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Ethical Dilemma Project – Lying on the Resume

Ethical Dilemma Project - Lying on the Resume

Lying on resume refers to the action of adding or enhancing information about oneself to win out a job competition. People exaggerate or outright lie about their experience, educational qualifications, or skills to increase their chances of getting the available job opportunities in a competitive environment (Crosby, 2009). Doing so may be consequential if the employer finds out the truth. Employees who are found guilty of the same may be liable for organizational and legal punishments. The case of Scott Thompson exemplifies the seriousness of the matter. Adding falsified information on his resume negatively impacted his profession, other employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders. Scott Thompson’s case presents overwhelming evidence that lying on resume is wrong due to its ethical and legal implications.

The issue of lying on resume has been happening since time immemorial. It raises controversy on whether it is right or wrong to do so from moral and legal perspectives. The increasing human population and number of qualified persons is increasing the competition for the available jobs. The need to get meaningful employment leads to the thought of faking or stretching personal information to improve its appeal to the vetting parties. A person may lie about themselves in three different forms. One of them is an error of commission. In this form, an applicant makes a deliberate error of changing or increasing the information indicated on the resume. For example, changing employment dates or adding false academic information (Cole et al.,2003). Another form of lying is the error of omission. In this form, the interviewee deliberately or unconsciously leaves out some details that would have played a significant role in determining the applicant’s suitability for the job. This error leads the vetting party to the wrong conclusion about the person, which makes it significant.  The third form is the error of embellishment. It entails the exaggeration of qualifications or commendable deeds. Doing so also leads the employer the wrong way since it implies that the applicant can handle things that are impossible to him/her in the real sense. Each of the three forms of an error on a resume does not augur well with the suspect and other stakeholders at times upon discovery. The case of Scott Thompson exemplifies the error of commission that backfired on several parties.

The Case

Scott Thompson, a former CEO at Yahoo, led himself and others into an ethical issue that will forever remain a lesson in ethics. The case started from his deliberate action of lying on his resume. One of the shareholders of Yahoo Inc. got interested in him, which led to a closer check on his authenticity. The shareholder discovered that Thompson had falsified the resume submitted to both the Securities and Exchange Commission and Yahoo Board of Directors (Dixon, 2014). Worse still, Thompson had done nothing to improve the situation after clinching the top seat. An investigation into his authenticity led to the discovery that Thompson had falsified his resume by claiming that he had acquired a computer science degree. The information was false since he had only graduated with a degree in accounting. The gravity of the matter lay in the fact that he had not made any efforts to explain the issue to the shareholders and members of the public. It meant that he remained dishonest and unwilling to admit his guilt. It also appeared strange that Thompson had surpassed discovery in the past. He had made a successful career in other companies using the same falsified information. It was shocking to learn how indifferent he was to the fact that he had been a fraud almost all his career life.

Thompson’s case affected several stakeholders.  Amongst the most affected lot was the group of employees who worked under him. The employees felt ashamed that their leader was a dishonest man. He had led them to the belief that he was a man of integrity and one who produced admirable results. On the contrary, he was a man who was willing to do all that he deemed necessary to get the top job. The commission’s error aroused discontent and pressure from the employees who worked under him since they felt uneasy working under a dishonest CEO (Dixon, 2014). It was defined that he was not the man he pretended to be. He did not fall in line with the moral code of Yahoo employees. It created an internal conflict since the employees felt betrayed and ashamed to work for a company that employed fraudulent individuals. The fact that the issue tainted their images and their company’s brand was a matter that they felt worthy of condemnation. The issue also affected shareholders of the company. It led to the loss of trust in the Board of Directors that was mandated to select the best person to lead the company in a CEO position. They felt that the board had denied the company a chance to get a better-framed person for the position. The group of persons who had applied for the position also felt betrayed since they were denied the opportunity to prove their worth to the company.

Ethical Dilemma

Thompson’s case depicted him as a fraud who made a good CEO and the company as a utilitarian organization. According to Dixon (2014), the sole purpose of a business is to make profits.  It means that it is the goal of a company to maximize its gains by all means, including the activities that are not necessarily moral. Thompson’s case depicts a company that was willing to surpass the due diligence for the sake of profits. The Board of Directors did not care enough to conduct a background check on the person who was to become the head of the company. It allowed itself to be led to the wrong conclusion by the appeal of a man who seemed well-poised to deliver the desired profits to the for-profit organization.

The ethical dilemma arose in the fact that Thompson lied in his resume to get the much-coveted job. He denied other qualified candidates a chance to compete fairly, owing to his individualistic behavior (Dixon, 2014). In another aspect, the Board of Directors prioritized profits above authenticity. They were individualistic in that they sought the most decorated candidate who would best lead the company to profits instead of considering a holistic approach that would offer the company an honest leader. The aspect of individualism is evident in the fact that the company asked for Thompson’s resignation based on his ill-health instead of his fraudulent presentation. However, the main focus is on Thompson since he is the source of all the issues that befell all the stakeholders. He displayed a pattern of behavior that duped the Board of Directors and made them part of the party that tainted the company’s image.

Application of Ethical Theory

Three ethical principles may be applied in determining the presence or absence of ethics in Thompson’s case. The first principle is utilitarian ethics. The utilitarian school of thought suggests that actions are morally acceptable if the results produce the maximum possible benefits or reduce the harm caused by an action (Ferrell & Ferrell, 2021). In Thompson’s case, utilitarian ethics are admissible in that he achieved the maximum benefit of clinching top positions at the company. He made a good career with his falsified documents until he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. However, ethics do not necessarily bring the maximum benefit to other people. His actions did not consider the potential depiction of a negative image after exposure to the issue. He did not consider that his action would cost the company a reputation built for many years. Dwarfing the image of the company led to the dismal performance of its stock prices. It also aroused shareholders’ fury, who lost in both the amount of money they earned from the company’s activities and the trust they had in the Board of Directors. Thompson’s actions also caused a loss of happiness amongst the employees. The fact that his utilitarian action led to more harm than benefit means that his utilitarian ethics are not worth consideration in the case.

Deontological and virtue ethics may also be considered in analyzing the case.  Deontological ethics suggest that human beings should behave in ways that show respect and dignify other people (Ferrell & Ferrell, 2021). Thompson’s actions did not show the slightest concern for other people. Amongst the worst form of disrespect is failing to consider that others may have been better qualified for the position. He denied other more qualified persons the chance to showcase their talent and skill in leading the company. Fraudulently putting them beneath him was a way of demeaning them. He also treated the Board of Directors as a means to an end, thereby failing to dignify them as human beings. In virtue ethics, he was equally wrong (Hanna, 2021). Virtue ethics posit that people should be honest, courageous, and have a good level of self-control.  Thompson displayed inadequacy in and disregard for the virtues by being unfair to all other stakeholders but himself. It is especially evident in the fact that he resigned due to ill-health as opposed to his willingness to resign as a result of the shameful act he had done when entering the job.

Application of the Law and the Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics and Business Conduct is applicable in analyzing the case. It posits that employees should pose to themselves several questions that should guide their behavior (Code of Ethics and Business Conduct (2021). Amongst the main ones is the question of how a person’s actions would make him/her feel in case they made headlines. Based on this question, Thompson’s action of falsifying information made negative headlines in an inappropriate and unethical way. They diminished the level at which the company was held by members of the public. They made persons in the company feel bad but his actions.  It would have been better if he had corrected his actions to be better in the public eye. However, the Code of Ethics and Business Conduct does not specify the actions of the suspect as illegal. Despite this, Thompson would not be protected by the law in case of recourse. The falsified information disqualifies him from being part of the team that is entitled to any benefits advanced by the employer.

Ethical Dilemma Project - Lying on the Resume


The facts of the case lead to the decision that lying on a resume is inappropriate and despicable behavior. From the thought of lying on a resume, the CEO of Yahoo, Scott Thompson, failed himself, the employees he led, the company, and other stakeholders. Embarking on the inappropriate action cost people their happiness and welfare in several unexpected ways. The situation is especially wrong because of the moral weight it bore. In one way, it led to the financial losses of people who had worked hard to put the company at the top position that it was before the much-publicized discovery. It also ashamed several other people who did not deserve shame as punishment.  It reduced their reputation to a level that they would not have expected while working for such a reputable company. Lying on resume was also wrong in that it reduced the members of the Board of Directors to tools for use in building a career. Thompson denied the people who served in the board the dignity and respect they deserved, both as human beings and reputable stakeholders in the company (Hanna, 2021). From the legal aspect, lying on a resume is wrong in that it denies the culpable persons the benefits that should be conferred to employees. In Thompson’s case, it denied him the chance to enjoy the benefits like other employees.


Code of Ethics and Business Conduct. (2021), 1(1). Retrieved 31 March 2021, from

Cole, M. S., Feild, H. S., & Giles, W. F. (2003). What can we uncover about applicants based on their resumes? A field study. Applied HRM Research, 8(2), 51-62.

Crosby, O. (2009). Resumes, Applications, and Cover Letters. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 53(2), 18-29.

Dixon, S. (2014, April 5). Business Ethics Case Analyses: Scott Thompson vs. Yahoo, Inc.: Fraudulent Resume (2012). Business Ethics Case Analyses.

Ferrell, O., & Ferrell, L. (2021). Applying the Hunt Vitell ethics model to artificial intelligence ethics. Journal of Global Scholars of Marketing Science, 31(2), 178-188.

Hanna, R. (2021). A theory of human dignity. Unpublished MS. Available online at

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By Sandra Arlington

Sandra Arlington is a contributing writer to the Motley Fool. Having written for various online magazines, such as Ehow and LiveStrong, she decided to embark on a travel blog for the past 10 years. She is also a regular contributor to My Essay Writer.

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