I have been neglecting my blogging duties as of late and for that, you should be grateful! However, every so often I come across something that I feel passionate about. Today is one of those days as I have just come across an article that every job seeker should read. It’s about choices.
In this story, Steve was presented with an option. Lie on his resume and pretty much be guaranteed a job, or tell the truth and actually prove himself and his skills. Steve was more than qualified for a job but a recruiter told him that unless he made up a degree, the employer would likely pass. What did Steve do? Steve owned it! I love this guy, I love his story!
Choices to make the right decision or the wrong one. I am certainly not a righteous person, but I am a person of principle. I believe that in life you are presented with decisions; sometimes you make the right one and sometimes you don’t. However, its important to live with the consequences. People in life make mistakes. Own it. That’s your responsibility. This situation could have taken a completely different path; one that could have created dozens if not hundreds of lies to cover up a lie that wasn’t necessary in the first place.
Getting asked by a reporter about where I went to school made me remember the day I had to choose whether to lie on my résumé.
The job of a lifetime
When I got my first job in Silicon Valley, it was through serendipity — my part — and desperation — on the part of my first employer. I really didn’t have much of a résumé — four years in the Air Force building a scram system for a nuclear reactor and a startup in Ann Arbor, Mich., but not much else.
It was at my second startup in Silicon Valley that my life and career took an interesting turn. A recruiter found me while I was working in product marketing and wanted to introduce me to a hot startup making something called a workstation. “This is a technology-driven company, and your background sounds great. Why don’t you send me a résumé and I’ll pass it on.” A few days later, I got a call back from the recruiter. “Steve, you left off your education. Where did you go to school?”
“I never finished college,” I said.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone. “Steve, the VP of sales and marketing previously ran their engineering department. He was a professor of computer science at Harvard, and his last job was running the Advanced Systems Division at Xerox PARC. Most of the sales force were previously design engineers. I can’t present a candidate without a college degree. Why don’t you make something up?”
I still remember that exact instant of the conversation. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. But I had no idea how profound, important and lasting it would be. It would have been really easy to lie, and the recruiter was telling me to do so. “No one checks education anyway,” He said. This was long before the days of the Internet.
Making the choice about my résumé
I told him I’d think about it. And I did for a long time. After a few days, I sent him my updated résumé, and he passed it on to Convergent Technologies. Soon after, I was asked to interview with the company. I can barely recall the other people I met (my potential boss, the VP of marketing, interviews with various engineers, etc.), but I’ll never forget the interview with Ben Wegbreit, the VP of sales and marketing.
We are in the business of finding people that lie on their resumes! Why? Well, companies are hit everyday with people who are not qualified for their positions and therefore make things up in order to get them. Organizations pay us because they know that we find over 50% of resumes contain falsehoods and in some cases flat out lies. These sometimes include fake diplomas, degree mills, false employers, extended dates to cover up positions they have been terminated from and so on. The interesting thing is that this is usually done AFTER the applicant has gone through a series of interviews and has already had the chance to sell themselves. Often times, the lie is unnecessary. The background check is being run because they want you based on you, not based on the “fake you.”
I love the lessons learned:
- You will be faced with ethical dilemmas your entire career
- Taking the wrong path is most often the easiest choice
- These choices will seem like trivial and inconsequential shortcuts — at the time
- Some of them will have lasting consequences
- It’s not the lie that will catch up with you, it’s the cover-up
- Choose wisely