Lies on resumes becoming the new norm in Brazil

. Jun 03, 2019
Lies on resumes becoming the new norm in Brazil

In August of last year, Brazilians were enchanted by the story of chemistry professor Joana D’Arc. Brought up in a poor family in the countryside of São Paulo, she studied hard and was accepted into higher education at the age of 14. She continued climbing the ladder, obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Campinas and a postdoc from Harvard, before transforming a simple technical college in the town of Franca into a center of scientific innovation, with 15 registered patents. Her story was total feelgood material, and there were even talks of her life being adapted into a feature film.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But then it all came out. Earlier this month, newspaper O </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Estado de S. Paulo</span> <a href=",professora-que-vai-virar-filme-tem-diploma-falso-de-harvard,70002828826"><span style="font-weight: 400;">revealed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that Ms. D&#8217;Arc had lied on her résumé, and that she had not in fact gone to Harvard for postdoctoral research. Other newspapers went deeper, and discovered that Harvard was the tip of the iceberg. The professor also lied about her age, debunking her claim that she was accepted into university at 14—she was, in fact, 19 years of age at the time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What&#8217;s more, the 15 patents she claimed to hold had not actually been registered. There were applications made, but all 15 are either pending or were rejected.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joana D&#8217;Arc&#8217;s case was curious, to say the least, with a number of inconsistencies and lies in her story which would clearly have come to light sooner or later. However, even when working with the facts, her story remains impressive. In 1980s Brazil, being a young, black, poor woman from the countryside and managing to get a Ph.D. in chemistry from a nationally renowned university is something worth celebrating.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What&#8217;s more, the Brazilian public is getting increasingly used to hearing about noteworthy people lying on their professional résumés, often in even more brazen ways. In 2019, stories about inconsistencies on CVs have become a semi-regular occurrence, particularly when it comes to high-ranking politicians.</span></p> <h2>Harvard strikes again</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The week after the Joana D&#8217;Arc scandal came to light, newspaper </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">O Globo</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> discovered that no less than the governor of </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rio de Janeiro</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Wilson Witzel, had made a similar false claim on his own résumé.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Mr. Witzel&#8217;s Lattes page—an online curriculum platform maintained by the National Board of Scientific Development—the former federal judge claimed he had spent part of his ongoing postdoctoral research studying at Harvard, stating that he was advised by leading law scholar Mark Tushnet.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As it turned out, none of this was true. Furthermore, according to the Fluminense Federal University (where Mr. Witzel is undergoing his postdoc) the governor did not even apply for the exchange program at Harvard.</span></p> <h2>Ricardo Vélez: the man, the myth</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The first prominent figure in Brazilian politics to be outed for lying on his CV this year was Ricardo Vélez-Rodríguez, who was appointed by Jair Bolsonaro to lead the Education Ministry at the beginning of the year. He was also the second prominent figure, and the third, and the fourth… </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Vélez-Rodriguez made a total of 22 mistakes on his Lattes résumé, which were taken apart one-by-one by online news outlet </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nexo</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, in March. Some of the mistakes included listing books which he did not write among his publications. Mr. Vélez-Rodriguez was eventually fired in April, less for his dishonesty on his CV, and more for his disastrous work in charge of the Education Ministry.</span></p> <h2>The God-given degree</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of this year&#8217;s more curious cases of academic dishonesty involved another of Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s cabinet ministers: the Human Rights Minister, <a href="">Damares Alves</a>. After presenting herself as a &#8220;lawyer,&#8221; and a &#8220;master in education, constitutional law, and family law,&#8221; it was revealed that Ms. Alves does not, in fact, hold any of these titles.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Confronted about the fact, she claimed that these Master&#8217;s degrees were &#8220;biblical,&#8221; quoting Ephesians 4:11, which says: &#8220;now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and masters.&#8221;</span></p> <h2>Lying on résumés is the new black</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While some of this year&#8217;s examples have been particularly heinous, lying on résumés is nothing new for Brazilian politics, or for professional life around the world, for that matter. Human resources consultant DNA Outplacement found that 75 percent of résumés submitted to Brazilian companies last year contained distorted information, with the most common lies involving salaries in previous positions (some 48 percent of applicants), and level of English proficiency (41 percent).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A number of U.S. studies over the 2010s highlighted that over 50 percent of résumés contained intentional errors, with one from The Society of Human Resource Managers, in 2012, suggesting that some 80 percent of CVs contained misleading information.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This habit is not reserved for low-level or middling employees, either, with some of the world&#8217;s most successful executives getting in on the act. Scott Thompson, formerly president of PayPal and CEO of Yahoo!, lied about his academic qualifications, claiming he had a computer science degree. When this was discovered, he was removed from his role at Yahoo!

Euan Marshall

Originally from Scotland, Euan Marshall is a journalist who ditched his kilt and bagpipes for a caipirinha and a football in 2011, when he traded Glasgow for São Paulo. Specializing in Brazilian soccer, politics and the connection between the two, he authored a comprehensive history of Brazilian soccer entitled “A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.”

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