By Dr. Cheryl Minnick, NCRW, NCOPE – NRWA Certification Commission Grader
One way to torch your career is to lie on your resume. We’ve seen careers of high-profile professionals burst into flames by misrepresenting their educational accomplishments. When their mistruths were exposed, some were fired, some resigned, some lost promotions, or had to repay or sit-out bonuses. Their short-term gain (a job or promotion) was torched by a company’s long-term interest (credibility).
Let’s take a look at a few:
- In 2007, MIT Dean of Admissions, Marilee Jones, resigned when a 28-year-old resume misrepresentation surfaced. She did not have undergraduate or graduate degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or Albany Medical College. In fact, she held no college degree at all.
- In 2012, an activist shareholder group revealed Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s augmented resume, content included in the company’s annual report, a legal document that CEOs certify truthful. Scott’s tenure lasted four months when it was discovered he did not have TWO degrees, computer science and accounting, from Stonehill College; he had ONE in accounting.
- While assessing Walmart Senior VP Communications David Tovar’s resume for a promotion in 2014, a third party uncovered a degree misstatement on his resume. David “walked” at the University of Delaware’s 1996 commencement shy credits for an art degree. After an eight-year tenure with Walmart, he was found out and stepped down. In 2015, he returned to school and finished his BA, and has gone on to work for Sprint, McDonald’s, and GrubHub.
- What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. MGM Mirage’s CEO, J. Terrence Lanni, quickly retired in 2008 yet remained on the Board of Directors when questions about his resume surfaced, finding he did not have an earned or honorary MBA in finance from USC.
When resume errors come to light, professionals have quickly stepped down, repaid or forfeited a sizeable bonus, had severance packages cut, or been terminated.
In 2020, Checkster Research found that 78% of job applicants lie about skills, GPA, title, degree, university name, and achievements, while HireRight (2017) found that 85% of employers caught lies.
As resume writers, we can help clients avoid misstatements by reviewing their academic transcript for GPA, degree, and major. We can also include legal job titles with an equivalency title in parentheses and remind our clients that “embellishments” can cost them their job, promotion, bonus, severance package, and professional reputation.
Dr. Cheryl Minnick, NCRW, NCOPE, has been a member of the NRWA since 2005 and has served on the Certification Commission since 2013. For the past five years, she has ensured the NCRW Study Guide aligns with best practices and The Gregg Reference Manual updates. She has also served on past committees for Member Support and ROAR Awards. She regularly presents at NRWA conferences on ATS, implicit bias, new grad resumes, and college career center services.
A veteran of the higher education career development space, Cheryl works as the Senior Career Coach at the University of Montana-Missoula and provides executive career consultations and resume writing for executive career development firms as well as her own boutique business, The Paper Trail. Find her online at LinkedIn.com/in/cherylminnick.