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Researcher: 1 In 5 Executives Lie On Resumes

By Galen Moore, Boston Business Journal
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BOSTON (CBS) – Yahoo’s luck may be singularly poor when it comes to executive search, but an executive who lies on a resumé about his or her education credentials?

Hardly a rare sighting, says one headhunter who for 16 years has run a “Liars Index,” tracking such behavior.

On Thursday, an activist investor revealed that Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, named in January, did not get a double degree at Stonehill College in Easton.

Thompson’s published resumé had boasted computer science and business degrees.

In fact, the former PayPal president had received only a business degree, the Catholic college confirmed.

It happens all the time, according to one executive headhunter.

Jude M. Werra, based in Milwaukee, vets 100 to 300 resumés each year, and does what Yahoo’s board of directors apparently failed to do in Thompson’s case.

Since 1995, the first thing he does is call the academic institutions named on each candidate’s resumé.

What he’s found is surprising.

Werra publishes the results biannually in what he calls the “Liars Index.”

The bad news?  Right now, the Liars Index is at 21.80 percent, indicating more than one in five of the resumés Werra has seen in the past two years has misrepresented the candidate’s education.

Not surprisingly, the average has been climbing since the 2008-2009 recession.

At the end of 2008, the Liars Index two-year rolling average stood at 13.21 percent.

In the second half of 2011, it reached a fever pitch: 27.27 percent of Werra’s resumés contained an untruth.

In the early 2000’s, the highest number posted was 23.30 percent, in the first half of 2000.

“There are some who’d speculate that in a period of time when people seem to worry about their futures, that filling in the blank, maybe if I sound better I’d stand a better chance,” Werra said in an interview.

“That’s unfortunate in my mind that people look at their careers as being in a casino – it’s a matter of chance whether or not you get hired, rather than a matter of defining your direction and pursuing it.”

Yahoo at first blamed the misstatement on inadvertent error.

Since then, AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher has unearthed a 2009 radio interview with Thompson, in which he responded to a question about his computer science degree, missing an opportunity to set the record straight.

Yahoo now says it will review the resumé discrepancy.

Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.

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