Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 21, 2012 9:08 AM

The Lying Game

Distrust in a world of trust agents is problematic.

On May 18th, The New York Times ran a fascinating news story titled, In the Undoing of a C.E.O., a Puzzle. The article is all about former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson and the recent unraveling of his short tenure as head of the beleaguered digital media company. At one point in the debacle (which started because Thompson falsified his resume by claiming to have had a computer science degree), this happened: "The board's initial hopes that it was all an easily explained mistake were quickly dashed. Instead of offering Mr. Bostock an explanation, Mr. Thompson fumed at Mr. Loeb and his tactics. Mr. Bostock stressed that the only way to deal with the situation was to 'immediately tell the absolute and total truth, whatever it is' and make it public, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. Unspoken but implicit was the understanding that if he'd ever misstated his credentials, Mr. Thompson should publicly admit it, apologize and offer to resign. In that case, the board would have assessed the situation, but might well have stood behind him. Mr. Thompson seemed to get the message, but said nothing more to clear up the matter."

The absolute and total truth.

I was once speaking to a headhunter who told me that they estimated that lying (or severe embellishments) happens in about seventy percent of resumes. Imagine that. Seven out of ten resumes that you look at include either outright lies or severe embellishments ("most likely both," laughed the headhunter). I've seen it happen on countless occasions here at Twist Image too. It's especially prevalent when people leave the organization. It always makes me laugh that the reasons someone left are usually highlighted, exaggerated or claimed as their own personal accomplishments on their LinkedIn profile. Hard to believe isn't it? Once they leave, all of the work that they accomplished with a full team is claimed as a personal victory and spun (regardless or real world results).

The need to look good.

What would you rather buy: something that looks pristine but once you purchase it, it fails to deliver or something that looks the way that it does (no lipstick on the pig) but it does what it says it does? Pushing that further... imagine buying something that looks the way that it does, but it completely over-delivers on what it says it can do. What would be the ultimate customer experience? I'm guessing you're with me in thinking that the last two examples are, obviously, the recommended marketing strategy. If we want to work for companies that can deliver a solid product that surprises and delights consumers, why do we all lie so much and oversell ourselves on resumes and on LinkedIn profiles so desperately?

No lying.

I tell the truth because it's the easiest thing to remember. I'm not perfect (white lies get us by, sometimes), but when it comes to the big stuff, I often ask myself this one simple question: "at what cost?" Is life merely about how much money can be extracted from another person or how others perceive me? My personal philosophy is this: I would rather have less money but be a person of ethics and morals. I would rather have people find me not all that interesting instead of having to lie just to become the circle of attention.

Laugh all that you want.

I don't have a university degree. I simply wasn't good at school or motivated to attend. That being said, I never let my lack of degrees get in the way of my education. I read a book a week, consume as much information as possible (I'm an infovore), attend conferences and events and spend the bulk of my time learning, reading, writing, growing and critical thinking. If a company doesn't hire me because I don't have a university degree, it's their loss. If the only way that I can get a company to look at my resume is to lie, then what does that say about the integrity of the company, myself and the entire human resources process?

It's simple...

Don't lie. Don't over-embellish. If you feel like you're drowning, ask for help before spiraling down into a world of lies. I promise you, it's not worth it. Don't believe me? Ask Scott Thompson. 

By Mitch Joel