In today’s transparent world (aka The end of Privacy), I am always amazed when I hear about things people lie about and think they can get away with. I am amazed at how both sides – the person delivering the lie, and the person receiving it- go about the exchange and their reaction when caught lying, or realize they are being lied to. Here are some of the stories with the timing and facts slightly altered to protect the guilty and the innocent, which technically also makes me a liar, but that’s another story.
Lying on a resume – As part of a consulting engagement I was helping a client expand and round out their executive team and one of our talent acquisition strategies was to ask people in the business for recommendations. We put out some feelers and a friend of the company referred a candidate that appeared to be a perfect fit for a very senior position. After I conducted an introductory phone interview, I asked him to submit a resume and start the formal recruiting process through HR. Because this was a critical senior position, I expanded the normal HR process and personally called some of the senior executives he listed as his references. Everyone I, and HR, spoke to thought very highly of him, so I thought we had a perfect match. He had the references and the knowledge, and a Harrison Assessment confirmed our initial impressions about the fit with the culture and the position, so we made a contingent job offer, pending a formal background check. That’s when things got interesting. On his resume, this candidate indicated he had a degree from a well-known, but non US-based, university. So, our US background screening vendor contacted International Screening Solutions, which happens to be a company I know very well, to complete the international portions of his background check. ISS completed the criminal background checks in the two countries he lived at, but reported they could not confirm his educational credentials. Because occasionally the Americanization of foreign names leads to confusion when researching foreign records, I personally called him to make sure ISS had the right information. He appeared not to be surprised, and he proceeded to explain that he had graduated from a satellite campus and that has caused problems verifying his degree in the past also, but was willing to fax me a copy of his degree certificate. I thanked him for the explanation and asked him to do that, so we could proceed with the job offer. A week later, with HR yet to receive the fax, I called him again. He apologized for not faxing the information – because the actual degree was in a box at his parents’ house and they could not find it – but offered to set up a three-way conference call with the University so they could verify it. That’s when all kinds of alarm bells went off in my head. I politely declined that offer and asked him to simply provide HR with his student ID number or any other information ISS could use to formally verify his credentials. After another week without the information, I called him again; at which point, he proceeded to explain that he had completed half of the degree program and was planning to finish the rest at a later time, but got busy working and never completed it. I was just blown away. I can understand experience inflation on a resume, but how could anyone think they can flat out lie about something so binary (degreed or not) and easily verifiable (anywhere in the world) and get away with it. Needless to say, this candidate was immediately disqualified. The sad part is, had he put a note on his resume that he had only partially completed his degree, he was so qualified through experience that his lack of educational credential would not have mattered and he would have had the job.
Lying on a status report – Because of my expertise at the intersection of Operations, Technology, and Sales operations, I frequently work with clients on streamlining their sales management process. One particular sales executive of a client company was in charge of growing the business they did with a large channel partner. As part of my Sales Operations consulting, I worked with the company to establish a sales process that included a bi-weekly “sales funnel review” and I became a frequent attendee of the sales calls with access to all the Salesforce.com data. For six weeks this particular sales executive provided updates in SalesForce.com, indicating he was working daily with this channel partner company, conducting sales training for their direct sales team, responding to RFP’s of their clients, and having conversations with the client VP. It all sounded and read great, but there was no visible process with this channel partner increasing their sales volume, and we started getting uncomfortable with the sales executive’s story. So one of the executives decided to call the client VP to “check in on our service levels and get some customer service feedback.” In the process she asked the client VP if the sales executive was responding to them to their satisfaction. At which point the client responded with “I have not talked to your sales guy in a couple of months.” Needless to say, the sales executive was dismissed un-ceremoniously within hours of that conversation and the account was transferred to another member of the team. How would anyone think they can completely falsify conversations, provide written reports on imaginary progress, and not think they will eventually be found out, is beyond me.
Ripping a client off – There is a certain Air Conditioning service company in Tampa (where AC is a requirement not a luxury) that sent out an advertisement for “AC Cleaning service and inspection for $59 per unit.” Being on the road as frequently as I am, I would rather pay for preventive maintenance than have my family get stuck with a major problem while I am on the road, so I decided to try them out. My units are relatively new, but I fully expected that they would find “something to fix” on my AC units because the $59 barely covers the labor cost, but I was OK with that and prepared to repair whatever needed fixing. So my wife made the appointment which happened to be on a day I was working from home. The tech was a nice polite young man, who thoroughly cleaned the AC units, and then proceeded to tell my wife there were two worn-out parts, one on each unit, that needed to be replaced and he could do it all for $600 dollars. Normally my wife would just have something like that done without checking with me, but that day, since I was in my office anyway, she decided to ask my opinion. So I walked outside and asked the technician to give me a little more detail about the parts needing replacement. Without realizing I am an Electrical Engineer, I love all things mechanical, and know a thing or two about motors and engines, he put on a great show pointing them out and telling me the starting capacitors needed to be replaced on both units and because of the discount he was authorized to extend, we would “only” pay $265 for each capacitor and $35 for installation. At which point I simply and politely asked him to pack his bags, collect his payment for cleaning the units, immediately leave my property, and never again solicit business in my neighborhood because I would make sure none of my neighbors would ever use them. Why? Because a starting motor capacitor for AC units like the ones I have costs $9 and takes 5 minutes to replace! Charging $300 to do that was simply a way to rip customers off and take advantage of people who trust a technician’s word because they don’t know any better. I am sure, if I was not home, my wife who she is a good business woman and a great mother, but can’t tell you what a capacitor is if her life depended on it, would have approved the “repair” and not think anything of it.