Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is telling employees the reason his bio said he had a computer science degree when he does not have one is that several years ago, a recruiter interviewed him for a job and then passed a document saying he had the degree to his potential employer.He says that employer, PayPal/eBay, used that document to write his public bio and that the information spread like a disease from there.
Michael Travis, listed by BusinessWeek as one of the “World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” says Thompson’s story is totally plausible.
“Many search firms do not present the candidate’s actual resume to the client. Instead, they restate the candidate’s background in the context of a longer report. It makes for a pretty, well-formatted document, but it also introduces all kinds of potential problems.”
“First, anyone can make an innocent mistake, and the search firm can get the facts wrong. Perhaps that’s what happened here. Candidates never see the reports prepared on them by search firms and would never have an opportunity to correct any errors.”
“Or it might be something more nefarious. Restating the candidate’s resume tempts the search firm to massage the candidate’s background to fit the client’s specification. It’s not ethical, but it happens.”
Travis says his firm, Travis & Company, requires candidates to present their potential employers with a resume.
“There’s a lot to be learned from a candidate’s resume, and hiding it from the client deprives them of useful information. Can the candidate write? What do his choices about what to include say about his mindset and what he thinks is important? Then there’s the potential for disasters like this one. Clients need to see the original document.”
One problem with Thompson’s story is that he had plenty of chances to correct his bio – including the time when a radio interviewer specifically asked him about his CS degree.
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