Father Sez

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Did I spoil someone’s rice bowl or did I do the right thing?

Wednesday March 25th, 2009 by fathersez

In Malaysia the term rice bowl is often used to describe one’s livelihood or avenue of earning a living. A job is a rice bowl, a investment paying returns might be another. Spoiling someone’s rice bowl is to negatively affect the person’s livelihood.  

I was put into a difficult situation last week.  Everyone already knows that the economic environment is getting harsher, jobs are being shed left, right and centre and that lots of people are looking for jobs now.  I have often been asked to act as a character referee by my friends when they send out their CV’s. I always agree, since they are friends, which by definition means that I should be able to vouch for their character. 

A former colleague called me out of the blue a few days ago and told me that he had submitted his CV to a head hunting firm and listed my name as a reference. That was fine. He went on to add that he had listed a particular year as the year he started worked in the organisation and that he had been involved in certain types of projects. He ended by telling me that I should know how to weave some story around it. Some story I would have to weave, since the basic facts seemed a little too far from the truth.  

I was stunned. My immediate reaction, which I mentioned to my wife who was with me then was that this guy must have a very low opinion of me. I asked her what I should say should the head hunter call, since it appeared to me that I would have to stretch the truth a little too much for my tastes. 

I am all for helping others in anyway I can. In fact, this is one of the affirmations I read daily. But this grated a lot.  I thought deeply about this issue, as I truly wanted to help him, but not by agreeing to what I considered to be something a little too far away from the truth. I would have been more than happy to work around some little embellishment, though. 

My wife gave me a solid piece of advice. She told me that if the headhunter called, then I should evade questions that might expose the untruths, but instead just talk about what I was involved in. And let the headhunter piece things together.  

Well, the head hunter called, and that was exactly what I did. I just told him that I would tell him what I did and then he could ask me about my interactions with the applicant. I don’t know if the head hunter detected or would consider the discrepancies as “technical errors” or would put a question mark on the whole application. That has to be his decision. 

As for me, my conscience is now clear.  I sent the former colleague an email and told him not to use my name in this manner again. I would like to help him but not this way. He has not replied, either to state his side of the story or to apologise. Well, what he should do is for him to decide.  

The CV Store has an article on whether we should lie in our CV and also the results of a poll conducted on the same topic.

I am happy to know that the majority seems to have the same view as I do. 

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2 Comments for “Did I spoil someone’s rice bowl or did I do the right thing?”

by Susan
On March 26, 2009
At 2:18 am

You definitely did the right thing. There is never just one lie - there is the lie, the lie to cover the lie, the lies to cover that one - and so on.

The truth is always the best option. It is the best sleeping aid available. :)

On March 26, 2009
At 8:13 am

Hi, Susan,

Thank you for the response. I have also received a few emails supporting the stand that I took. And I love your “sleeping aid” line. It’s a great quote.


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