You may have heard that Yahoo’s CEO was forced to resign this past weekend when his college credentials were found to be misrepresented. A disgruntled shareholder blew the whistle on Scott Thompson, who’d held the CEO post for just five months.
I’m not here to defend Thompson. Whatever his other qualities, if he lied on his resume he lacks the integrity needed to lead a major corporation. My question is—
Why does a major corporation give a click about a CEO’s college credentials in the first place?
Thompson is 54. He graduated from college more than 30 years ago. Weren’t his achievements in those three decades more relevant than what he may or may not have done in college?
Let’s see … most recently he was President of PayPal, and Chief Technology Officer before that. He’s also been Chief Information Officer of Barclays Global Investors. If I were evaluating someone with that kind of track record, I don’t think I’d need to dig much deeper. Certainly not 30 years deeper.
(But he fabricated a computer science degree from 1979! You mean he isn’t really an expert on the state-of-the-art Commodore PET personal computer?)
Obviously, there are some educational achievements—advanced degrees, doctorates, areas of specialization—that stay meaningful throughout a person’s career. But for most of us with a couple of jobs on our resume, our college history is more about who we root for on Saturday than who we work for on Monday.
Yet, a longtime friend of mine still loses out on job interviews because he doesn’t have a college degree. Never mind his exemplary military record. Never mind his years of successful inside sales for an industrial manufacturer. No degree? Never mind.
Employers who fixate on college degrees cost themselves valuable employees. All they should be asking is, how can this person help me?
So Scott Thompson faked his college record and got fired. I don’t feel sorry for him. But I do feel sorry for Yahoo.