I’m sure at one point or another in your life, you’ve lied on your resume to increase your chances of nailing the job you’re after. Some of you make little white lies, which give you snazzy titles or increase your former job responsibilities a little here and little there. Then there are others who are “more creative” and make up jobs they’ve never worked, awards they’ve never won and degrees they’ve never earned.
I’ve always been of the former logic, embellishing my accomplishments and responsibilities just a bit, never worrying if a potential employer would follow through and call previous employers. Perhaps my GPA and work load are “slightly” inflated but I’m confident that I can re-write my resume for any job I want and make it look great. My backgrounds are in running restaurants, mathematics and marketing, so I’m fortunate enough to have a broad range of experience to pull from.
However, sometimes you want a job or education so much that you don’t care whether or not you get caught. I mean, what can your employer do to you if they found out you really didn’t work at NASA for the last 12 years? Well, if they hire you, then find out … you might be in a world of hurt.
Bringing this topic full circle, there was a recent news story about a fake Harvard student named Adam Wheeler who was able to take his resume to a whole new level. Impressively, Adam was able to get into Harvard by making a few adjustments to his application (after being dismissed from his previous school for academic dishonesty no less) and was actually doing very well. His greed got the better of him, however, and after an application to become a Rhodes scholar, things began to unravel. Here is the detailed account of events that took place that allowed Adam Wheeler to attend Harvard for so long.
2005 – Graduates from Caesar Rodney High School in Kent County, Delaware.
2005-2007 – Attends Bowdoin College in Maine but is arrested for academic dishonesty.
Early 2007 – Applies for a transfer to Harvard. Claims to have attended both MIT and Phillips. Creates a fake transcript from MIT, letters of recommendations from his previous professors (on the proper letterheads no less) and says he received a perfect SAT score in March of 2005 (His real best score was 1220).
April 2007 – Impresses during a Harvard admissions interview and claims to be a current MIT freshman. Admission is granted.
Fall 2007 – Becomes a Harvard Crimson and a member of the class of 2010
Spring 2009 – Things continue to go well and Adam receives the Hoopes Prize for an English project. Perhaps he belonged in Harvard all along? The answer is no of-course because the piece he submitted was plagiarized.
September 2009 – Wheeler gets greedy. With only a year left at Harvard, he decides to apply for the Rhodes and Fullbright scholarships. Forging his entire way through them, the University finally catches on and suspends Adam indefinitely until a hearing can be conducted.
October 2009 – Dismissed from Harvard University
January 2010 – Not accepting defeat, submits transfer applications to both Yale and Brown, claiming to have been employed at a psychiatric hospital affiliated with Harvard. Provides letters of recommendation from a hospital employee and a dean at Harvard (both fraudulent).
May 2010 – Arrested and charged with 20 counts of identity fraud, larceny, falsifying an endorsement and pretending to hold a degree. If convicted on all counts, Wheeler could received more than 20 years in prison.
Harvard provided over $45,000 in scholarships to Wheeler over the course of three years, which is why he was indicted for grand larceny. Had he paid his own way, there’s a very good chance jail time would be out of the question and he would simply be known as a fraud that cheated his way to the top.
So the next time you’re thinking about adding a degree you don’t have OR a job you never held to your resume, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Can you live with actually getting the job and living everyday in fear that someone will find out you’re not who you say you are? Remember, because the job is paying you, you’re risking a larceny charge just like our friend Adam here and unless you have a conscience of absolute stone, your decision is certainly going to give you some restless nights.
If you need help in writing or enhancing your resume, there are hundreds of services that can help you out for a small fee. Family and friends are also a great way to get things moving in the right direction as they can provide constructive criticism. Just make sure you don’t write a resume like Adam Wheeler’s.
Be smart, be creative but most importantly, remember to be you.
Published or updated October 28, 2012.