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Yahoo CEO's resume scandal -- When is lying okay?

Have you ever exaggerated just a little bit to put yourself in the best light possible?

Most of us do, particularly when it comes to our bios or resumes. We take what we've done and word it just so to make ourselves look as accomplished as possible. It's what we're told to do.

But resumes are tricky. Experts tell us it's okay to airbrush our photos, glamorize our accomplishments. Yet, we aren't supposed to cross the line into over-embellishment or take it a step further and add facts that aren't true.

That's where Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson went wrong. He just was fired as CEO after it was found he padded his resume with an embellished college degree, ending his term at the company after
just four months.

As college grads begin putting together their resumes, I think there's a lesson here. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to fear being caught. Airbrushing is ok. Lying is not.

Thompson's resume scandal ignited just over a week ago, when activist shareholder group Third Point alleged that Thompson lied about details of his college degree. Thompson's published Yahoo bios -- including the one in the company's latest annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally swear are truthful -- have claimed that he holds a bachelor's degree in both accounting and computer science from Stonehill College.

His degree is actually in accounting only. Yahoo called the mistake an "inadvertent error."

Unfortunately, Thompson is just the latest executive to lose his job in a resume scandal. The Associated Press put together a long list: A Look at Leaders Undone by Resume Inaccuracies

The lesson here is don't do it. If you think your resume needs some flair, do something about it -- the right way. Take a class. Do volunteer work. Gain the skills or experience you're missing. Yes, gaining those skills or experience could cut into your work life balance, but so can losing your job. If Thompson felt he needed to add a computer science degree to his resume, he should have taken classes. It's never too late to gain more education. By the way, education is the area of a resume where people lie the most, experts say.

Studies show half of all resumes include a little padding and a third contain outright lies. (Fox Business: Yahoo scandal fuels doubts about vetting) Experts have compiled the Top 5 Resume Lies

Chris3Chris Lawson, CEO of the Eli Daniel Group in Dallas, hires people for a living. I asked him for tips on airbrushing a resume without lying :

Why do you think people lie on their resumes? People lie on their resume to cover up or enhance the information in hopes of “getting that interview”. Smaller organizations can fall prey to hiring some of these people while larger organizations with a well-structured HR Department typically filter out some of basic lies such as: altered employment dates to cover gaps, recent salary paid or
education verification.

Are the lies increasing as the unemployment rates rise? When economic times are tougher, the desperation creates a sense of “why not, I am not getting any interviews anyway”. The problem will usually backfire, especially if their skills are exposed quickly once hired.

What can people do to boost their resumes without lying? People can boost their resume by
ensuring they list every skill and job function they performed at each job. Keywords are huge, especially since many searches for online information are performed by typing a few critical keywords to pull up a list of prospects. In addition, listing accomplishments that are factual
demonstrates a higher performing candidate. People that narrow their job target objective and tailor their resume factually based on the job description will always get a good look as well.

How much effort do employers put into verifying information? This varies greatly. The degreed positions will usually always get atleast two reference checks to ensure dates are accurate. Non-degreed candidates do not get as much scrutiny but almost all companies perform a criminal background check. Typically the public organizations will ensure most everything is checked, but
surprisingly, education is not always verified, especially if they have work history that would lead to an assumption it’s accurate. Yahoo CEO is now the latest in a long line of high profile people fudging on education.


So readers, do you think it would have made a difference to Yahoo if Scott Thompson didn't have a degree in computer science? Did he really need to put that on his resume? Do you think there are lots of CEOs out there who have lied about their educational background? Do you think seeing what happened to Scott Thompson will make anyone stop and think twice, or is lying just embedded in the way we do business today?