'OK, in hindsight, it probably wasn't such a 'small lie', but it seemed so at the time.
It happened about 4 years ago, after I'd been working for a second tier firm (straight from university) for almost 3 years. After a series of challenging interviews, I finally bagged my dream job, working at one of the top 2/3 firms in the industry.
I'm not saying I'd have ever become a superstar (I wouldn't have as I didn't work in front office), but I looked the part, was articulate and had a fairly decent-looking CV. Back then, just before the financial crisis hit, there were jobs a-plenty for the likes of me.
But I got greedy. Instead of accepting the £3,000 ($4,840) yearly salary increase (which actually came on the back of a recent increase in base pay at my existing firm), I lied about my total comp package for the previous year. I guess the lie started at my initial meeting with the recruiter, and once the small lie had passed my lips, there was no going back.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, I got my job offer, undertook and passed a medical, and duly resigned. Although I was miffed to have to work my notice (I wasn't deemed important enough for gardening leave), the time came for me to start my duties at my new firm. And it was great, everything I expected it to be - the work was interesting, the people were helpful, and even my immediate line manager seemed to know what he was doing (and was actually approachable!).
Then, about two weeks in, I got that call from HR (one I'll never forget). I assumed that it was something to do with my induction program, totally forgetting all about that 'small lie' which was about to come back and haunt me big time.
I knew instantly I arrived in the conference room that something was wrong. The lady in HR's stern look told me that. She had a copy of my CV and a handwritten application form I'd also been required to sign as part of the recruitment process in front of her, and she immediately went in for the kill. Rather abruptly, she advised me that it had come to the firm's attention that I had 'misstated' my salary details on my CV and application form.
At first I thought I was being given the opportunity to correct the 'misstatement', but there was to be no second chance. My mind was whirling as I heard this HR person talk about 'trust', 'honesty', and 'character'. And my heart was in my mouth by the time she put me out of my misery; I was to be gone; out of there; no going back to my desk (they would send anything I had on to my home). And that was that. She took my ID, and I was escorted out of the building by a security guard, never to return. And all over £2,000 ($3,230).
I didn't understand at the time how I could have been found out, but I later remembered that I was asked to provide my last 3 months payslips, and a quick look on there would have revealed the discrepancy. I also came to learn that, despite the banal references banks appear to give these days (essentially just a start and leaving date), HR departments sometimes call up rival firms to take informal soundings about candidates after they have resigned, especially if there was a hint of a problem. I guess, in my case, the payslips were a red flag, and a quick informal call to my old employer uncovered me as a liar.
Well, I found myself out on the Street just as the financial crisis hit, and it was impossible to get a job, even as a temp. Although I was always enthusiastically received by recruitment consultants, the trail always went cold after I told them the reason for my brief stint at my last firm (there was no use hiding it, as it would have come out anyway).
In the end, I got a job outside the industry with a company owned by a friend of my father, and started to rebuild my career from there. I've given up any hope of getting back into the markets now (it's been too long), but I'll always wonder what might have been - if only I hadn't gotten greedy and told that one small lie'.
image: © Kai Hendry