A football coach, a couple of high profile CEOs, and you: What do they have in common? Perhaps nothing. Then again, if you decide to make false claims on your resume, you could someday face the music like these folks have been forced to, and the end result is that you’ll likely lose your job.
People have been embellishing resumes for decades. The GPA gets adjusted upwards, the college coursework becomes a degree, the undergraduate degree becomes the MBA – but is it worth it? In today’s world, where a simple Google search can tell people more about you than you’d care to admit, the potential risks to resume dishonesty seem far more painful than the possible upside. You may not realize it, but most employers state somewhere in their application and/or offer letter that false information (or the omission of relevant information) is sufficient cause for discharge. You could be happily employed, loving your job and moving up the proverbial career ladder when suddenly it all falls apart because of something you forgot about the moment you completed your new hire paperwork.
George O’Leary was hired to be Notre Dame’s new head football coach in 2001. O’Leary lasted all of five days, and it was his resume that was his undoing. He had claimed to have been a player at UNH when he had not played, and he listed a graduate degree from NYU-Stony Brook (this school does not even exist) when he had actually only taken classes (at NYU). Neither of these inaccuracies were position requirements; O’Leary had already been a successful coach at Georgia Tech, and he was being hired because of his coaching prowess – not his graduate degree. But the inaccuracies trumped his accomplishments. Once it was learned that he had lied about his background, his chance to succeed in his dream job was done. He was fired.
The CEO of Radio Shack resigned six years ago after it was learned that he did not possess a college degree as claimed on his resume. David Edmondson had the backing of the Board of Directors, but chose to resign rather than deal with the ramifications of his actions. The CEO of Yahoo was forced to resign this year after overstating his accomplishments at college thirty-plus years ago; this scandal also took out a senior executive who was held accountable for failing to do a proper and exhaustive background check.
Next time you are tempted to “embellish”, resist the temptation! If there is something in your background that you are less than proud of, try to make the best of it. Lying may work for a while, but do you really want to be in a situation where at any given moment, the phone could ring and you could be out of a job? It’s not worth it. Some suggestions:
-If you did not graduate from college and you feel like you need a degree, go back to school part-time. You will then be able to honestly say that you are working towards your degree in “x”.
-If there are extracurricular activities that you’d benefit from having been a part of, do your best to address them today. Maybe you weren’t a part of the drama club in high school – but you can join a community theater group today.
-If you had a short stint at a job, regardless of the reason, don’t be tempted to lengthen the dates on your resume – be honest. It’s ok to de-emphasize, just don’t be dishonest. The background check will pick that up almost without fail. Same is true about salary details – don’t overstate, as some companies will confirm final salary as well.
-If you don’t like the story your resume tells, write a different type of resume. You don’t have to do a traditional chronological resume; sometimes a functional resume (focusing on skill sets rather than experience) will be a better option.
Finally, when you are thinking to yourself that “it will never happen to me”, think back to the above examples. No doubt those folks thought it would never happen to them either.