Resumé Inflation

Gilda Radner’s famous “Roseanne Rosannadanna” character was famous for the line “Oh never mind” after a long rambling rant on Saturday Night Live.

Richard Gonzalez, Chief Operating Officer of Abbott Laboratories (market cap $108 billion) has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Houston and a Graduate Degree in Biochemistry from the University of Miami. Except he really doesn’t.

Niaspan, Abbott’s potential blockbuster drug, was going to be the next big thing in cardiovascular care – except a study published after it hit the market showed it didn’t do anything to prevent heart attacks.

Is there a link between a COO who fudged his credentials and a drug his company over-hyped? Do we care if Harvard jocks cheated on tests or if Derrick Rose faked his ACT score to get into Memphis costing the school its NCAA trophy?

I’ve been grappling with these issues since I read Phil Rosenthal’s excellent column in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune about Gonzalez’s reported degrees. Maybe I wouldn’t have cared as much if I hadn’t paid a lot of money for Niaspan pills and struggled with its side effects until I heard it was ineffective in its primary goal – to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

I have generally looked at resumés as plausible fictions. I care more about the tone and footnotes than the “credentials.” I am also very interested in what is omitted from a resumé – jail time, drug abuse history, ADD, illness and recovery, psychotherapy, religious observance, sports team preference, physical fitness, underwear preference. OK, laugh, but I care if a person has a sense of humor and a basic candor and honesty. I know Human Resources prefers the bland and measurable to the touchy feely stuff. I care about the person more than the credentials. So, my question is: If you fake the credentials do you necessarily disqualify yourself for a job – even if you are caught?

Richard Gonzalez, Abbott Board Member, is scheduled to be the CEO of AbbVie, Abbott Laboratories’ pharma division that is being spun off from the rest of the company. Gonzalez must be considered a topnotch executive to get this job after 30 years at Abbott. He made $5.5 million in compensation last year. His Board is not kicking him out because of the college degree flap like Yahoo! did with Scott Thomson and Bausch and Lomb did with Richard Zarrella. I see the point of forgiving a mistake. Like Gilda Radner’s Saturday Night Live character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, used to say – “Oh, never mind.”

But then there is that little Niaspan thing – the big drug that couldn’t. Can we draw a straight line between Gonzalez and Niaspan?

“Oh, never mind.”

Questions: Is embellishing a resumé a big deal?

If you found out your most valued employee had not divulged a drug abuse history what would you do?

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14 thoughts on “Resumé Inflation

  1. John Otto

    It’s certainly not a big deal. Look what’s it’s done for the President. I’m not saying he fudged his resume but there seem to be a few holes.

  2. Edward J Cross

    Actually, honesty is a big deal to me. Leaving some things unsaid on a Resume does not constitute lying; however misstating the truth is lying and a termination offense in my book. A Resume should illustrate the positive aspects on one’s career and personal life, but should never state anything that is not true.

  3. Chuck Berg

    If a person has a chemical dependency issue and got help its no one else’s business.If they are still using, its the company’s business for sure. Anyone overcoming addiction can make a great employee. Telling a new employer about past problems with drugs will almost guarantee not getting hired. So why would you tell.

    I quit alcohol some 40 years ago and told everyone to help ensure I wouldn’t fall on my face again. It has worked well for me and it has helped others to quit.

    Being honest is a tough road though, so its hard for most people to take that risk.

  4. John Griner

    I care more about tangible results than I do about someones embellishment on their resume. So no I wouldn’t fire them except in extreme situations. Like Lloyd I am learning to treat resumes more as fiction although it does provide good subject matter during interviews and reference checks. I have also come to the conclusion extroverts (out going sales types) tend to exaggerate their abilities more than introverts (quiet book keepers or machine operators).

  5. Med

    I think there is a difference between honestly omitting information and changing the truth (embellishing) for a purpose of misleading, such as to get a job, to get a new position or to get an advantage of some sort. This is no doubt a behavior in the realm of ethics and integrity or lack of it. I do think it is a BIG DEAL. How can you trust someone if you know that they, intentionally use information to mislead?

  6. Nick Bloom

    Everyone does it doesn’t make it right.
    This reminds me of the continuing problem of synthetics, steroids, testosterone, etc. being used by athletes. Melky Cabrera is the perfect example. On the last day of the season, his tainted BA still leads the league. Had he not been caught, his enhanced performance would have deprived Buster Posey of the batting title, and possibly even the MVP. Titles like that translate to real money, not just recognition. Every time I hear about another cheater I think about the guy or girl who came in second or third who never got the recognition they deserved. Cheaters have to live with themselves. Those who compete fairly for a job, in school, on the field… all of us, suffer the consequences of their fraud.

  7. Kelly Hagberg

    The 10 commandments are a pretty good set of rules to live by, but one must learn how to forgive.

  8. Norman Van Spronsen

    Depends how much value he had generated for the company while working. Wouldn’t cut off my hand to spite my foot. Try another question: suppose you found out your most valued employee was an illegal alien?


    The resume sets the performance bar for any candidate for employment. Embellishment may result in granted or delegated authority which may prove detrimental to colleagues and associates as well as the stability of the organization itself. Usually, employment is the self correcting method to over stated capabilities. In certain disciplines where the acquisition of knowledge is paramount performance related employment, misrepresentation have resulted in generation of misguided students. This is fatal to intellectual growth. In other disciplines where skills are the criteria, overstatement may be fatal to both the liar and co-workers. High level steel workers fall in this category.In many jobs, embellishment has no affect. Public workers seem to find embellishment as a standard for getting a job, which is probably the cause for success for, for profit universities, also known as diploma mills. If you run a machine shop and a candidate claims he has tool-setter experience, it won;t take long for you to confirm or disprove the claim. The other side of the coin is the liar for some reason other than personal gain. You usually get a feeling about this type. Go slowly, evaluate the problem because you may have the next Tesla, Edison or Kelly Johnson just waiting to breat out and erase the stupid embellishments, which really have no value in a productive environment.

  10. David Krimm

    We don’t read resumes – we hire only people that we already know. Most employers publish job descriptions that are so restrictive that they describe no living person on the planet, in an attempt to negotiate lower wages. But the unintended result is that they end up being staffed by 100% liars! Surprise, surprise! The capacity of people to manufacture and process non-productive BS is mind-boggling – especially in the corporate world.

  11. Mark Ellenberger

    There was a period of time that false employment imformation was unchecked. 1989-2004. Becareful who you hire. Check their backgound. How important is preformance!


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