Sunday, April 29, 2007

Embellishing Your Resume

On Friday, April 27th the MIT Admissions Dean, Marilee Jones, was forced to resign due to lying on her resume. She didn't just bend the truth, or change dates. While she did attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1974 as a part-time student, she did not receive a bachelor's or master's degree as she claimed. She also never received the degree from Albany Medical College that was on her resume.

Back in 1979 she first embellished her resume when she was hired in MIT's admissions office. From her fudged resume, she went on to be a leader in her profession, and sat on many higher-education boards. Ms. Jones was a well respected advocate for easing the college admission process. Being the Dean of Admissions, Ms. Jones was in charge of standardizing the college's application process and maintaining the integrity of the admissions system.

Did lying pay off for Ms. Jones. Since 1979 she has worked at MIT and moved up through the ranks, becoming the dean of the department. She also earned national recognition for her work to ease the college application system. She even co-authored a book for parents of college applicants. Most of this would not have been possible for her if she hadn't of created her credentials.

But where is she today? She has been publicly humiliated and outed for lying on her resume. Her reputation is tarnished, affecting her future career opportunities. Could she have gotten into a similar position through her intelligence and hard-work? Probably not one in academia at least. Hard work and intelligence go far in the school of hard knocks--but it takes longer to get to the top rung.

I have found out that trusted employees were embellishing their resumes. One government expert said he had an MBA from Harvard, and a Master's in Computer Science from Florida Tech. When I had to do an educational background check for a government contract that he was on, all of his school information came back blank. When I asked him what was up, he claimed he was put in the US Government's Witness Protection Plan for Top Secret military knowledge he had. His whole previous life had been "erased". While this may have been true, I could not vouch for his education level or his expertise. I asked a private investigator who I had worked with on background checks how plausible his answer was. The PI flatly dismissed this "expert's" story.

Once you lie on a resume, it's hard to rectify it later on. I have had Ph.D's hide their education level to avoid being seen as over-qualified. I can understand their idea, but always counsel them that it's a big decision. Any college degree is a milestone in a person's life. Hard work went into obtaining that degree. Will it be easy to swallow your pride and continually downplay your education. What if you are hoping for a promotion, and your competitor has a higher degree? Will you be able to hold your tongue? Keep that in mind.

For more advice on what to do if you've lied on a resume, check out the Wall Street Journal article that accompanied their MIT Admissions Dean story on Friday.


Moises Lopez said...

Great blog! Creatively done.

Amy said...

Quick Update: Just read the op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about Ms. Marilee Jones from MIT. Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote Bait and Switch (blog on April 25, 2007)had this to say in the Nation "but her very success has to be threatening to an institution of higher learning: What good are education credentials anyway."
Ms. Jones story is out there everywhere, and gives some interesting insight into resumes and hiring processes.
Find the full story at