Little George Could Not Tell a Lie: Good Role Model for Those Tempted to Lie on Their Resumes


Today is George Washington’s actual birthday. In celebration of his legendary act of boyhood honesty after chopping down the cherry tree, we bring you this guest post from If you're in college or about to graduate, you might be scraping at every bit of job or leadership experience you have just to fill up a whole page on your resume. But don't be tempted to stretch the truth, even a little. While a seemingly harmless lie might get you in the door at first, that same lie can destroy your career years later, as many of these executives have learned. Whether you're fudging a law degree, MBA or even a black belt, a lie damages your name and the reputation and integrity of your employer. Resume lies lead to resignations and embarrassment, period.

  1. Heather Bresch: Heather Bresch now serves as president of the pharmaceutical company Mylan, Inc. But earlier in her career, Bresch's fibbing not only got her in trouble, but scandalized her father's position as then governor of West Virginia, and resulted in the resignation of the West Virginia University provost and president. As it turned out, Bresch was more than half of the credits short of completing her MBA from the school, and asked to have work experience compensate for her lack of credits. Her appeal was denied, but Bresch — whose father also worked for WVU's largest donor, Mylan, Inc. — was given all As in place of her incompletes. Months later, a panel and a group of professors conducted an investigation into the matter, which led to the resignation of the university president and provost.
  2. Adam Wheeler: When The New Republic discovered that intern hopeful Adam Wheeler had lied on his resume, they didn't just deny him the position — they posted his fake resume online and allowed Wheeler to be charged with 20 counts of fraud and identity theft. Wheeler sent in a resume the magazine that included a perfect 4.0 GPA from Harvard, a summer at Oxford and a summer of independent graduate study at Georgetown, numerous awards and scholarships from Harvard, lecture invitations, and more. A brazen move for the rest of us, Wheeler was pretty justified in expecting he'd get the internship. As it turned out, he actually faked his way into Harvard, too. Plagiarized and faked documents made up his admissions packet, tricking the university into accepting him.
  3. David Edmondson: In 2006, it was revealed that RadioShack Chief Executive David Edmondson had lied about very serious records from his past, including his academic record and three DWI charges. Edmondson put on his resume that he had graduated with a B.S. in psychology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in San Diego, but the school does not offer psychology degrees. When the story broke, Edmondson said that he must have received a ThG diploma — honoring three years of study in the field of theology. He was ultimately terminated from his position as CEO.
  4. George O'Leary: Longtime college football coach George O'Leary actually started his career in high school, teaching at a Long Island school just after graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1968. But in 2001, when O'Leary had accepted the head coaching position for the University of Notre Dame, it was discovered that O'Leary fibbed on his resume, saying that he graduated with a master's degree from NYU-Stony Brook University, when no such school exists. O'Leary also stated on his resume that his undergraduate alma mater — the University of New Hampshire — awarded him three letters in football, but the school maintains he never played a game. O'Leary admitted to padding his resume early in his career and resigned from Notre Dame.
  5. Heather Steans: Illinois State Senator Heather Steans was accused by her 2010 election opponent with lying on her resume. Steans circulated a flyer during the election touting her four years of experience as Budget Director for the Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, when in fact, such a title never existed in that department. Chicago News Bench further investigated the claim, and found that Steans served as "Director of Budget", within the now-defunct Wisconsin Dept. of Industry, Labor and Human Relations (DILHR)." It's a mincing of words, but Steans only served in that position for 8 months, far less time than the four years she bragged about on her campaign flyers.
  6. Alexander Kemos: Alexander Kemos served as president chief of staff and senior vice president for administration after working for Texas A&M University for one year, but had to quickly resign after it was found that he lied on his resume. Because he had applied for a staff position — and not a faculty position — at the university, only his criminal record was validated, and claims about his academic and military experience — a PhD-holder from Tufts and a Navy SEAL — weren't checked.
  7. Meghan McCain: The daughter of Arizona Senator former Presidential candidate John McCain has worked as a blogger and columnist and has frequently appeared on national TV shows like The View and The Rachel Maddow Show to discuss politics and culture. But after someone lashed out at her in 2009, saying that she had never accomplished anything, McCain overcompensated with a stream of tweets that stretched the truth. She claimed that her blog, mccainblogette, was "officially the first blog in history to document a presidential campaign." But as Gawker pointed out, the "Official Kerry-Edwards Campaign Blog" beat her to the punch in 2004.
  8. Michael Brown: President George W. Bush appointed Michael Brown as head of FEMA in 2003, but a TIME investigation revealed that may have been a poor choice. In fact, it seems that The White House — purposefully or accidentally — padded Brown's resume in his bio on their website, writing that he was in a position responsible for "overseeing the emergency services division" when he worked the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, in the 1970s. But on the FEMA website, and as TIME discovered, Brown was a glorified administrative assistant, working as a college student while "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." In a more blatant lie, Brown listed that he was named "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University," although he was never a professor at the school.
  9. Robert Irvine: Former Dinner: Impossible host Robert Irvine was let go from the Food Network because he lied on his resume. The British chef got his start in cooking early, working for the Royal Navy after he enlisted as a teenager. He later worked in the White House's Naval Mess and served as Executive Chef aboard several cruise ships, but was never made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, never graduated from the University of Leeds, and did not assist on Princess Diana's wedding cake, as he told the Food Network and even announced in the opening credits for his TV show. Irvine was allowed to complete his fourth season with the show, but was replaced by Michael Symon.
  10. Kenneth Lonchar: In 2002, CFO and executive vice president of Veritas Software Corp. Kenneth Lonchar resigned after admitting to resume padding. He never graduated with an MBA from Stanford, as his resume stated.
  11. Ronald Zarrella: When it was revealed that Bausch & Lomb CEO Ronald Zarrella never went to business school — and that he'd lied about it — stocks fell. Zarrella's resume claimed that he graduated from NYU's Stern School of Business, although he left before earning a degree.
  12. Jeffrey Papows: In a1999 report, ZDNet juxtaposed Lotus president Jeffrey Papows' business bravado with his brash assertions on his resume. He lied about military experience — he worked as an air traffic controller, not a pilot, and left the Marines as a first lieutenant, not a captain — and his academic record — he got his PhD from a correspondence school, not Pepperdine. He's even lied about having a black belt in tae kwon do and overcoming a lonely life as an orphan — "his parents live a short distance from his home in Massachusetts," ZDNet revealed.
  13. Ram Kumar: Institutional Shareholder Services Director of Research Ram Kumar had to weather the fall-out after it was revealed that he never earned a law degree from the University of Southern California. While his skills in the real world were highly admired and influential, Kumar had to leave ISS after damaging the company's reputation.