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Why did Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson fudge his résumé? That’s the question that lingers in the wake of his resignation yesterday just four months after taking the helm. Ever since the news broke two weeks ago that Thompson claimed to have a degree in computer science when he didn’t, colleagues, pundits and many of the rest of us have been debating whether he was fit to run the company.
The padded résumé came to light in the course of a proxy war, as FORBES senior editor Susan Adams explains here. Daniel Loeb, head of hedge fund Third Point, who owns 5.8% of Yahoo and has a net worth of $1.2 billion according to the latest FORBES estimates, wanted control of the board and Thompson stood in his way. So he apparently went looking for dirt and easily turned up the discrepancy with a Google search. In business and in politics that’s not an unusual scenario.
Yahoo’s first reaction was to call Thompson’s résumé entry an “inadvertent error,” but it turns out this version of the résumé had been kicking around for more than a decade. Thompson blamed a search firm, which pointed the finger right back at him.
Ironically, Thompson probably didn’t need that degree to become Yahoo’s top dog. His prior job experience–he previously headed eBay’s PayPal unit–plus his degree in accounting from Stonehill College, were almost certainly enough. Still, like so many people, he seems to have yearned for a status symbol he would have liked to have had.
It’s the same feeling that causes workers to embellish their job descriptions, fudge their class ranks and suggest they graduated from college when they never did. Especially in a tough job market, graduates inflate their class standing for fear they’ll otherwise lose out to people who were just better test-takers.
Behind each deception there’s usually a rationalization – like, “Everybody does it.” “Who will ever know?” or “I...