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I've been working for a company from November 2019 to October 2020 as a software engineer. Though, by putting in a lot of effort, I found out the company managers have been providing a fraudulent product, underdelivering and asking for overpay, because the company sells a monopolistic product in the country.

I got out by October 2020, but ever since, I've been hearing people complain about the company's politics and recently, a few have accused the manager — the person I've been closely working with — of indecency. Though, I don't think the accusers are wrong, I no longer feel comfortable with having this company name in my resume, but the experience itself is high-valued technically.

What is the most professional approach to this? Is it acceptable if I put a placeholder name instead of the company's actual name?

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    Out of curiously — and maybe this can clarify things for others — but in the great scheme of things, how many other companies have you worked for? It doesn’t sound like this is your first job but maybe 2nd or 3rd? and how long were you at other jobs? Longer thank 11 months, right? If this barely 1 year tenure looks out of place on your resume timeline, that is fine. You can say, “Look, this place was not great. I tried to make the best of it but I had to leave to save my sanity and reputation.” – Giacomo1968 Nov 30 '20 at 3:29
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    If a janitor worked for Madoff Investment Securities, would you hold it against them? – Kevin Nov 30 '20 at 18:12
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    @Kevin A janitor? No. An analyst? Yes. – tbrookside Nov 30 '20 at 18:13
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    It's not about it being on your resume, it's about how you sell it. You got a good recent for getting out, that's a good start. – Mast Nov 30 '20 at 19:52
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    @ehsaan Don’t remove the experience. Just leave it there and focus on what you did there from a barebones “just the facts” point of view. If someone queries you about your short tenure, explain that you did your job as best as you could but you decided to leave when you no longer could deal with the toxicity of that workplace. People hire you for your skills and that is what counts. You leaving due to moral reasons is a fine excuse. You finding a new gig afterwards just points to how good you are at what you do. – Giacomo1968 Dec 1 '20 at 19:50
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What is the most professional approach to this?

Never lie, don't try to hide something. Just list it as every other experience in your resume. If you feel that the company has a bad public reputation and that this is potentially problematic, add a sentence like "I left because of cultural differences".

Is it acceptable if I put a placeholder name instead of company's actual name?

It may be acceptable, but it will not help. Quite on the contrary, it's about the worst thing you could do: it will draw WAY more attention to this job than any "normal" mentioning would do. Almost every interviewer would immediately try to deep dive into that one.

The question you didn't ask: how to talk about it

This position is likely to come up in any interview so should prepare yourself to talk about it openly, accurately, and confidently. This will most likely require brainstorming many potential questions, carefully formulating the answers, writing them down and memorizing them.

You can of course try to keep it anonymous and refuse to talk about it all. However, this will be a deal breaker for most interviews: you are clearly hiding something and that's not acceptable for most employers. If you don't give them a story, they will make up their own, and it's not going to be a nice one.

Here is the good thing: you haven't done anything wrong and if you handle this well, you can demonstrate your skill in dealing with tricky situations. The key here is to blame the company without bad-mouthing them. Start your story fairly generic and then only add more detail if follow up questions come up. Example:

  1. Q: Why did you leave your last job?

    A: Initially I enjoyed working there and there was great technical learning. However over time I felt that there were some cultural difference between the company and myself and I thought it would be best to part ways.

  2. Q: What do you mean "cultural differences"?

    A: As I learned more about the internal workings of the company and also the way they interact with customers I felt that their behavior wasn't fully aligned with my own values and personal standards.

  3. Q: Oh wow, tell me more.

    A: Sorry, any specific details would be confidential and I need to honor my confidentiality commitments. I'm sure my values and standards would not be a problem here and I'd be happy to talk about that in as much detail as you like.

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    I think this is a great approach, especially considering your role there as a Software Engineer: hopefully interviewers will realize that, even though you were there, you likely weren't the one calling the shots, and your short tenure there shows that it's not something you really enjoyed. – A N Nov 30 '20 at 4:33
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    Maybe it is just me, but if the answers were that slick, too practiced, I would wonder about how honest the answer was. If it sounds rehearsed, it probably was, and there are things that are being hidden. – Mike Wise Nov 30 '20 at 19:10
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    @MikeWise On the other hand, if you dock points from an interviewee for having rehearsed beforehand, you may not find anyone... isn't that a completely normal thing to do? – Asteroids With Wings Nov 30 '20 at 19:41
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    @MikeWise If it sounds rehearsed, it probably was. But then again, if it sounds rehearsed, the person performing either isn't doing a very good job at preparing for the interview or is a nervous wreck, either of which I might let slide depending on how busy I am. And to be perfectly honest, I'd be more worried about the people who can say something rehearsed that doesn't sound rehearsed, as they are much better at keeping something hidden that shouldn't be and any other warning flags that come up during the interview and vetting processes should be looked at particularly carefully. – Abion47 Nov 30 '20 at 21:58
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    @MikeWise: as an interviewer I expect my candidates to be well prepared which includes being able to answer standard interview questions effectively and concisely. And yes, that requires rehearsal, just like you (hopefully) would rehearse if you give an important presentation to a customer or senior management. It's not signaling "I have something to hide", it signals "I have a done at least some homework". If I feel there is more to find out, I can always ask follow up questions. – Hilmar Dec 1 '20 at 13:38
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What is the most professional approach to this? Is it acceptable if I put a placeholder name instead of the company's actual name?

Certainly placeholder is an acceptable form; people do the same with "stealth startups" all the time. But in your case there is no reason to do so.

You did not commit fraud and you did not know that the company actually was fraudulent (and from the way you describe it I am not sure that they actually are. It may be less-than-perfect and abuse a monopoly, but that's about it) and as soon as you've learned about those practices you decided to quit the company. And that's the answer to give when someone may ask.

Although I would suspect that most people will barely know what that company is, and even fewer of them will know about its shady reputation - and if they do, you have an honest answer to give.

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    To add: don't give any details or confirmation about fraudulent activities, which aren't publicly known already. It's enough to tell that you didn't agree with practices and company culture. – Chris Nov 29 '20 at 11:54
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    @Donald Apple does not have a monopoly in any space, as far as I'm aware. There are competing phones, mp3 players, laptops and desktop computers. Being very distinguishable from your competitors is not at all the same as having a monopoly. What Apple does have is a culture of incompatibility with other platforms (different filesystem, different formats, different power supply, etc), and of interdependence of their multiple devices on the whole ecosystem (buy an iPhone, & you need a Mac to get the most out of it because iTunes is not great on Windows) --- which is completely legal. – employee-X Nov 30 '20 at 18:46
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    @Donald In the US, your internet service provider is a much better example of a (local) monopoly, since there is often one clear choice for each region. – employee-X Nov 30 '20 at 18:49
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    @Donald I agree that Google search is a de facto monopoly, because it has the lion's share of the market. But in market share, Microsoft Windows dominates Apple's Mac as easily as Google dominates Yahoo. What makes Apple different than Yahoo is that they've managed to stay relevant. They're a leader in innovation, not market share. The same is true in their other endeavors. Don't get me wrong --- they're an amazing company, and a leader in many ways. But, not a monopoly. Leading in innovation is not something monopolies tend to do, which is why they're considered bad. – employee-X Nov 30 '20 at 22:28
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    @employee-X being a "monopoly" in one niche doesn't preclude someone from innovating in another one (or even in the original one, although it gives less incentive to do so). AT&T/Bell didn't stop to innovate before or after they were broken up. – Dan M. Dec 1 '20 at 17:27

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