Period. Always. No exceptions.
When an executive carries the baggage of resume deception or any mis-representation of credentials, it upheaves and corrodes the organization. Note this recap of a hoo-hah, as reported by James Stewart in the New York Times.
Scott Thompson, a new CEO recruited to Yahoo from PayPal, put forth inaccurate information about his educational credentials, claiming a degree in both accounting and computer science. It has now been verified that he only holds a degree in accounting, which does not provide the valued street cred in engineering-centric Silicon Valley.
The taint spread quickly, oozing throughout the corridors of the company, making its way to the boardroom and outside advisors — giving the upper hand to a dissident shareholder.
Here’s the casualty count:
- Thompson is out.
- The company must now recruit its fifth CEO in a five year period.
- Embarrassing flip factor – Thompson’s tenure was only four months.
- Scrutiny spread to the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, which slapped back the accusation of credential mix up as “…verifiably not true.”
- Three of the board’s seats have now been won by the activist shareholder.
- Toting up all board resignations, eight of Yahoo’s 11 directors will have joined the board this year.
If this level of damage can be inflicted inside a $5 billion company in the sophisticated playing field of Silicon Valley, imagine the impact in smaller-sized businesses or non-profits.
Some governance ground rules:
- If you are the hiring decisionmaker — or a CEO or board member involved in approving a new hire – you must always ask the question and always insist that a background check be conducted on key hires.
- It is the company’s job to expedite the background check, not the recruitment firm.
- Background checks can be extensive and expensive. Tell HR what you want — or engage a firm yourself.
- Read the findings.
- There is no upside in giving someone a pass.
- Always include a caveat in the offer letter or employment contract, i.e., contingent upon successful completion of a background check.
- When you interview candidates, look them in the eye and tell them the process will involve an in-depth background check.
- Watch for the reaction….you might hear an interesting story or two.
- Ask detailed questions. If there are discrepancies between the responses and the resume, move on to the next candidate.
- A lie is a lie is a lie.
copyright 2012 Nancy Keene All Rights Reserved
June 19, 2012