Don’t Lie on Your Resume!

It sounds obvious, right? You’d be surprised how many resumes I’ve seen that list experience that people just don’t have. For instance, awhile back you may have heard the news about former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson lying on his resume about having a degree in Computer Science. This was back in 2012. At the time, there was a lot of outrage over this, and without a doubt, I shared the same views as many over this scandal. But after reading about it, and Yahoo’s initial “sheepish-grin-non-chalant-we’re-looking-into-it-wink-wink” response, I have to say that Thompson’s lying is indicative of a huge problem in our society, and that is the win-at-any-cost attitude that seems to pervade all levels of our society; even in education.

Following that news, there were major stories of cheating and lying in education. In addition to the Yahoo scandal, there was a student who got caught cheating in an honors class at Sierra High School recently. But the worst of it was his attorney father suing the school to get him admitted back into the program so it wouldn’t ruin his chances to get into an Ivy League school.

Are some people so morally corrupt and lacking in integrity that they’d even consider condoning this behavior? Apparently so. I listened to a panel discussion on NPR about this topic and a person called in and totally shocked me by admitting to cheating with other students in high school honors classes to get into the best colleges. They even maintained their lack of moral fiber and justified their cheating by saying that “it had to be done to get into quality universities.”

In my professional career as a software engineer and engineering manager, I’ve literally seen thousands of resumes. And I’ve gotten to the point where if I see that someone’s experience seems too good to be true it probably is too good to be true and I throw their resume in the waste bin.

But still, some slip through the cracks – and they even get hired. I once approved the hiring of an engineer who just happened to be the friend of a colleague. They vouched for him so naturally, I leaned heavily on their feedback. His resume looked great as well. He claimed that he was a manager at PayPal and when I asked him about this experience he looked me in the eye and talked about what he did (looking back, I realize that he cleverly answered my questions without really answering definitively – my bad for not catching it).

In any case, little did we know that once he was hired, he was in completely over his head. He knew very little about software engineering and had very little knowledge of UI languages (he was hired as a UI Engineer). And worse yet, he had an extremely toxic personality and loved to play politics. Needless to say, a few months into his employment, measures were taken to terminate him but he quit before he could get fired.

As a hiring manager, that experience sensitized me to what people put on their resumes and even more so, what I put on mine. And I’m not alone in this. Several other managers that I know have started putting extra scrutiny on resumes. So beware.

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