Executives & Inflated Academic Credentials

From the WSJ: Inflated Credentials Surface in Executive Suite

Inflated academic credentials in the nation’s executive suites may be more common than generally thought.

A survey of 358 senior executives and directors at 53 publicly traded companies has turned up at least seven instances of claims that individuals had academic degrees they don’t have. In some cases, the slip-ups don’t appear to have been intentional, and may have been caused by misunderstandings.

Among the executives whose credentials don’t check out: Dennis Workman, chief technical officer at Trimble Navigation Ltd., a big maker of global-positioning-system devices; and James DeHoniesto, until Wednesday the chief information officer at Cabot Microelectronics Corp., a supplier of chemicals and pads used to polish microchips.

The details are not exactly eye-popping. A few execs said they completed degrees they only started, one said he got a Bachelor’s degree when all he really got is an Associate’s degree. But still. Their information was inaccurate, and that’s bad. It’s dishonest (though the WSJ acknowledges that some cases might best be chalked up to misunderstandings) and it sets a lousy example for people lower down the corporate ladder.
Perhaps this story speaks some combination of the following things:

  1. People’s general willingness to exaggerate on their CV’s. (Note that it’s not a scientific survey, and only 1.9% of execs had exaggerated.)
  2. The willingness of people at the executive level to exaggerate on their CV’s.
  3. The willingness to exaggerate on education in particular. Is that a sign that education matters (“It matters enough to lie about!”) or a sign that it’s held in low esteem (“Oh, it’s just a college degree!”)


Thanks to Laura for the tip!

1 comment so far

  1. hartwomen on

    What I think I might ask students is the age old question – If you have a fabulous performer (CEO or otherwise) and you learn about one of these little “misunderstandings,” what would YOU do? See the WSJ article to see just what is meant by misunderstanding because I would not necessary label any of these with that term. “I made a mistake. Gee, I really thought I graduated. I forgot?” “Oh, really? I had another 10 credit hours? oops.”


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