My Posts

Don’t Be Stupid: Buying a Fake Degree Online is a Mistake

I honestly can’t believe I have to post this in 2010 (Update: It’s 2019 and this is still one of my most popular posts) but after running across another LinkedIn profile that pointed to a degree mill for their MBA, I’ve got to tell you this with all certainty:

  1. You’re wasting your money
  2. You’re wasting your time
  3. You’re killing your credibility
  4. Recruiters will catch you

What’s crazy is that this happened frequently when I was hiring. If I didn’t recognize the name of an institution, it took all of five seconds to figure out it was a fake. You know how?


Yes, your degree mill may say they will act as your registrar, provide transcripts and have a semi-legitimate looking web presence (well, sometimes). What they can’t do is kill the power of Google to strike through the heart of their scam and bring your ridiculous investment to light.

The state of Oregon even made it easier for me by providing a list of such institutions. Glad my tax dollars are going to something helpful.

Now when I’ve called to contact a candidate about their fake online degree, you know what usually happens? I get hung up on. Or I get some lecture about how accreditation is bogus or that the educational system is a scam or that employers have ridiculous requirements for education. It’s the system, man. The system!

Listen pal, just because you were scammed by some diploma mill doesn’t mean you’re going to rip on hundreds of years of non-faked education. That’s bush league. And yes, some employers have out of touch policies regarding required education but guess what? You don’t combat that by throwing a fake degree on the old resume.

Want a clue for next time? Go to your Microsoft Word templates and pick out a nice award template and write yourself a degree. Give yourself whatever you like, go to the store to grab some nice paper and a frame and print it out. Sure, you’ll still be a liar but at least you haven’t spent hundreds of dollars on something that is only worth the paper it was printed on.

If you’ve got $600–1,500 burning a hole in your pocket, use that money to arrange networking meetings for coffee and lunch. With $600, you could have 20 coffee meetings and 10 lunches (and that’s assuming you’re buying). $1,500 could buy you several real courses through a public university too. Those meetings and courses are going to be worth a lot more than anything you’ll spend on a fake degree.

My Posts

This HR Guy Is Over Your Spelling Mistakes

It is one of the first thing people say about composing your resume: make sure you don’t have any spelling mistakes. Or certainly, a spelling mistake means certain doom even if the rest of your resume looks great. And really, not a day goes by when I don’t see a comment on twitter about how somebody spelled something wrong on a resume. I won’t throw the first stone, I’ve been in that boat before. But I will say this: unless your horrendous spelling really hurts my ability to understand your resume, I am over your spelling mistakes and other HR people should get over it too.

The Argument

First of all, let’s list off the common reasons why some HR and recruiting pros have zero tollerance for spelling mistakes on resumes (seriously, zero tollerance):

  • It is easier than ever to check spelling. Most word processing programs do that for you.
  • This is one of the most important documents that you have to send out. Why wouldn’t you get it right?
  • If you show a lack of detail orientation on your resume, what does that say about your ability to do a detailed job?

And probably a few others that will be pointed out to me in the comment section. I will agree with them in two (and only two) instances:

  • Writing or editing writing is your full time job. If you’re a copywriter, technical writer or a newspaper reporter, you’re really screwed if you have a spelling error. No way around that.
  • If writing is a big component of your job. I’m thinking many marketing or PR pros fall into this category. Even then, I would still be tollerant of a typo on a customized part of a resume or cover letter.

That’s it.

Soapbox Time

I try not to get on my soapbox too much but I feel I have to, even if I am only talking to myself here.

99% of the time, we are not hiring writers. 99% of the time, we are not hiring interviewees. We are hiring mechanics or sales people or biologists or veterinarians or police officers. It is our job, the HR or recruiting pro, to see past these surface difficiencies and figure out what these people are truly talented at. Even if that means suffering through a couple there/their/they’re or then/than or insure/ensure/assure. Poor us, right?

The Fear

If we’re honest with ourselves, the biggest thing driving this sort of knee jerk reaction is the fear that the one mistake in an interview or resume that you let slip by is a precursor to everything that is wrong with an employee. So we strip away all of these risks and go with someone that might be more talented at resume writing or interviewing than their actual job.

I won’t mention the fact that it takes much more courage to stand up for a candidate that misses the mark on spelling but may be brilliant at their job than a candidate that looks great on paper but is as vanilla as a sundae without the toppings.

In reality, we keep going back to this tired and ineffective way to absolutely screen out candidates because we have a hard time evaluating whether or not someone is a good fit, has the skill set and is the right person for the job. So we latch on to anything concrete we can find in the hiring process to differentiate candidates in a way that doesn’t require thinking about people in an abstract way.

Now I am starting to sound like one of these HR guys that thinks “everyone is special in their own special way.” Those people are the worst. So let’s get to the point here:

If you are disqualifying otherwise highly talented, non-writing professionals because you don’t have the guts to stand up against a process that disqualifies people for something not at all related to their primary duties, you are being put on notice. I will figure out that these people are talented, I will snatch those people up, I will sell them to our hiring managers and we will bury you. And when you figure out that the top sales person in our company is in your resume database three months before they started for me but you disqualified them at screening for something stupid like a spelling mistake, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

This HR Guy is over spelling mistakes.