Why You Should Review Your Resume And Online Bio Now

Ever think about padding your resume in an effort to make yourself look more appealing to an employer, potential clients, or the public? Two recent cases make clear that you might want to think again.

Scott Thompson, Yahoo’s new CEO (whose tenure began in January), is under fire for inflating his resume. According to CNNMoney:

“In a series of published biographical statements stretching back for years — including his bio on Yahoo’s website — Thompson has said that he “holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science” from Stonehill College….But his degree is actually only in accounting.”

In fact, Stonehill College didn’t even issue computer science degrees until years after he graduated.

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson

Yahoo initially defended Thompson, saying his false statements—which he also made to the Securities and Exchange Commission—”in no way alters that fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies.”

But CNN Money is now reporting that Yahoo is seemingly changing course:

“Yahoo’s board said also Tuesday that it has hired an outside counsel to conduct a review of the false statement. It appointed the company’s three independent directors to oversee the investigation.”

Mr. Thompson also issued a statement earlier this week, in which he said:

“I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you,” Thompson said in a memo obtained by CNN. “We have all been working very hard to move the company forward, and this has had the opposite effect. For that, I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to you.”

That’s not exactly a full apology. It’s filled with distancing third person language, and fails to take full personal responsibility. For Mr. Thompson, I’m afraid this is a disqualifying event. A leader of a company that expects employees to act with integrity can’t lie to advance his own career and expect his employees to act differently. I suspect the Yahoo board will reach the same conclusion.

The second case of resume inflation belongs to conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, whose new book jacket (and National Review bio) claims he was “twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.” He wasn’t.

Someone paid $50 to submit his work to the Pulitzer board for consideration, but they didn’t nominate him. Given that anyone can send them $50 and claim a “nomination,” his claim is far-fetched. But Goldberg acted quickly to correct the error and blamed a third party for the error. I suspect his “crisis” will die down quickly.

Writer Jonah Goldberg

What You Should Do Now

Look at your resume or online bio. If anything is exaggerated or could be subject to misinterpretation, change it. Before writing this post, I did the same thing and made two changes. The original versions of both lines were true, but I decided to err on the side of caution and tweak a few words to remove any ambiguity.

I’d encourage you to go through the same exercise of viewing your resume as your worst critics might, and to make any necessary changes.

UPDATE: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 8:00pm: Scott Thompson has left Yahoo for “personal reasons.” It appears clear that he was unable to survive this scandal, and that it was creating too much of a distraction for Yahoo.

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