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A Case Study: Imitate Jesus or Machiavelli?

Your dream job becomes available. The night before the crucial interview, you sit down to polish your résumé. You remember reading on the Web that seven out of ten people embellish or lie on their résumés. Should you? What ethical standard should guide you in your decision?

As you sit in front of your computer; you look over at two wristbands you've recently bought. Each has four letters imprinted on it. The first reads, "WWJD." This band reminds you that when writing your résumé you should ask the question "What would Jesus do?" The answer is obvious: Jesus would strongly advise you not to lie on the résumé.

The second wristband …. reads "WWMD"—or "What would Machiavelli do?" Machiavelli was a 16th century political strategist who advocated deceit and manipulation in order to get ahead. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power and his name is synonymous with the phrase "The ends justify the means."

In his bestselling book What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness, Stanley Bing uses Machiavelli's insight to advise up-and-coming business leaders. Bing's chapter headings reflect how Machiavelli would move up the corporate ladder.

  • He would fire his own mother if necessary.
  • He would be proud of his cruelty and see it as a strength.
  • He would make you fear for your life.
  • He would feast on other people's discord.

Machiavelli's view of lying is particularly helpful in writing your résumé: Those who do not lie do not succeed, and therefore remain unknown. Machiavelli's advice concerning your résumé is clear: lie, lie, lie!

It's getting late and your résumé still isn't finished. How do you decide? Is it WWJD or WWMD?

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