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My first role upon graduating was working in a start up for 4 years as a Software engineer.

Unfortunately things really soured with Senior management after the 4th year causing me to resign and move on. Senior management were extremely vindictive during this period, by putting me on an unrealistic Performance improvement plan with the view to building a case to kick me out by setting impossible deadlines and trying to humiliate me. I left with a first written warning.

Since then I have gained 5+ years experience elseware and have not had any problems with any of my other employers. If anything, they are all extremely happy with my performance, with many willing to rehire me if the opportunity arose.

I am now seriously considering removing this work experience from my CV because I feel that it adds no value to my CV given that I cannot get a good reference from them. I am worried that by keeping it on my CV it may lead to future job offers being withdrawn if I need to provide a reference from this company and it comes back negative. Many reference forms ask very detailed questions.

I have tried to mitigate this by trying to come to an agreement with the company to not provide a negative reference, but they are not interested in negotiating or compromising.

Given I have over 5 years experience since leaving this firm, can I remove this from my CV?

  • What are you going to do if someone asks "what were you doing for four years after you graduated?" – Philip Kendall May 26 at 11:36
  • Freelanced on small projects, worked on my own idea in my spare time. All of which is true. – user3754111 May 26 at 11:37
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    No, it's a lie by omission. Instant no hire if I found out about it. – Philip Kendall May 26 at 11:38
  • @PhilipKendall if it is not on the CV , how can people find out about it and what would you suggest is a better approach instead? – user3754111 May 26 at 11:40
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    @PhilipKendall There is nothing to say that a CV has to include ALL your experience. If you are asked specifically about what you did in that time, or asked to provide a list of all your employment then you have to mention it, but that is not true of a CV. – DJClayworth May 27 at 15:38
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Given I have over 5 years experience since leaving this firm, can I remove this from my CV?

Yes.

There is no requirement to include every job on your CV/resume. You can omit whatever you choose. After I changed careers, I gradually omitted all older jobs that were no longer relevant to my new profession.

Look over your resume without this job.

Decide if it is strong enough without this job. Make sure the remainder supports the kind of jobs you will be seeking.

Decide if it shows an obvious gap between the conclusion of your education and the start of your work life. Be prepared with an honest answer if asked about that gap.

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First off, putting anything that's blatantly false on your CV is a major risk. If your potential employer does some searching around and finds you were at this company when you claim not to be, it raises red flags over both why you want to hide it, and your honesty. That will kill any chances you have.

Secondly, four years is a very long time to explain away by other means. If you say you freelanced, the question will be "who with?". If you say you were long-term unemployed, that looks like you were unemployable.

Your best option is to put the employer on your CV, but if asked for references give other people. You already have at least two employers since who would give you a good reference, which is plenty, and new companies will put most weight on the most recent experiences. OK, you may lose out on the occasional one who goes into forensic detail, which sucks, but can't be helped; you'd probably lose out on them anyway.

Edit: in reply to how can people find out about it, easy - your interviewer calls up the reference at the previous company and asks "why did user3754111 leave?" "Oh, he went to EvilCorp". Or calls the reference at the subsequent company and asks "how did you come to employ user3754111?" "Oh, he was unhappy at EvilCorp". Cover blown.

  • Do you have to list every job on your CV? If I haven't listed it, it's not a lie right? – user3754111 May 26 at 11:46
  • Yes, it absolutely is a lie, because you're leading the reader to come to false conclusions about you. – Julia Hayward May 26 at 11:48
  • Am I able to use co-workers who have left the company as a reference for Evil Corp? – user3754111 May 26 at 11:49
  • You can try... but once again I'm going to ask "why aren't you using your manager as a reference?" If I get an answer which gives me any suspicions at all, I'll be phoning up HR and asking the question anyway. At some point, you're going to have to be honest about why you left, even if you don't agree with the reasons. – Philip Kendall May 26 at 11:55
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    A lot of people use co-workers as references, I have done this in the past for colleagues without any issues? – user3754111 May 26 at 12:03
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The CV/resume is an advertisement for you. You shouldn't lie, but you don't have to include every job you had. People tailor them for applications all the time. If a company has an opening for a role that will require years of experience as a person who can calculate satellite orbits I stress certain projects, but if they want somebody to lead a technical team I stress other projects.

Now if the only gap that you have in your resume is an obvious 4 year gap, then expect that everybody who interviews you will ask about it. So have a truthful answer, that won't make them concerned.

if you stumble over an answer they will be concerned. If you change the subject, they will be concerned.

In a comment to the question you say:

Freelanced on small projects, worked on my own idea in my spare time. All of which is true.

Expect they will want details. They will need you to answer questions about the projects.

Also realize that for many companies they not only call the carefully crafted list of references, but also HR at all the companies you list on either your resume or the application that says list all the companies you have worked for over the last X years. In general large companies will only provide the basic information: dates of employment, and job title. They won't provide anything else, because HR has no idea who you were. But for a small company that can be more problematic.

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