Yahoo’s chief executive officer Scott Thompson stepped down yesterday after an investigation by Third Party, a hedge fund and major investor in the company, revealed that he had lied about his education on his resume. Although Mr. Thompson’s biography indicated that he had earned degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College, he never actually earned a degree in computer science.
Mr. Thompson is not the only executive to resign following revelations that he or she lied or embellished academic credentials:
- In April 2007, the admissions dean for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was forced to resign following revelations that she had fabricated academic degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical School.
- In 2006, CEO of RadioShack, Dave Edmonson, resigned after it emerged that he lied about having degrees in theology and psychology.
- In 2002, Veritas Software’s stock price fell some 16% after it emerged that its CFO had fabricated his education. Not surprisingly, the revelation also led to his resignation.
- In 2002, the CEO of Bausch & Lomb, Ronald Zarrella, was forced to forfeit his bonus after it was revealed that he had never earned his MBA from New York University as claimed. Mr. Zarrella attended the university but never actually completed the program.
Resume padding and exaggerating academic credentials are more common that one might think, and its prevalence extends far beyond the C-suite. In 2010, a HireRight survey of 1,818 organizations found that 69% of respondents reported that they had caught a job candidate lying on his or her resume. Moreover, the FBI has estimated that over 500,000 people nationwide claim college degrees that they never actually earned. Even in cases much less high-profile than Yahoo’s assuming that qualifications presented by potential candidates are always legitimate can damage your company’s reputation and bottom line.
At MSAI, we recommend employment verification as a crucial component of any pre-employment screening. In a tough job market, prospective employees are more likely than ever to falsify or exaggerate their academic credentials. As the Yahoo case demonstrates, the fallout from discovering that an employee has falsified his or her qualifications can be wide reaching, and quite embarrassing. Including education verification in pre-employment screening is a vital way to prevent attracting this kind of negative attention.
Cristina Vasile is an Investigative Research Analyst at MSA Investigations