Photo: O’Reilly Media
To get a little perspective on the Yahoo CEO resume scandal, we grabbed 10 minutes with Chuck Wardell, the CEO of executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.Here’s a lightly edited transcription of that conversation:
How common is lying on your resume?
Resume fraud is unfortunately very common in a couple areas. People start believing their own lies and they don’t think it makes any difference.
Why do people do it?
Part of it’s ego. Part of it is they don’t think they’ll get caught. Part of it is trying to get a job and they’re willing to take a risk. Then people internalize lies.
I don’t think they see it as an indictment of their character. It is.
Most people don’t get high enough to where anything beyond a cursory look at a resume is given.
What should people do when they realise they may have exaggerated?
If you’re ever in an interview and you feel like you exaggerated, send a quick email after saying there are other people who deserve credit that you forgot to mention. People aren’t trying to play gotcha.
What should Yahoo have done to prevent this? The board member who was supposed to vet Thompson has resigned.
It’s hard because he was obviously successful in the field they hired him into. He had a life in this, working his way up the ladder.
People take certain things for granted when they hire. They take for granted that you don’t drink at breakfast and you’re not a career alcoholic.
I don’t really think [it’s the Yahoo board’s fault]. I think that’s Thompson’s fault.
I have great sympathy for the search firm and for the board. Thompson chose to exaggerate or lie and that’s a very hard one to catch.
There is no visible evidence and there is no impact on his day to day performance.
When you say you speak French and go to France and nobody can understand what you’re saying, you can catch that.
What can Thompson say by way of explanation to employees, shareholders, and the board?
He could say something like “I got out of school and it was a hard time and I needed to put this on there to get my start.”
Would that be enough to save his job?
From the perspective of the board, it’s not an easy answer. If [Thompson] had no degree at all, then you have no choice.
In this case you censure him, maybe.
If [Yahoo was] flying high and you have a deep bench and you have someone who could take over, you wish him well and you throw him out.
But then he might say, I had a degree, the major wasn’t in the job description, and I’m going to sue you.
My guess is he stays and two years from now he’s gone. My guess is they start looking for his replacement today.
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