You are currently viewing Everybody Lies on Their Resume, Right?

Everybody Lies on Their Resume, Right?

Employment resumes and the ‘Santos factor’

By Bruce Frassinelli

Newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos from Nassau County says that everyone lies on their employment resumes.

Although he has the statistics to back up such a claim, he has taken resume lying to the extreme. Almost daily, there is a new disclosure that Santos did not do or achieve the things he claims when he sought votes from his constituents in 2022.

Beyond that, he has denied some embarrassing events in his background even with pictorial proof to the contrary, including his denial of dressing in drag for a Brazilian festival when he lived there years ago. This flies in the face of his anti-gay stance put forward in the election and beyond. He then tried to pass off the episode as the actions of an over-exuberant youngster.

The truth is that lying on a resume happens a lot more than we might have thought. A survey several years ago found that about 80% of Americans have lied on their resumes, but just 21% were fired or disciplined after their falsehoods were discovered.

Little white lies on a resume might not seem consequential when a person is applying for a low-ranking position, but if a person blossoms into a top company executive, these so-called little white lies could come back to haunt them and, possibly, lead to dismissal.

As a publisher and editor of daily newspapers for 17 years of my 38-year career in journalism, I did my fair share of hiring (and some firing), and on a couple of those occasions the firings occurred because of falsified statements on resume that came to light after a reporter was on the job.

Knowing that hiring the right person is one of the primary duties to keeping an organization humming along, I was brutal in fact-checking resumes, but sometimes previous employers given as references would confirm only that the employee worked there and the years employed. This told me next to nothing, so I had to use other devices to confirm important information. (I assure you they were all legal.)

Some employees would from time to time embellish their resumes as opposed to flat-out lying. For example, the prospective employee might say he “attended” a certain university. This always was a red flag that he didn’t graduate, so I would want to know why.

Why does an employee want to leave his present job? I might get a vague answer that there were “differences of opinion” between him and his boss? Here again, I tried to zero in on these so-called “differences.” In several of these instances, I ultimately found that the employee was told to resign or would be fired for policy violations and other internal or external issues.

Being a member of business groups in Oswego and other communities where I worked as an executive, I was amazed at the short shrift that some employers gave to verifying resumes or asking the tough questions to plug gaps on work history. They largely relied on their “gut” to make decisions. Some admitted that on occasion they were seriously burned by this approach.

Getting back to Santos, he has refused to resign (as of  mid February) and pledged to serve out his two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives. So who’s to blame that Santos’ blatant falsehoods on his resume and his statements were not discovered between the time that he announced his candidacy and his election last Nov. 8? Well, there is plenty of blame to go around.

I find it ironic that the leadership of the Nassau County Republican Party is now calling for Santos’ resignation when it should have been in the forefront of verifying candidates’ resumes and raising red flags about their veracity. The party’s chairman, James G. Cairo, has called for Santos’ resignation because his campaign was based on “deceit, lies and fabrication.” Santos flatly refuses to walk away.

It’s unrealistic to expect rank-and-file voters to seriously question a candidate’s resume. They expect party leaders to do the heavy lifting on verification before endorsing a candidate. They expect the news media to verify news releases through their own investigations. With news organizations stretched to the brink because of layoffs, staff reductions and economic constraints, this verification process has gone out the window in many small community papers. There is also the fear that tampering with a submitted political news release will bring calls of bias and favoritism resulting in the loss of more subscribers.

Now that Santos has been elected and seated, we might have expected the House party leadership to step in and say that such a discredited candidate is an embarrassment to his community, party, office and nation and needs to be at least censured, even removed.

But, no, this did not happen. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that since Santos was voted into office by his constituents, he deserves to remain in Congress despite the lies and fabrications he has committed. Santos was even appointed to serve on the House Small Business and the House Science, Space and Technology committees. Less than two weeks later, however, Santos stepped down from both committees, saying he did not want to be a “distraction.”

In a recent Newsday–Siena College poll of registered voters in Santos’ 3rd District, 78% said he should resign. This includes 89% of Democrats, 72% of independents and 71% of Republicans. Just 13% said he should remain in Congress.

Santos has been pilloried for making up parts of his resume that included his work record, family history and education. Santos admitted that he made up jobs he never had at two of Wall Street’s biggest financial firms — Goldman Sachs and Citigroup — college degrees he never earned and property he never owned.

That was just the start. There are so many other inconsistencies between what he has said publicly about his background or included in his official resume that turns out not to be true that they are too numerous to mention here.

Santos’ actions are so embarrassing that they were unmercifully satirized multiple times during this season’s opener of Saturday Night Live on Jan. 21. The whole world is laughing at him and not in a good way.

In addition, the U.S. Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against Santos as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe. This means that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.

After being asked about all of Santos’ deceptions, the audacious McCarthy in a way defended Santos by saying that many others in Congress have done it, too.

There have been many high-profile resignations in the business world over this issue over the years. Fortune magazine compiled this list:

• In May 2002, Sandra Baldwin, the first woman to be appointed the president and chairwoman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting she lied about getting a doctorate.

• Radio Shack Chief Executive Officer David Edmondson resigned in 2006 after it was discovered that he lied about his academic credentials.

• In 2012, Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson resigned after failing to correct erroneous educational references.

• In 2014, Walmart’s chief spokesman David Tovar resigned after the retailer found a lie in his official biography.

In another controversial resignation, five days after he was hired as Notre Dame’s football coach in 2001, George O’Leary was forced to resign because he lied about a master’s degree in education from New York University that he never received.

Not everyone caught in a big lie loses his or her job. In late 2008, a board investigation revealed that James Peterson, CEO of Microsemi Corp., had not received his bachelor’s or master’s degrees from Brigham Young University as he claimed, but Microsemi felt that Peterson was too valuable of an asset to lose and kept him on where he still serves in this capacity today.

In repeating that many enhance their resumes, Santos insists that he is not a “fraud,” but the truth is that he is. Many, including me, find it astounding that Santos made it all the way through the political process to become a member of Congress without the Republican leadership and the Democratic opposition sniffing out the many lies on his resume and in his statements.

BRUCE FRASSINELLI is the former publisher of The Palladium-Times. He served as a governor of the Rotary Club District 7150 (Central NY) from July 2001 to June 2002.