Thursday, September 18, 2014

Walmart’s right: you really can’t have your PR guy caught lying on his résumé

How, in this day and age, can there be anyone in any position of seniority at all in an American corporation who somehow thinks that he or she can get away with a résumé fudge?

A little white résumé lie is a double-wham-whammy in terms of risk.

First off, organizations increasingly vet what you’re saying about yourself.

Second, once you’re outed, you’re outed. It’s no longer just some mid-level functionary in Human Resources who knows, and your boss, into whose ear the Human Resources functionary has whispered that one or two of the sweet somethings on your c.v. are actually sweet nothings. Nope, every one with access to the Internet will know, and will, pssst, pass it on, through blogs and tweets.

And once those baying hounds start baying…

Honestly, you’d think that anyone who’s got a smidgeon of a smudge on their résumé would come clean and expunge that smidgeonly smudge before it becomes public, when all of a sudden it’s liar, liar,  résumé on fire.

It should be easy enough, no?

Say, I just noticed that there’s an error on my résumé. Hard to believe but, heh, heh, when I had a résumé service create it for me, they put down that I had a degree from Harvard College, when what I’d actually told them was that I’d taken an Intro to Accounting course at Harvard Extension. Blame it on my terrible handwriting, and piss-poor proofreading abilities. Heh, heh.

Now I know that you didn’t hire me because you thought I had a Harvard degree. So I’d just like make sure you knew that my degree was actually from Excelsior Correspondence Junior College.

Okay, okay.

No one would buy it.

But why not correct your résumé, apply for another job, get out of Dodge, and start your new gig with a clean slate and an honest story line?

Maybe all the folks with the pack o’ lies résumés all came of age before anyone really checked things out, and they’ve just let things sit there (and the lies propagate). And they’re just getting caught now.

There sure have been plenty of lost-the-job, publicly humiliated stories out there that someone would give pause before putting something untrue on paper.

I mean, a bit of inflation and puff-up here and there is fine. But a fake degree (or job or military service/honor) is definitely a no-no.

As David Tovar of  Walmart has learned the hard way.

Tovar, until recently, had been:

…the most public of Wal-Mart Stores’ vast public-relations team. For the past year or so, in addition to responding vigorously to any criticism of the retailer, he’s been sending mass e-mails to journalists with helpful tips about how to report on worker protests, among other more cheery musings. Sample e-mail subject lines include: “Exciting changes,” “American Pride,” “Taco Plate,” and “Hmmm…” (Source: Business Week)

When Tovar announced that he was leaving, inquiring minds in the press wanted to know just why.

What happened was that, in the course of vetting Tovar for promotion to SVP, Walmart found out that he had never quite finished up his degree at the University of Delaware.

By résumé tall tales, his was admittedly a short one.

Tovar was just a couple of credits short and had actually walked at his graduation ceremony. On to this real life, he never bothered to go back and fill in the credit blank.

Still, you really can’t have someone in a high level PR position who’s a proven liar, given that for the most part they’re presumptive liars to begin with.

Especially for a company like Walmart which is involved in such contentious issues, has a checkered reputation in plenty of quarters, and is not especially regarded as a bastion of corporate probity.

Walmart, by the way, didn’t fire Tovar over this issue. They just told him that he wouldn’t be getting that promotion. So he resigned. Nonetheless:

It’s also potentially embarrassing for Walmart that Tovar got caught in a lie. More than anyone else at the company, he has defended Walmart’s wages and working conditions with internal data and forceful assertions. He’s the one who responded to an op-ed in the New York Times about Walmart’s low wages with his own sarcastic fact check, which in turn was submitted to several fact checks by other news organizations and found wanting.

Hey, anyone who could successfully flack for Walmart is not going to be out of work for very long.

Still, if you’re in a position where people are going to assume that, at least some of the time, you’re speaking with forked tongue and fingers crossed, best not to hand anyone the proof that you’re a liar. Even if it’s just a little white lie sort of liar.

No comments: