• Todd Eiseman

7 Times Employers Should Have Used a Background Screening Partner

Updated: May 2, 2018

The resume is a candidate’s foot in the door. It’s their first impression on any hiring manager. And when you find a good one, one that seems like they’d be a great fit for your company, it’s human nature to want to trust them, especially if they go on to give a great interview.

But experience tells us that a great resume and interview are rarely enough to tell the whole story. In fact, a CareerBuilder study tells us a massive 56 percent of employers have caught candidates in a lie they’ve written into their resume.

That’s an astounding number. But while it shouldn’t automatically make you mistrust every candidate who walks in your door, it should be enough of a hint that you need a background screening partner you can trust to help you verify a candidate’s background. It’s the only way to ensure their competency and integrity before you make the investment of hiring them on full time.

While this thought process may seem like common sense to many, there are plenty of high profile anecdotes out there of companies failing to run a background check on major executives. Here are some of our favorite examples.

Lie #1: Vice President of Corporate Communications at Wal-Mart

David Tovar had been with Wal-Mart for eight years, most recently as the Vice President of Corporate Communications, before it became known that he had misrepresented his educational background. According to a New York Times article, Tovar led his employer to believe that he had a 4-year Bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Delaware. In fact, although he attended for four years and was present for the graduation ceremony, he never actually earned enough credits to receive the official degree. After this information was disclosed, Tovar was forced to leave Wal-Mart.

Lie #2: Dean of Admissions at MIT

For 28 years, Marilee Jones worked in admissions and as a Dean of Admissions for MIT and became a well-known and respected figure on campus. However, it was uncovered that she lied about having several undergraduate degrees from various colleges, when in fact she did not have a degree at all.  The New York Times reported she was not required to have a degree upon starting her original position at MIT, and her credentials were never verified, even when she was promoted to Dean. Jones resigned from her role after this information was discovered.

Lie #3: Deputy CIO at US Department of Homeland Security

ComputerWorld reported that Laura Callahan fulfilled a major role as Deputy CIO for Homeland Security but was found to have entirely fabricated her educational background. Her resume listed an impressive array of degrees, including a Doctorate in computer information systems. However, it was discovered that all her degrees were from a university that was not an accredited school but instead a “diploma mill.” For what could have easily been charged as a crime, Callahan was placed on leave.

Lie #4: CEO of Yahoo!

Scott Thompson created a high profile case for himself when, as CEO of Yahoo!, it was discovered after four months of his being in the role because of inaccurate information on his academic resume. A 2012 CNN Money article reported he actually had a Bachelor’s degree in only accounting, not accounting and computer science as claimed. Because Yahoo! was a public company, this error had large implications, both for Thompson and for the company itself, because the inaccurate academic background was listed on SEC annual reports that were certified by the CEO. Thompson left the company immediately.

Lie #5: President of IBM’s Lotus Development

According to ZDNet.com, after 23 years with IBM and 7 years with IBM’s Lotus Development, Jeffrey Papows resigned as president when several unsavory rumors arose. First, there were lies on his resume about his military background, elevating his experience from his actual role as first lieutenant to the fictional role as captain. He also claimed to have a Doctorate from Pepperdine University, but the degree was actually from an unaccredited institution. There are also a variety of other stories surrounding Papows and his exaggerated background, most of which he denied. Whether true or not, the proven lies meant the end of his career with IBM.

Lie #6: Head Coach at the University of Notre Dame

While many of the above examples show that some of these lies take years to be uncovered, the following story shows the extreme opposite. George O’Leary lasted just five days in his role as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. The New York Times reported he resigned after it became clear that not only was an alleged Master’s degree from New York University nonexistent, but his experience as a football player at the University of New Hampshire was falsified. O’Leary had become head football coach apparently without having playing major college football at all.

Lie #7: CFO at Veritas Software

In the long list of educational fictions, this one is the same story. In 2002, CNN Money reported that Ken Lonchar, CFO of Veritas Software for five years, fabricated his educational credentials on his resume, claiming he received an MBA from Stanford. When this was discovered to be untrue, Lonchar left the company, resulting in a drop in the company’s stock price.

At the end of the day, these headline-worthy faux pas could have been avoided with the help of a thorough background screening partner. While most of these examples focus on educational embellishments, the truth is that an unfortunate number of candidates are willing to exaggerate any number of details on their resume, including skill sets, time spent at previous positions, and more.

Fortunately, that’s our specialty. We run both employment and educational verifications, as well as many more background check services. Let us know how we can help you build a team of competent, honest employees who will drive your business to the next level.

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