Does Résumé “Lying” Really Matter if You Can Perform?


Does Lying on your resume mean you can't be trusted?
What does lying on your résumé get you? For a lot of people apparently a lot of trouble. Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is in trouble. Apparently his résumé lists that he had two degrees from Stonehill College, earned in 1979. But in reality he does not. He has an accounting degree but not the computer science degree also listed. Daniel Loeb,  hedge fund manager demanded that Yahoo’s new CEO be fired for résumé falsification or face possible legal action. Reading this made me ask the question does resume lying really matter if you can perform or is it a matter of integrity that is hard to overlook?
In Thompson’s case he has only been with Yahoo a couple of months. Yahoo is not doing all that well and apparently he was brought in to turn it around. Probably too early to tell if he can perform or not. So the question then becomes does a lie on a résumé bring into question his integrity? Do people suspect that as a result of this lie he may lie on other things, things that may be detrimental to the company? Should he be fired for this lie?
Before you answer this let me ask you, what if Thompson had come in and had a miraculous effect and Yahoo was already in just two short months on its way to high profitability? Would they be firing him then?
What if there was a time difference? What if he had been there ten years and this lie was just now discovered? Would it make any difference? If the company had been performing and growing as a result of his leadership would they quibble about a resume lie that was 10 years old?
In your mind is integrity an eternal trait? Or does time heal lies? Or does performance heal lies? Is there some sort of statute of limitations?

5 thoughts on “Does Résumé “Lying” Really Matter if You Can Perform?”

  1. Let me take a swing at that, Mike. When I had my company, I made lying on the application or resume a firing offense. Period. I didn’t want to try to guess whether or why or when an applicant might fudge a document or official communication.
    In the Yahoo case, if it turns out that Mr. Thompson was, indeed, the source of the false statement, I think he should be fired. You do not want a CEO setting the example of lying.
    I think performance is irrelevant in this kind of situation. For one thing how could you be certain that the “performance” was in fact a true statement of operating results? For another, the results you get are important, but so is the way you get those results. That includes a whole constellation of things including honesty.
    Finally, I thing redemption is possible, but it’s easier if you’re 25 and have a longer road ahead, ie, more time to prove that you’ve learned a lesson.
    What I find particularly unsettling about this incident is that I think educational credentials are essentially meaningless beyond a certain point in a career. Your track record should matter much more. I’m sure that Mr. Thompson would have been hired as Yahoo’s CEO with the educational credentials he had, which leave me wondering if he actually did it, and if he did, is he a person who lies about all kinds of things, important or not.

  2. Mike,
    Interesting post. As an HR Leadernwho was in transition for a while this came up quite often for folks I coached and tried to help. I guess from an employer’s point of view the language on an application stating words to the effect “any falsification or material omission discovered at any time during your employment will be grounds for termination” would cover you. As HR folks, we insure compliance with the code of ethics and other policies so I guess an outright lie would be grounds for termination. So what do you do for “creativity” on a resume? Whether embellishment, toning down or whatever to get past the screening process? With more scrutiny on backgrounds this will continue to be a hot topic. Interestingly , this morning there was an article in USA Today about a lady fired from Wells Fargo for a shoplifting issue 40 years ago.

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