Do you know who David Tovar is? If not, you should, because his story is a stark lesson in what not to do. Tovar was a Vice President of Corporate Communications at Walmart. He was being vetted for a promotion to Sr. VP when a background check uncovered the fact that he didn’t actually graduate from the University of Delaware, as he claimed on his resumé. Oops.
Here’s how Tovar explained the mistake, from businessweek.com:
Tovar said that the résumé “error” was spotted in an outside background check as part of his promotion to senior vice president. When asked about it by his employer, Tovar said he was “100 percent transparent.” He explained that he had walked in the university’s graduation ceremony, only learning afterward that he was a few credits short. He doesn’t seem to dispute the no-diploma problem.
Tovar then left college and got a job in New York. “I really didn’t think an art degree would matter in communications,” he told CNBC.
Note that Tovar walked through that graduation ceremony in 1996, which means it took 18 years for the deception to catch up with him. He might argue that since he was successful enough in his VP job to be selected for a promotion to Sr. VP, how much difference does one little piece of paper, the diploma, really make? Not much, maybe, but the diploma isn’t the problem. The problem is that he misrepresented his credentials. To be blunt, he lied, and even after 18 years that’s not OK.
I’ve been thinking about David Tovar. Did he lie awake nights, fearful of the day his lie was exposed, or did he tell himself that after almost two decades, with a solid record of professional success, he was safe? Maybe he had more or less forgotten about those pesky credits he didn’t actually earn. Regardless, he eventually got caught, a reminder for all of us. Presenting ourselves, our education and our experience in the most positive light is OK. Lying isn’t.
Kimberly Hanes is a writer with a passionate love for words and ideas and extensive experience in business communications and event planning.
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