Ethics

For the week ending 8 January 2011 / 2 Shevat 5771

The Degree of DeCVing

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I have recently entered the job market and have been preparing my curriculum vitae (CV) which all prospective employers demand before even considering an interview. I am confident that I can do a good job in the field for which I trained at school but all the firms demand experience. Is it ethical for me to dress up my CV to give the impression of more experience than I have really had?

Answer: Our Talmudic Sages (Mesechta Bava Metzia 60a ) rule that it is forbidden for a seller to "dress up" for sale animals, humans or vessels in order to deceive the buyer as to the true condition of the item he is purchasing. Examples are easily provided for how one can paint an old vessel to make it look like new and how an animal or its meat can be given the appearance of better health and size. But how, asks the gemara , does one dress up a human for sale?

The answer given to this question sheds light on the question before us. A story is related about an old heathen who dyed his gray hair black and sold himself as a young slave to Rabbi Papa bar Shmuel. When the master once asked his new slave to fetch him some water the outraged fellow rinsed the dye from his head and beard to expose his grayness and indignantly rejected this offensive order by exclaiming: You see, I am older than your father! Should a Jew wish to sell his slave to another and deceive him in regard to his age in such a fashion he is guilty of transgressing a Torah prohibition — “Let not a man deceive his fellow” (Vayikra 25:17 ).

While selling slaves may not be relevant in modern society, selling ourselves as candidates for jobs is very relevant as indicated by the question before us. Our Sages cite several examples of dressing up which is permissible and offer us a simple rule of thumb. When selling a new vessel there is nothing wrong with enhancing its beauty to increase its value. But when dressing up is done to conceal the used condition of an item being sold as new this constitutes deceit.

Applying this to preparing a CV every effort should be made to accentuate the positive by stressing whatever education or experience you have truly acquired. But don’t try to eliminate the negative by lying or even exaggerating the degree of your experience. Aside from the sin involved there is also the practical danger that someday your deceit will be embarrassingly exposed and your dressed up gray hair may be showing.

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