“All that glitters is not gold,” wrote Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. While this well-known saying traditionally describes faux riches, such as knock-off Rolexes and counterfeit Fendi bags, it unfortunately applies to fraudulent academic credentials as well – all too common in today’s modern workplace.
Take for example the recent case involving Scott Thompson, former President of PayPal and Chief Executive Officer at Yahoo! Inc. In early May, the company announced that Thompson left the company after a special committee formed by the Board of Directors uncovered a “discrepancy in his academic credentials.” Prompted by receipt of a letter from Daniel Loeb, the CEO of Third Point, the review revealed that while Thompson claimed to have Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College, his degree was actually in accounting alone.
Incidentally, Yahoo! Inc also discovered that Patti Hart, chairwoman of the committee that hired Thompson, also had an academic discrepancy on her record. While corporate filings indicated that Hart held Bachelor’s degrees in marketing and economics from Illinois State University, in actuality, her degree was in business administration. Hart has since chosen not to seek reelection to the board.
Resume inflation, whether in the form of academic fraud or previous work experience, is not uncommon in today’s economy. The 2009 Screening Index, published by payroll and human resources outsourcing firm ADP, examined 5.5 million background checks completed by the company in 2008. The data revealed that 46 percent had “a difference in information between what the applicant provided and what the source reported.” The Society for Human Resource Management conducted their own survey in 2010 and found that while 76 percent of businesses polled conduct reference checks on all applicants, only 49 percent bothered to verify the degrees listed on the resumes and applications.
We can assume that these scattershot hiring practices are common, at least in part, due to a shortage of resources within the companies in question. It certainly takes time to verify the references and credentials of applicants manually. And in the current employment environment, when a hiring manager may receive hundreds of resumes for one open position, time is in short supply so using an outside vendor to conduct these all important verifications is a good way to ensure your candidate’s background is accurate.