The recent resignation of the CEO of Yahoo! over a misstatement of his University degrees raises one deceptively simple reminder: the most obvious still needs to be verified. The message for boards is that outside service providers (in this case, human resources verification firms or search firms) need to detail their methodology and the specifics of the application, not simply a conclusion. It wasn’t enough for the outside verification firm (which as I understand it from the financial press was not the search firm in this case) to confirm that the cv was checked.
Rather, the methodology should have been checked; the names of referees, details of relationship and specific content of references; copies of the degrees complete with calls to the Universities; previous employment; and any other elements of the cv. In addition, perhaps some sort of formal process whereby candidates confirm that all information they give as a basis for hiring is truthful is in order. This verification of methodology and the specifics of the application of methodology apply beyond search firms to any other source of data on which the company or non-profit organization is basing governance or operations decisions.
As for whether or not this was grounds for resignation, I don’t think it’s even necessary to get to the point of questioning integrity. Anyone sloppy enough to allow such a miscommunication on something as fundamental and factual as education to pass a multi-stage hiring process doesn’t deserve to run a company and be responsible for the livelihood of others – not to mention the hiring of others at the most senior level. If I were a board member, I would question how the sloppiness would affect accountability and operations. However, I would also question myself. As noted above, the board’s responsibility in hiring the CEO needs to be beyond simply signing a contract with outside services.
Copyright© 2012 Susan Liautaud. All rights reserved