A Resume Lie Will Come Back to Haunt You—Just Ask NCAA Basketball Coach Steve Masiello

Nick Fishman

Resume Lies

A little resume lie never hurt anyone…right? Tell that to Steve Masiello, most recently a coach at Manhattan College, now on leave due to a potential discrepancy on his resume. It’s been 14 years since he supposedly graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Kentucky, where he played for the Wildcats from 1996-2000.

While being screened for a coaching position at the University of South Florida, they conducted a resume verification on Masiello and inevitably discovered that he did not earn the degree listed on his resume. This discrepancy could be a blatant lie or perhaps a misunderstanding, but either way keep reading to find out how this discrepancy remained hidden for so long.

Importance of a Background Check at Any Level

Perhaps it’s the fact that 14 years ago resume verifications weren’t as prevalent as today, but still—how was it missed that Masiello never completed his degree? According to an article from USA Today, former coach Rick Pitino said, “…I had no idea. I left the previous year, and he was on track to graduate.”

That statement aside, it’s pretty difficult to mistake receiving a degree—you either have one or you don’t. And while it is possible this is a mistake, it seems Masiello has been inaccurately portraying himself as a college graduate for years.

This story is a prime example that it doesn’t matter how far along your candidate is in their career—from entry-level to senior executive—you never know how accurate a past employment background check might have been—or if a background check was completed at all.

Maybe Masiello’s degree was never verified in the past—but luckily for the University of South Florida, they took a step in the right direction when they verified Masiello’s credentials before offering him a coaching position.

Conducting a Comprehensive Resume Verification

Now the question is, how should a comprehensive education verification be done and how might this information have been missed in the first place?

In the case that an employee background check was completed after Masiello “graduated,” it’s possible that they only verified that he attended the University of Kentucky, not that whether or not he earned the degree. However, it seems more likely that he did not graduate and a verification was never done in the past.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between attending a school for four years and attending then earning a degree. There are many cases in which a job candidate lists that they received a degree, but might have been short by a few course credits.

The best practice for resume verifications is to outsource your background checks to the experts—background screening companies that verify resumes each day, and know the best procedures for verifying if a degree was earned or if a candidate has been sneaking a lie past previous employers. 

How Deep Can a Resume Lie Go?

In a related case in 2001, George O’Leary, former head coach at Notre Dame (well for five days at least), also spent years building his career on a stack of resume lies—related to both his education and experience. O’Leary claimed that he earned a master’s degree from New York University and that he received letters from playing at the University of New Hampshire.

In this case, it took over 30 years before these discrepancies were uncovered. And even then, it wasn’t because someone ordered a background check. The latter inaccuracy was discovered by accident when a newspaper was researching a feature story on O’Leary and discovered that no one remembered playing football with him at all. Shortly after, the lie about his education came into the light as well.

In either case, it’s further proof that an employment background check should be done regardless of the job candidate’s circumstances. And it should also scare some sense into employers—whether they hire coaches or otherwise, that even if a candidate’s reputation precedes them, that’s not a verification you can rely upon.

Employers should follow these best practices to avoid missing a resume lie:

  • Always verify both education and employment—regardless of the position they are hiring for or the length of the person’s career.
  • Ensure that your verification process is as comprehensive as possible—verifying dates of employment and position, verifying education—whether it’s dates of attendance or a degree. If you use a third party background screening provider, be sure to review the process they use to conduct resume verifications.

Update 4/7/2014: The New York Times reported that Manhattan College will allow Masiello to return to his position, after he completes his degree this summer. The college president, Brennan O’Donnell stated that they did not believe that Masiello intentionally misrepresented himself. Read More Here.


Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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