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What's an appropriate response to resume falsification?

Following the discovery that Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson was less-than-honest on his resume, the former New York Times columnist Randy Cohen ("The Ethicist") appeared on CNBC explaining that one's résumé "has to be an honest account of your professional life and your education." Cohen poses an interesting dilemma to those doing the hiring and review of employees. What should be the appropriate response? Lying on one's résumé is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor, and yet it cheats a number of consituencies from the time of the hiring process to many years later. Thompson was alleged to have embellished his official company biography by stating that he has a degree in computer science in addition to the one he earned in accounting at Stonehill College. On May 13, 2012, after only four months in the senior position, Thompson was fired from his role.

We have seen a number of types of résumé falsification over the years: the intentional raising of grade point averages and SAT scores; listed coursework that was either failed or not completed; positions of leadership that a student did not hold; and the accomplishment and earning of awards or accolades in research, competition, or classwork. How does resume falsification affect Duke students, and what are the potential consequences?

  • Enhancing one's GPA, SAT scores, etc. makes a student appear to be a better candidate against those who have honestly earned their grades.
  • A company that learns that a Duke applicant has lied on his/her resume may make the institution's remaining candidates less appealing and lowers other students' chances of being hired in the future.
  • Employees hired under false pretenses years before may be fired from their positions.
  • In falsified résumé cases in the undergraduate disciplinary system, the charges are typically Falsification/Fraud and/or Academic Dishonesty (namely Lying). Students who have disciplinary action taken against them and are found responsible for a violation of policy must report such action to law or medical schools to which they may apply. Other graduate programs may also check a student's disciplinary record, and some employers (such as the U.S. government) do as well.

Undergraduate students found responsible for falsifying or lying on their résumés often face a period of two semesters of suspension from Duke University.

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