Even a small lie about your past can be hanging over your head well into the future.

Walmart’s vice president of corporate communications resigned last week after it came to light that he had never actually earned the university degree that was listed on his resume.

The irony is that chief spokesperson, David Tovar was being groomed for a promotion at the time. The retail giant was moving him into the role of senior vice president. For that level of leadership, the corporation conducts additional background checks on its people.

During that process it was discovered that while he had attended the University of Delaware as claimed on his resume, he did not complete the Bachelor of Arts degree he had been pursuing.

“I was an art major going into a communications field,” Tovar told the New York Post. “I didn’t think a degree was necessary to pursuing my career.”

Tovar had been with Walmart for eight years at the time of his departure and was being promoted to the senior leadership team, so it doesn’t seem like the lack of a B.A. was affecting his ability to do the job.

Which is why resume deceptions can be so dangerous. It may seem like a small lie to get your foot in the door won’t matter once you’ve had the chance to prove yourself on the job. However, when an organization discovers the deception, it can diminish your professional reputation and ruin your credibility. Working relationships are built on trust, and once that trust is gone, so are your prospects.

We saw a similar situation a few years ago when Scott Thompson, the CEO of Yahoo! at the time was forced to resign after it turned out that he had also exaggerated his education on his resume. He had risen all the way to the top job – so obviously there was no question of his ability to execute strategies. But it’s the credibility that’s lost. The CEO, and in David Tovar’s case, senior communications people, represent the brand publically.

You can’t have spokespeople sharing your company’s message who are themselves not seen as trustworthy. And in any case, companies don’t like to work with people who’ve lied to them.

Walmart apparently withdrew Tovar’s promotion after the background check. “As a result of not having a degree and not disclosing it, they said they would not promote me,” he said. “After a series of discussions, I agreed to leave the company.”

So stick to the facts on your resume. More and more companies are becoming increasingly savvy in confirming the facts on your resume through comprehensive background checks both before hiring, and once on the job. If there are any issues with your performance, discovering that you’ve lied your way into the role can give your employer easy grounds for dismissal.

A lie on your resume can come back to haunt you – even years later.

Workopolis users tend to be an honest group. 84% of those surveyed said that they had never lied on their resume. 14% said that they had – and they had gotten away with it. An unfortunate 2% told us that they had lied on their resumes – and it had blown up in their faces.

See also:

The most common lies on the resume (and what HR actually checks)
Five lies you probably should tell potential employers
The lies employers will most often tell you

Peter Harris

Peter Harris on Twitter