What’s the penalty for lying on a resume? It’s an important question for new Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, after his PR department offered up the laughable excuse that he made “an inadvertent error” on Yahoo’s website and in an SEC filing claiming he had a Computer Science degree. TechCrunch editor Eric Eldon just wrote this should cost him his new job. At Yahoo, the penalty could include “immediate discharge”.
I got a job at Yahoo in 1999. Before I started, I was required to fill out an Employment Application. The form included educational and employment history information and notes “A resume may be attached.” At the bottom of the form, there is a boxed section, with the bold headline “Authorization: Please read carefully, initial each paragraph and sign below.”
Here’s the first paragraph in that section:
“I certify that the facts on this Employment Application (and any supplements attached) are true and complete. I further understand that any omissions or misrepresentations made by me on this application will be sufficient grounds for denying my application, withdrawing any offer of employment or immediate discharge.”
So, if I had made ANY misrepresentations (in Yahoo PR speak: “inadvertent errors”) as a Yahoo employee, I would have been at risk of losing my job immediately. We’ll find out if the same rules apply to the CEO.
Some caveats here of course. This application is more than 10 years old and Yahoo might have changed this part. Unlikely. Also, Thompson’s employment application (if he even wrote one) and his contract are not part of the public record, so we don’t know exactly what’s in there.
We do know what’s in documents Yahoo filed with the SEC where the false degree was also mentioned. As activist shareholder Daniel Loeb noted in his letter to the Board, Yahoo’s Code of Ethics may have been violated. It states “Disclosure in reports and documents filed with or submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and in other public communications made by Yahoo! must be full, fair, accurate, timely and understandable.”
Update: Michael Arrington, who is now CEO of Yahoo according to his LinkedIn profile, just reported Yahoo even has a 24-hour IntegrityLine to report Code of Ethics violations. Mike says he called the number “and damn if they don’t pick that phone up on the first ring.” I tried calling the number and all I get is some peaceful on hold music and a message “Thank you for holding.” Seems that line might be pretty busy right now.
Perhaps, Thompson should have read this article, found ironically on Yahoo Voices titled “3 Reasons You Should Never Lie on Your Resume.” It ends with the following suggestion on why its not a good idea. “In the end, you’ll be happier for not having to look over your shoulder for the rest of your career, just wondering if, right now, someone is calling that bogus school you mentioned last year when you finally got your dream job.”