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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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Piling On
(January 22, 2003) - 
The market is abuzz with the story of Jeff Taylor's resume. Frankly, it looks like much ado about nothing from our perspective. Knowing Jeff and his history (and unavoidably reviewing his credentials periodically), we always found his characterization of his time at Harvard to be credible. Basically, the company had him attend a supercharged Harvard series over the course of a couple of years. Suggesting that his CV was exaggerated somehow simply means that it was a slow news day and that no one checked with TMP management to see if they understood the situation.

It's not a case of Jeff trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. The coursework was sanctioned and encouraged by his company. Although the news stories offer other examples of resume inflation, this case is different. A resume is a communications tool and everyone involved knew exactly what the Harvard experience was.

Unfortunately, the case is being used to illuminate the ongoing problem with Resume inflation throughout the US. 

A resume is a marketing document. As such, it's a vehicle for securing an interview. We expect, when we see one, to have to discount some of the claims to some degree. While outright falsehoods are unacceptable, we expect that "I" often means "we" and that detailed questions about real contributions are a art of turning a resume into a useful foundation for a relationship. The other cases cited in the various stories involved outright falsification.

Monster/TMP have been handed a Jennifer Flowers level PR nightmare. Although the core story lacks meaningful substance, the PR problem functions as if the story were completely true. Not only won't it "blow over", it will nag the company at press conferences and industry shows. The story will become TMP's own customized version of the famous "How long have you been beating your wife?" It is not a minor distraction.

It would be a great time to introduce a background checking product line with a great deal of fanfare about its internal uses at TMP. We hope that someone is reviewing the Superbowl ad looking for a way to capitalize on this negative storm and convert it into a positive. Certainly, TMP needs to address the question head on.

The net effect of the story is to cast doubt on our entire industry. Face-value, the most critical variable in successful business relations, has been compromised in a very public way. We fully expect to see a blitz of advertising that says, in effect, "Our corporate resumes have been audited for accuracy and we've terminated the outright liars. You should too."

That will put Jeff's job at risk in spite of the fact that the underlying story is weak in the extreme.

The lesson here is that our business is a public institution and vulnerable to public opinion (no matter how misinformed). Before the web, no one was able to know or care. Now, it's a matter of public record. In the mainstream media, news blows like weather. It takes on a life of its own regardless of the facts. Monster, with its emphasis on aggressive national branding in the old school style,  has worked hard to bring this dynamic into our space. The interesting thing will be seeing if they can make lemonade out of the lemon.

- John Sumser

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