By now you are no doubt aware that Scott Thomson, the recently appointed CEO of Yahoo!, has become the former CEO of Yahoo! because of “inadvertent errors” in his CV.
According to his bio he has a degree in computer science but, in actual reality, he does not.
There was no shortage of voices calling for his resignation or termination. Indeed, the member of Yahoo!’s board of directors most responsible for his hiring was handed her walking papers before he was.
However, he held out as long as possible before deciding to leave “for personal reasons”.
Interestingly, Yahoo!’s board apparently did not push him out.
Compare and contrast with the high-profile resignation a decade ago of Kenneth Lonchar, then-CFO of Veritas. He said he had an MBA, but he didn’t really. Then there’s David Edmonson, who resigned as CEO of Radio Shack in 2008 when similar CV-puffing was discovered.
In Edmonson’s case the fictional degrees weren’t even job-specific; he was supposed to have degrees in theology and psychology that, it turned out, he did not have.
Maybe it’s something about bearing false witness? Or being economical with the truth while working for a company whose name is Latin for truth? If you ask me (and I’m sure you would if you could, so let’s just assume you did), neither Lonchar nor Edmonson should have been sacked – and neither should Thomson have been pressured to leave.
None of the three were appointed to their positions on the basis of the degrees they claimed to have. All were hired on the basis of their performance at previous companies or, in Edmonson’s case, on the basis of having worked his way up through the ranks.
And none would have been disqualified from their positions for the mere lack of these degrees. An MBA is a useful thing for a CFO to have, but they don’t all have them. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both dropouts from college, but eminently employable I would warrant.
Résumé puffing is the sort of thing young folks do to get a foot in the door, gain an entry-level position somewhere and then show what they can do. And it’s extraordinarily widespread – especially at companies that try to put on a veneer of respectability by insisting on employing university graduates.
Usually, once a person has a bit of industry experience on their CV, they quietly drop the puffery they felt they needed earlier. Lonchar, Edmonson and Thomson, it seems, neglected to do that.
(Actually, Thomson does seem to have done that, as the degree in question wasn’t on his bio when he was with eBay. The mystery is how or why it reappeared with Yahoo! and to what extent you could describe this as “inadvertent”.)
Thomson should have toughed it out, but he didn’t, leaving Yahoo! in, if it’s even possible, a worse position. The company must now be pinning its hopes on its attractiveness as an acquisition target, and adding another ex-CEO to an already long list can’t help that endeavour.
And finding another CEO – one who could pass what would no doubt be an extremely thorough vetting process – to lead Yahoo! in its present state would be difficult to say the least. What good candidate would want it?
If I were to offer Scott Thomson one piece of advice it would be this: when applying for your next job, maybe leave “CEO of Yahoo!” off your CV.
Sir Matthew JC. Powell won the Nobel Prize for facial hair. Job offers to firstname.lastname@example.org