There’s an old saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
These days, the same should hold true for CEOs and what they put on their résumés.
In the latest résumé embarrassment, a Yahoo investor called out the company’s chief executive for misstating his academic credentials. An SEC filing, verified by CEO Scott Thompson, stated that he had a degree in computer science. As it turns out, his college said the program wasn’t even offered at the time he attended.
Yahoo continues to be in full crisis response mode since the news broke last week, saying it was an “inadvertent error” and that the company’s board was looking into it. The Yahoo board member who headed the search for Thompson is reportedly stepping down.
Some Yahoo investors are calling for the CEO to resign. What’s so frustrating is that there really wasn’t any need for Thompson to bend the truth; the CEO’s experience at other companies is more important than what degree he did or didn’t earn 30+ years ago.
It’s an all-too-familiar story. Over the last several years, there have been numerous top executives caught “misstating” their résumés, including top bosses at RadioShack, Herbalife, MGM Mirage, and Bausch & Lomb. Even a Massachusetts Institute of Technology dean was caught claiming degrees she never earned.
If the PR world is going to learn from these examples, this latest instance should prompt us to fact-check our clients’ corporate executive profiles, including those posted on LinkedIn.
When I was an editor, we fact-checked public résumés of executives as a matter of course. Not surprising, it would take only one well-targeted phone call to find whether an executive had boasted a bit too much on his or her résumé.
You might want to take a run through your résumé and LinkedIn profile to make sure they are accurate. Chances are there’s something that is not quite right. According to CareerBuilder.com, just 5 percent of workers admitted fibbing on their résumés, but 57 percent of hiring managers say they have caught a lie in a candidate’s application.
Social media might help this problem. Researchers at Cornell University found that college students were less likely to lie on LinkedIn than on their print résumés. Still, the study noted that a whopping 92 percent of college students lie on their résumés.
Some of those students will grow up and join the C-suite. You do the math.
(This post also appears on PRDaily.com)