord; wrongdoing splits your soul into bits that make battle on one another. That’s the reason Socrates famously mentioned that it’s worse to do improper than to have improper performed to you. (Woodruff, 2023)


     Though many individuals embellish their résumés and withhold related info, there are lots of good causes for being sincere with potential employers. Being true to our values, virtues, and moral rules means being sincere with others. Even once we assume that others are unlikely to find our indiscretions, we all know.

     There are a lot of methods to reinforce our possibilities of getting jobs once we graduate. Throughout our BSW or MSW applications, we should always not solely try to do effectively academically, but in addition, to do effectively ethically. When our classroom professors and subject educators see that we’re good, moral social employees, they’re extra seemingly to supply us with stellar references and help in our seek for jobs. We will additionally attain out for assist at our universities to develop efficient résumés, community with potential employers, and use different methods for securing a great job in a well timed method. Slightly than embellish our résumés, we will be certain that we even have the credentials that we wish to promote on our résumés (e.g., getting a particular certification in addictions, having explicit medical intervention expertise, being concerned in social justice advocacy, or publishing a journal article with a professor).

     Ethical braveness means doing the fitting factor even in conditions once we face exterior pressures making it tough to take action. Once we really feel careworn or pressured, we could also be tempted to stray from honesty and full disclosure. In these conditions, we might summon our ethical braveness and the assist of others to be sincere and do the fitting factor.


Barsky, A. E. (2023). Important ethics for social work observe. Oxford College Press.

Pellish, A., & Morales, M. (2023, January 15). Republicans draw back from calling on Santos to resign as Democrats renew push for extra info. CNN.

Woodruff, P. (2023, January 2). How I realized to heal my soul, with assist from love and Socrates. Washington Submit.

Allan Barsky, PhD, JD, MSW, is Professor of Social Work at Florida Atlantic College and creator of  Social Work Values and Ethics (Oxford College Press).

The views expressed on this article don’t essentially symbolize the views of any of the organizations to which the creator is affiliated, or the views of  The New Social Employee journal or White Hat Communications.

[1] In some conditions, mendacity is prohibited. For instance, mendacity about marketing campaign funds violates marketing campaign finance legal guidelines. Additionally, one may very well be sued in civil court docket for fraud if the fraud prompted damages or hurt to the one that relied on the fraudulent info.



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