By Quentin Fottrell
You might think Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s resignation last weekend after a battle over his allegedly fabricated résumé would inspire job seekers to be more honest. But experts say public embarrassments stemming from inaccurate or exaggerated credentials have done little to thin the ranks of fiction writers.
Thompson, who took the reins last January, quit after the board obtained evidence allegedly contradicting his earlier claim of innocence about his misstated academic record. Though Thompson’s decision to step down was also influenced by a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, an executive-search firm provided Yahoo with details that appeared to show he had knowingly claimed to have a computer-science degree some years ago.
Such fibs are hardly uncommon, experts say. And with unemployment hovering at 8.1%, experts say it’s become even more tempting for applicants who want to stand out – whether it’s adding a degree or more subtle changes like adding responsibilities or roles to earlier jobs. “People are desperate ,” says Sterling Price, managing director of human resources outsourcing at CBIZ Human Capital Services in St Louis, Mo.
The temptation to exaggerate their accomplishments proves too much for many people even on publicly-posted résumés online, studies show. Some 92% of students embellished or omitted information at least once on their LinkedIn profiles or their résumés, according to a Cornell University study published in the latest issue of “Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.” Student doctors also lie. Up to 30% of applications to training programs included references to published research that couldn’t be found, according to a recent study led by Dr Michael Frumovitz of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center published in the medical journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology.”
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In the case of LinkedIn, however, people lie more about their “interests and hobbies” than their academic records or work experience, says Jamie Guillory, the Cornell University study’s lead author. That’s because it’s harder to lie about work experience or academic records on LinkedIn given that there are thousands of eyes scrolling online résumés, including friends, colleagues and acquaintances that would easily spot the whitest of lies, he says.
And since the use of executive search firms is standard for higher-level positions, most applicants can’t realistically expect to get away with it, says Geoff Hoffmann of DHR International, an executive search firm based in Chicago. “It’s very uncommon for a search firm to miss such a basic detail,” he says.