DALLAS, March 14 (UPI) -- There is an epidemic of padded resumes. Even the chairman of job-search site Monster.com, Jeff Taylor, wanted to "be all that you can claim to be." The company's Web site bio said Taylor had an "executive M.B.A./OPM from Harvard." He had only attended Harvard's Owner/President Management program, a program that meets three weeks a year for several years. As the boss, he wasn't fired, but he refused to comment, instead sending a company spokesman to claim, "There was no intent to mislead." Chicken.
If you have inflated -- let's face it, falsified -- your resume, you will be found out. And you won't be let off as easily as Taylor. Want proof?
-- George O'Leary, Notre Dame's football coach, said he had a master's degree in education from New York University. He didn't. He's no longer at Notre Dame.
-- Ram Kumar, research director of Institutional Shareholder Services, claimed a law degree from UCLA. He didn't have it. He's gone.
-- Kenneth Lonchar was CFO of Veritas Software but not an M.B.A. from Stanford. He "resigned."
-- Bryan Mitchell, chairman and CEO of MCG Capital, claimed a bachelor's degree in economics from Syracuse. He didn't have it, and the discovery cost him the chairman's title and two years of bonus.
-- Ron Zarrella, CEO of Bausch & Lomb, invented an M.B.A. from NYU, and forfeited a million dollar bonus.
Some people pad their resume when job searching. Don't do it. More and more employers are running basic checks today. If you are hired, most employment terms today provide for automatic dismissal if you are found to have misrepresented yourself.
What if you're already ensconced in a job, like those listed above? My advice is to take control and fess up. Of course, this doesn't mean stumbling emotionally into the boss's office. "Jerry, I've got to get this off my chest." Develop your strategy as you would if you were seeking a promotion -- which, in effect, you are. Marshall your accomplishments, particularly comments from higher up.
Depending on where you are in the corporation, you may want to consult your own lawyer. If you work for Monster.com, they'll have a hard time firing you given that Taylor was allowed to correct his bio. But if you work for a company that's fired someone for resume fraud, you face a tougher challenge.
Do some research on how the company has handled other tough issues like charges of sexual discrimination or harassment or drug use. It's true that many of these categories are hemmed in by legal regulation. However, you're looking for the opportunity for redemption.
While your company certainly has tough sounding policies on these issues, in today's large companies, the chances are good that someone got a second chance. You want to be able to argue that what you did is far less serious, and you've come forward voluntarily.
Now, come forward: You will probably want to consult the human resources department first unless you have a relationship with the legal department that frequently has more clout. In either case, you want an internal champion. You need to admit what you've done, apologize, and volunteer to lead any kind of internal initiative to help others. Don't minimize your actions. Don't say, "Everyone does it," and don't be defensive.
This last admonition takes you into preparation and rehearsal. One of the most frequent problems in discussing difficult topics is that the individual involved is embarrassed. He or she appears defensive and belligerent -- not the proper posture for seeking what we all want and need at some point, which is a chance to try again. I'm not saying this is easy, but I am saying rehearsal improves your chances.
To use the above strategy -- you've got to believe you did something wrong and truly want forgiveness and to make amends. If you only want to mouth the words and get something unpleasant behind you with a minimum penalty, forget the above advice. Your attitude will come through and this strategy won't work.
Finally, if you know that a colleague has manufactured or puffed credentials, you have a role to play, too. Urge your co-worker to try to clean up his record voluntarily. Be prepared for that afore-mentioned show of belligerence and defensiveness, but clip this column and stuff it in your colleague's pocket. You may save his job.
-- Merrie Spaeth, Director of Media Relations for President Reagan, is President of a Dallas-based consulting firm and is a regular commentator on public radio and television.