It seems innocent enough; after all, what does a little white lie on a resume hurt, especially if it’s about a piece of paper you never earned but said you did? Or if you claim to be proficient in certain technical skills when you actually just read an article about the subject in a journal, why does it matter if you won’t be using those skills, only managing people who do the real work? You might justify it by saying you’re just doing it to get in the door, and you’ll fix it later, or you swear you’ll learn the claimed skill as soon as you can. You might never be discovered, or not suffer any dire consequences if the truth is uncovered; some companies, however, question the integrity of executives who lie on their resumes, wondering what else they’ve fabricated in their careers.  You could even find yourself on a list like this:

Top 10 Executive Resume Scandals:

  1. Marilee Jones, hired in 1979 to boost female enrollment at MIT, falsely claimed to have degrees from Albany Medical College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Union College. She had an illustrious career for 28 years, but it ended in disgrace in 2007. (source)
  2. Tang Jun, former president of Microsoft China, claimed a doctorate from Cal Tech, which proved to be false, then he claimed that was a mistake and his doctorate was actually from Pacific Northwestern University, which was a noted “diploma mill” at the time he claimed to have received his degree. While the allegations do not seem to have hurt Tang Jun’s career in China, they have sparked concerns in US-based counterparts of Chinese companies – mostly because the Chinese society seems to be quite accepting of this particular lie. (source)
  3. Laura Callahan, former Deputy CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, was another “victim” of a diploma mill, and there may be some truth to her claim that she submitted a dissertation to what she thought was an accredited online university program, only to find out the school was a scam. Whether or not she lied about the PhD, she was forced to resign from her position when her degrees were investigated. (source)
  4. Vialetta Graham, Chief Technology Officer for the Washington, DC Board of Elections and Ethics, makes this list for sheer irony: she lied about having a degree in computer technology from American University, but did not lose her job (with the Board of ETHICS) because it does not require a college degree. (source)
  5. Kenneth Lonchar, former CFO of Veritas Software, lied about having an MBA from Stanford, which also gets him a nomination in the Irony category: “veritas” is Latin for “truth.” (source)
  6. One more entry in the Irony category: Dave Edmondson, former CEO of Radio Shack, resigned when it was discovered he’d lied about having degrees in psychology and theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College. Is there a special punishment for lying about having a degree in religion? (source)
  7. Bruno Sorrentino, former Head of IT and Research at Australia’s Telstra Research Laboratories, a major telecomm company, claimed a PhD from Imperial College, London. His lie was exposed when some scientists in his newly-acquired lab wanted to read his dissertation and found that Imperial had no record of him even attending the school, much less earning a doctorate. (source)
  8. Jeffrey Papows, former President and CEO of IBM’s Lotus Development Corporation, claimed to have been an aviator in the Marines and to have achieved the rank of Captain, when in fact he was an air traffic controller with no flight time and was discharged as a first lieutenant. Oh, and he lied about having a doctorate from Pepperdine; it’s actually from a “diploma mill.” He has apparently lied about many other things, but these are the only ones that appear on his resume. (source)
  9. Al “Chainsaw” Dunlap, former CEO of Sunbeam Corporation, is the only entry on this list who committed the “lie of omission:” he conveniently left out two jobs from which he was fired under suspicion of fraud and mismanagement, the very things that cost him his job at Sunbeam. (source)
  10. Scott Thompson, former Yahoo! CEO, listed degrees in accounting and computer science on SEC paperwork, which led to his resignation just 4 months after taking the helm at Yahoo! (source)

This list could be much longer, sadly. People lie on their resumes for different reasons, but most claim it’s because the job market is so intensely competitive that they see it as the only way to rise above the crowd. I have a better idea: let someone who knows your industry and knows you craft your resume. It is possible to stand out from the crowd with a well-constructed – and factual – resume; then once you have that dream job, you won’t need to constantly worry that your name will be added to any disgraced-executive list!