Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

This is the era of ruthlessly getting away with things. Fake is in. So some people think they have the freedom to try even the most outlandish ruse, in the hope that they'll get what they want.

You'd think, then, that employers would be rather more careful about potential employees trying to get away with just about everything they can. Somehow, this may not always be the case. Sometimes, the degree to which employers still trust what they see on paper and online is startling.

I confess, then, I'm fascinated by the tale of a woman who falsified information about her work life and managed to get a job paying $185,000.

Now when I say that Valerie Hilda Theriault falsified information about her work life, I don't mean there were little exaggerations here and there. It wasn't as if she'd claimed to be a chief information officer when she'd really been deputy chief information officer.

No, for a start her LinkedIn profile featured a picture of Kate Upton. Yes, Kate Upton the model with a very recognizable face, married to Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. 

One might have imagined that her potential employers would have spotted this rather obvious Pinocchio. That doesn't seem to have happened in the office of the South Australia Department of Premier and Cabinet. For Theriault was somehow hired to the position of chief information officer. Without, it seems, having much history as a chief information officer. Or even, it seems, all that much history of being an information officer.

Her trial last year -- ah, yes, this tale went to court before it goes to Hollywood -- revealed that Theriault had tried to make falsified applications to big companies too. In this case, she'd faked whole swathes of her previous employment.

Her lawyer, however, put this down to her suffering from bipolar disorder. Still, as Australia's ABC News reported at the time, the lawyer suggested "Blind Freddie" would have worked out that Veronica Theriault wasn't Kate Uptault. 

After all, said the lawyer, she'd given a false number for her previous employer. Wouldn't the Department of Premier and Cabinet have realized the number was fake and, perhaps, find the real number of the employer and call them?

Wouldn't they, perhaps, have noticed that the person speaking on the other end of the line was, well, Theriault herself? Apparently, she spoke highly of the candidate.

Theriault had claimed to have been "chief geek" for an accommodation booking company.

Yes, tech companies do have silly titles. It's surely worth checking, however, whether this particular company was that silly.

Of course an investigation at government level is now taking place. And of course Theriault was last week given a jail term of at least a year. She'd only been found out when her behavior at work became obviously questionable.

The part that troubles me, though, is that no one seems to have realized that she wasn't Kate Upton.

Could it be that no one looked at her LinkedIn profile? Could it be that no one looked at much at all? And what happened during her interview? Was it even an in-person interview? There had, apparently, been a "competitive selection process." Who were the other candidates? Naomi Campbell and Bella Hadid?

It may be tiresome to check for the truth. Many companies will, no doubt, resort to artificial intelligence to do it for them. But this case highlights the need to do the tedious things -- check and check again. These days, everyone can make things up about themselves and make it look good. That's why Facebook exists. Doing the tedious checking takes time. It may also save a lot of heartache.

Two notes from the trial still waft around my mind. This, from the prosecutor: 

She wasn't applying for a role as a checkout chick, or for a position at McDonald's.

Ah, so it's alright to pretend to be Kate Upton if you're applying for a job at McDonald's?

Then this, also from the prosecutor: 

[Colleagues reported] she was incredibly impressive in her first 10 days in the role.

Perhaps you really can fool everyone at least some of the time. But not for very long.

Published on: Dec 8, 2019
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