By Gaurav Ghose
In the end, Scott Thompson had to go. Even though the former CEO of Yahoo! was chosen to be the right person to turn the beleaguered internet company around, the revelation that he “embellished his academic credentials”, finally forced him from office.
This was despite the view of his supporters that, given his successful professional record, he should be allowed to continue in his work.
So, does “embellishing academic credentials” or any other form of stretching the truth to boost one’s resume matter?
“It certainly does matter,” said Andrew McNeilis, managing director EMEA, Talent2. “Yahoo! is a public company and will need to subscribe to the highest standards of governance compliance and probity. If the leader can lie about their academic qualifications they can lie about the company results.”
John Martin St. Valery, CEO of Dubai-based Links Group, which assists in company formation in the UAE and Qatar, says CEOs and senior management should act as role models to their colleagues.
“This isn’t to say that everyone should be held to one standard, but misrepresenting yourself in any way raises many red flags. It’s always key to be consistent with company and state regulations, and enforcing them across all levels, with no exceptions,” said St. Valery.
While it is true that the UAE and the Middle East insists on attested certificates and verifications, local search firms agree that there are instances of people trying to fudge their resumes.
“It does seem to be a fairly common phenomenon in the GCC, perhaps because expatriates assume that they have left the mechanisms behind that could catch them,” said Toby Simpson, managing director of The Gulf Recruitment Group.
McNeilis agrees. “There are always people trying it on.”
Embellishing or faking CV’s is more common at the highest professional levels, according to Simpson.
He cited an instance of an investment professional in 2010 seeking a seven figure package, but was eventually caught out by Gulf Recruitment, simply because a supposedly famous US referee he had given had a vaguely Asian accent and wasn’t aware of personal details of himself. Deeper investigation revealed that the entire CV was fabricated, he said. In fact, the person was successful in duping several recruitment agencies.
However, McNeilis said being found out is more common in tough times when employers are very cautious, have more time, and give more scrutiny to potential hires. “In a bull market they often gloss over detail to secure seemingly good talent,” he said.
Some of the most common exaggerations or falsifications occur in the areas of qualifications, current and past roles and the positions one held and salaries.
“Normally people will try and stretch out dates to fill in gaps in employment. They will say, for example, 2005 to 2006 — when actually they worked December 2005 to September 2006,” said McNeilis.
“Also, many people hype their salaries, often making out their basic is higher that it is by including benefits in kind or potential bonuses. Also, [there is the] University-attended versus completed [lie],” he added.
Simpson adds that educational grades are a common area of white lies, as are missing out jobs that didn’t last long, long periods of unemployment and altering job titles or responsibilities.
Also, when it comes to achievements, McNeilis points to the lack of distinction between personal achievements and that of a team — in effect claiming credit for others work. Lying on business titles and reporting lines are also common.
“It is amazing how many people will upgrade their title and not think it will be verified. [Often] when we [check] a reference, we find this out,” said McNeilis.
And being caught lying can do irreparable damage.
“The fallout from even the tiniest half truth or omission is normally huge,” said Simpson. “Trust plays a large part in the hiring process and the act of deception — once caught — is more often than not far more damaging than the details that have been skewed. You would have to be a superstar to survive in the interview process much longer,” he explained. It’s tough [to repair the damage], but all you can offer is an honest appraisal of why you choose to lie on your CV in the first place, said McNeilis.
Faking your CV? Think again