Honesty's Always the Best Policy

Raj knew he was smart. His classmates always turned to him for help on assignments and he always knew the answers to the questions his teachers asked in class. Raj just didn't study for tests so his grades were often mediocre. He knew he could do better in school, it was just that school was so... well, boring.
School was coming to an end for the year and Raj needed to get a good job this summer, after all this was the end of his junior year. He desperately wanted to work at the famous Research Institute. Raj felt that if he got a job there as a summer intern, it would really boost his chances of getting admitted to the graduate engineering program of his choice. He knew the institute hired very few summer interns and generally these were students from private schools who had excellent academic records and high standardized test scores. So, Raj decided to "tweak" his resume. He rounded his GPA up from 3.0 to a more respectable 3.5 and listed his SAT scores as 700 verbal and 820 math (in reality they were 600 verbal and 720 math). Raj reasoned that these changes really didn't matter because he would show them who he really was through the quality of the work he did for the Institute once he was hired...

Consider each of the following questions and evaluate the case study:

1. What is the action or inaction that is the cause for concern?

The cause for concern is Raj's dishonesty in misrepresenting his academic record and accomplishments on his resume.

2. Who or what may be affected?

Raj is likely to be affected. If Raj is hired instead of someone else, he has affected that person as well.

3. How will they be affected? (i.e., what are the possible consequences?)

Raj could be hired and his personal misrepresentation might never be discovered or it could be uncovered in which case Raj would likely be terminated. If Raj is hired and another deserving candidate is turned away that person will likely be deprived of the opportunity to work at the Institute.

4. Are there any laws, regulations written or unwritten that may apply?

Yes, when you complete an application for most jobs you sign a form stating that everything you have said is true so if Raj does this he will be violating hiring law. He is also certainly violating the code of ethics for his profession as in most codes integrity is a core principle.

5. What actions might be taken and what would the consequences of these actions be?

If Raj's dishonesty is uncovered, he would likely be fired and his actions might be reported back to his college/university.

6. Can anything be done to prevent this from reoccurring or to minimize the severity of the consequences?

Yes, Raj should think through the consequences of misrepresenting himself and discuss his situation with a trusted friend or advisor before he makes a terrible mistake. While Raj's GPA may not be high enough, certainly he should be able to obtain a summer internship. By sharing his concerns with a trusted friend or advisor, Raj may be able to identify unique skills and strengths that he can showcase, without embellishment, on his resume. Since Raj is a college student there is no value in reporting his SAT scores, which are not all that bad and certainly do not need to be inflated.

Basis for Case Study 6
In spring of 2007, Marilee Jones, the MIT Director of Undergraduate Admissions, was forced to resign after it came to light that she misrepresented her own educational history - claiming to have earned degrees from several well known universities at the start of her career in an effort to boost what she felt was an inadequate resume and get the job.

E. Hoover and S. Millman. (2007) Chronicle of Higher Education. May 11. "Shocking Admission. A Popular Dean at MIT Lied About Her Credentials, But Her Message Resonated With Many Supporters." http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i36/36a04501.htm

There have actually been quite a few similar incidents. Another one you might also have heard about was the highly publicized case of Dr. Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize winning history professor at Mt. Holyoke College (eventually fired) who for years misrepresented himself to students as a Vietnam veteran in a course he taught on the Vietnam war.

A. M. Cox. (2001) Chronicle of Higher Education. June 29. "Noted Historian Misled Students That He Was Vietnam Veteran." http://chronicle.com/weekly/v47/i42/42a01301.htm