What You Must Learn from Yahoo!’s Ousted CEO

As of this week, Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson was called to step down from his position following a scandal involving his credentials.  An investor recently discovered that on Thompson’s resume, the ex-CEO claims he graduated with a computer science degree from Stonehill College, when in fact he finished with an accounting degree.  A computer science degree did not even exist at the school at the time.

When the truth came out, Thompson blamed a headhunting firm for misrepresenting his education when he was in the process of being hired by eBay in the mid-2000s.  It didn’t work.  The firm fought back by providing Yahoo! with a copy of Thompson’s original resume – fake degree and all.

Back in March, we talked about how to cope productively in the wake of scandal.  And cope productively Thompson did not.

Responding Defensively Only Makes You Look More Guilty

The first rule of escaping from hot water at work is to own up to your mistake, apologize contritely, and avoid accusing someone else.  But Mashable reports that it was Thompson’s handling of the situation rather than the resume gaff itself that led Yahoo! executives to call for his removal.  Thompson originally called the mistake an inadvertent error and apologized for the distraction it caused rather than the mistake itself, and the Silicon Valley technology community was furious.

Playing Fast and Loose with Your Credentials is a Dangerous Game

Even if Thompson’s CEO career had survived this incident, it would obviously have been better to avoid it in the first place – and this is exactly what you must do.  Positioning your experience in a positive light that showcases how you will add value to a potential organization is desirable, but as you are proofing your resume, make sure that every statement that can be validated by a third-party is the truth.

This means that you must be 100 percent accurate when it comes to things like education and degrees, titles and positions, and awards and distinctions.  If someone at a prospective company can call a prior employer or school on the phone and get a different story than the one you gave them, you’ll be instantly discredited and removed from consideration.  What seems like a small embellishment or adaptation now could become a very big deal if and when you reach a position of power, because as many former presidents would agree, the truth always comes out.

What do you think?  Does Thompson’s situation make you more inclined to be careful about your resume claims?

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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