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Here’s my situation: I briefly left software work for another career in academia and am looking to return to software work. The company I have an offer from requires me to get a public trust clearance before I can start work. However, on the OF-306 it asks about firings and terminations and I fear my honesty may lose me the job offer, the only hope I have of staying off the street.

3 times in the last 4 years I’ve been let go, all in academia (none in IT). Last one involved a multitude of issues, mostly performance related (quit or be fired, in hindsight a role I was entirely unsuited for taken out of desperation), the one prior was quit or we’ll make life hell (2 years of extra scrutiny on a perf improvement plan), and the one four years ago where I only worked there for a month was really dumb (told a student trying to run away from me on a trip to “get their ass back here”, place had serious financial issues and couldn’t risk losing that customer, one student out of a total enrollment of 4, mutual though I largely talked myself out of the job).

My question is this, given some bad decisions and job fits in a career completely unrelated from what I’m now pursuing, do I need to worry? From reading elsewhere it seems total honesty is the way to go but I’m concerned I won’t get to tell my side of things, getting written off out of the gate.

  • Where are you located? – Mawg Feb 1 at 10:30
  • In the "quit or [unpleasant consequence]" jobs, did you quit or get terminated? Resigning under threat is still resigning, not being fired. – David Thornley Feb 1 at 21:40
  • Resigned from both. The “PIP or resign” position offered a clean slate as a condition of resigning at the end of the school year (I worked the full year), a deal I took as the only reasonable option. The other job I met with HR and was given 24 hrs to decide between resigning and being fired. These were the only two positions in my teaching career hence why I’ve decided against continuing that career, just not cut out for it. – FlusteredExTeach Feb 2 at 2:14
  • The form states “quit after being told you’d be fired, fired for any reason, leave by mutual agreement due to specific problems, or debarred by OPM”. SF-85P has same language roughly: “following allegations of unsatisfactory performance or of misconduct” and “other reasons under unfavorable circumstances”. – FlusteredExTeach Feb 2 at 2:19
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You really have no choice but to be honest and list the various things that have happened. You do get some leeway at how terse you choose to write each item but at the same time do not write falsehoods.

The problem you face is that if you neglect to list the items and then someone doing investigation ultimately finds out then things will go very bad for you. On the other hand if you do list the items then there will always be a chance that you will be asked to explain your story. It is the risk you will have to take as you could be rejected based upon the investigation report without further ado. But possibly not as well.

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However, on the OF-306 it asks about firings and terminations and I fear my honesty may lose me the job offer, the only hope I have of staying off the street.

It's hard to say if you'll get the job but lying or omitting the information will be a lot worse for you in the long run. If you do lie and get the job, but they later find out, then getting fired from a job of public trust will be a massive black eye that will haunt you for a long, long time. It's sort of like failing kindergarten and having to repeat it. Unless you have a really good excuse, it's not going to look good for you.

On the plus side, being honest allows you to share your side of events. Just be sure to stick with facts, and not opinions. Things like you were let go of reason X, etc. That will look better and perhaps they will ask for a interview where you can explain your side of things but be sure to tell them it won't happen again and you learned your lessons.

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