The CEO of RadioShack was fired after it was discovered he didn’t graduate from MIT. One of the chefs on a Food Network program never cooked for England’s royal family. And it appears that Gazette publisher Steve Pope didn’t actually help start a newspaper in Houston.
While lying on resumes is common — exactly how common is unknown.
According to Careerbuilder.com, only 8 percent of job seekers admit to lying on their resumes; but more than half of hiring managers say they have caught lies during the hiring process.
Some people lie about college degrees, others “embellish” job responsibilities and some lie about the length of time they worked at a certain place. Others inflate their former salaries, or lie about technical abilities or language fluency.
And hiring experts say the tales are only growing taller — thanks in part to technology and executive profiles such as linkedin.com — and despite the increase of background checks.
“It’s easier to find information to put on your resume,” said John Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a consulting firm. “And in these days of cost-cutting, companies are not doing the background checks. They think they need to cut somewhere, so they cut those.”
And saving a few dollars now, often costs companies more in the long run.
“You skip the background check at your own peril,” Challenger said. ‘It’s the best way to find out what the potential employee is all about.”
Angela Hamilton, owner of Columbine Capital Solutions and president of the Colorado Springs chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, echoes the necessity of reference and background checks.
“It’s crucial to do those,” she said. “Employers need to make sure the person they’re hiring is capable of doing the job in real life, not just on paper.”
Freedom Communications, which owns The Gazette, refused to comment about the alleged inaccuracies on Pope’s resume, which were reported last week by The Independent, beyond a statement released by its public relations firm, Sitrick and Co.
Jon Segal, president of the newspaper division, is quoted as saying that the process which led to hiring Pope “included extensive due diligence and reference checks of our candidates.”
But according to the story in The Independent, which neither Pope nor Freedom have denied, the extensive due diligence and reference checks didn’t uncover that Pope joined the Houston paper four years after it was started.
So, what happens when someone is caught lying about, misrepresenting or embellishing information on their resume?
Hamilton said the repercussions depend on the employer, and on the company’s written policy.
“If there is a written policy — and everyone should have one — then that policy should spell out what happens if someone is caught lying about their credentials,” she said. “It can result in immediate dismissal.”
Robert Emmers of Sitrick and Co., refused to answer whether Freedom Communications has a written policy addressing resume inaccuracies.
“I think the statement from Jon stands,” he wrote in an e-mail. “He notes in it that they did extensive reference checks and due diligence on Mr. Pope and their other candidates.”
Challenger agrees that misrepresentations can result in dismissal, and that might just be the tip of the iceberg.
“Even if someone was doing a good job — when your boss finds out you’ve lied, it often doesn’t matter,” he said. “And then you have to lie at your next interview, and if they find out about that lie — it can be a vicious circle.”
The Society for Human Resource Management also has spoken with its members about lies on resumes.
Most say that finding falsehoods before offering the job changes the way they view a candidate, with a total of 86 percent listing it as important. Only 8 percent say they don’t investigate backgrounds and only 4 percent say they’ve never found any inaccuracies.
But what about employees who lie and don’t get caught until after they’ve been in the position for a while? Hamilton said employers’ responses vary.
“It depends on the severity of the lie,” she said. “For instance, if you just got the dates you worked somewhere wrong, that’s probably not going to cost you the job. But if you say you’re certified in an area, and certification is a job requirement, and it turns out you aren’t certified, that could result in dismissal.”
Other lies fall different places on the spectrum, she said. Many people tend to embellish their job responsibilities — but doing so can be dangerous.
“Especially in upper level positions, director levels,” she said. “You’re much more likely to get caught — and it’s much more likely to be made public. … You’re going to get caught sooner or later.”