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Question: I recently opened my own graphic design business. A prospective client is coming to my new office for a meeting, and I plan to hire two temps for the day, to give the appearance that my firm is busy. A friend says this is wrong. But since no one will get hurt, how can it be?

Answer: Do we have a great job candidate for you! He’s got one year of experience, but his resume says three because he knows that looks better.

We sympathize with your eagerness to land those critically important first few clients. Unfortunately, though, inflating the body count in your office in order to create a good impression is indeed wrong – wrong because you’re misrepresenting not only the willingness of other companies to hire you, but the size of the staff available to do the work you’re seeking. And this is precisely the sort of information prospective clients are looking for when they make a point of coming by.

You wouldn’t be the first entrepreneur – or job applicant – to rationalize a deception by insisting that no one’s getting hurt. But the people you do business with – or work for, in the case of an employee – should be able to expect more integrity from you than the “no harm, no foul” standard of a basketball referee. We realize that, when you’re confident you’re qualified to do the work, the barriers you face to being hired might seem unfair. But just because an obstacle may appear insurmountable doesn’t entitle you to cheat your way around it.

Questions? Email Money Magazine’s ethicists – authors of “Isn’t It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?” (Free Press) – at