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I managed to get myself fired from my last full-time job, and finding other work since then has been difficult. I used to put that job down for previous work experience, along with my termination from that company.

I maintained a job I've had for a couple years, but where I work very sporadically-one or two days every couple weeks- so I am in need of another full-time job. I mentioned my dilemma to one of my coworkers there and they said to just stop putting down that previous employment altogether. I felt like this would be dishonest and could backfire terrible if any potential new employers found out.

However, getting fairly desperate for work, I took their advice. I got a call back from a company within two days of my application being submitted. I have my interview tomorrow.

Was it wise to essentially lie to get an interview? Is it ethical to omit previous work experience from applications or resumes if I was terminated?

Edit: Also keep in mind that the places I'm applying for are more entry-level; supermarkets, department stores, restaurants, etc. I'm working my way through college currently, so I don't have the experience for any extremely professional or higher-level jobs.

  • You will probably be asked to explain the gap in your resume. That may get dicey. – Bill Leeper Mar 27 '14 at 20:55
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    Very bad idea. If you get questioned about what you did during that time period what are you going to say? Lying on your resume is grounds for dismissal even years after being hired. – HLGEM Mar 27 '14 at 20:55
  • @HLGEM It's not necessarily lying. I have several jobs that I have left off my resume, because they are not relevant to any position I apply for. Is OP in the same position? I have no idea, but leaving experience off a resume is not necessarily a problem. – Dave Johnson Mar 27 '14 at 20:57
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    The resume is your story to tell, but if a company-supplied application asks you to list all prior jobs and you don't, that's a problem. Which are you asking about, the resume or the application? (Or both?) – Monica Cellio Mar 27 '14 at 20:59
  • The situation's a little weird. I'm young, that job was my first full-time job, and I worked there for a little over a year. The job that I mentioned that I still have, I have been working at for over two years. While the work is fairly random, I'm not sure if they would question anything. 19 year olds don't tend to have a whole lot of full time experience. – Nicole Rae Mar 27 '14 at 20:59
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Don't ever volunteer that you were terminated on your resume. If you do that, you are sending a "don't trust me" signal to a prospective employer without giving yourself a chance to explain yourself and put your termination in context. That's called shooting yourself in whatever body part hurts the most.

In general, whether in your resume or at an interview, don't disclose anything bad about yourself without giving yourself an opportunity to respond. Otherwise, you just doom your chances and you are doing it in a way that is unfair to yourself - You are being your worst enemy here.

If a prospective employer does not ask why you left your last job, don't volunteer the information. If the prospective employer does, prepare two answers: (1) a one-sentence answer that, if it applies to your case, will say "I made a mistake on the job" and that will fit on an HR form, and then (2) a two-to-three sentence paragraph that will go into just enough specificity that the interviewer knows what you are talking about, how sorry you are that you made it and how it has been replayed again and again in your mind. But do not flagellate yourself. What's done is done, move on.

You want to be succinct in your explanation. Long, extended explanations are counter-productive, and you might be tempted to give long, extended explanations if your boss was a jerk. Don't give in to the temptation because the more verbose the explanation, the less credibility you convey. Even if your narrative is completely true. Because you look like you are justifying yourself. Don't ever look like you are justifying yourself at an interview. You'll just be creating skepticism on the part of the interviewer. You should think of this awkward moment as an opportunity: an opportunity to sell yourself as an employee and person who can be trusted. Don't miss that opportunity.

It's not what you say that matters but how you say it. You can say that you were fired because you got in over your head, but then you should balance your disclosure by saying that you have gotten better since and if you were as good back then as you are now, you wouldn't be fired. You can say that you were fired because you made a mistake in judgment, but then you should balance your disclosure by saying that you have learned from your mistake and if it is necessary to say it, that you are a far more emotionally mature individual than you were back then.

I repeat: do not say anything bad about yourself without balancing it out.

I repeat: when you disclosed on your resume that you had been terminated, you were on a suicide mission. Don't do that.

I wish you good luck. Nobody should be punished for being terminated as severely as you punished yourself. And I am saying this because I may have done worse things than you did, and I am still around and thriving :)

You need to learn how to handle yourself after being fired and I am sorry to say it, you haven't learned yet even after two years. It is absolutely important that you do. The fact of life is that people get fired all the time and they recover from being fired all the time. You need not let the consequences of being fired two years ago turn into a death sentence for your career - a death sentence that it doesn't deserve.

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  • This is such great advice, thank you! It was an awesome confidence booster. :) I also want to clarify that I didn't lost that job two years ago, it was just a couple months ago. I have been at a different job for those two years. Sorry for the confusion! – Nicole Rae Mar 28 '14 at 4:04
  • Nicole: I personally believe, and I am by far not the only one, that every successful professional should have been fired at least once :) An acquaintance of mine claims said that one of his actor friends said that you're a nobody as an actor unless you have been fired at least three times :) In other words, there is plenty of life to live after being fired :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 28 '14 at 4:09
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Regarding the resume, that's yours. You choose what to include, and what doesn't matter. In my case, I've held plenty of jobs that aren't on the resume, most because they're not relevant experience to my current career, or I don't feel they add anything (because they were too short-term, or "bush-league" or the like). In your case, it sounds to me like you'd be well served to include this job, as you don't have much experience, being as young as you are.

Applications are a different matter - some companies expect you to list all your past jobs (or the X most recent ones, or the ones in the past [period of time]), and some don't. You could always ask, though I seriously doubt you're in a position to worry about getting in trouble over leaving a job off. It's usually only an issue in very competitive industries, where the threat of lawsuits over non-compete clauses and the like is a serious concern. The worst that's likely to happen to you is that you'll be seen as having less experience, or having a gap in your work history to explain, which could give you some additional trouble landing a new job.

My advice would be that getting fired isn't that big a deal. Happens to most people at some point. (Has certainly happened to me more than once, and every boss I've had in many years has loved me.) I would include the job, and just list "terminated" as your reason for leaving. If/when you get asked about it, the important thing is that you tell the truth, and explain how you're better for experience. Precisely how you do that depends on the reason you were fired, but you generally want to convey that you took it as a learning experience and improved yourself to correct whatever caused you to be fired. (Assuming you were fired "for cause," which is what I inferred from your question.)

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Wow, you've gotten some great advice here. I would add, depending on the interview circumstances, etc. that when you share you were fired, very regretful, etc. - that you may want to include what you learned from it. This is similar to 'what's your greatest weakness' question. Tell the story or detail of the 'weakness' and how and what you did to correct it. And yes - keep it brief. Practice saying it, not because it isn't true - practice so that you are succinct and positive.

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