Last year I worked as contractor for company C for one of their projects. Long story short: It was pure hell.

(The HR company that hired me informed me incorrectly about the job being Java development, X company bought Y company, then X company got rid of most knowledgeable people from Y, hired C for support and such, that was my job. Long tedious hours, unpaid extra hours, incompetent bosses, ridiculous deadlines, no licensed software, etc).

I even had health issues due the lack of sleep/stress/malnutrition (no time to eat properly). I quit after 3 months.

Now I'm looking for another job. However I have doubts listing C in my resume due to my experience. I'm worried when on an interview for a job they see me as unreliable, and I know you're not supposed to talk bad about your previous employer, however I can't say a single good thing from my short time at C.

Do I list C? What do I tell when an interviewer asks opinions/evaluations about my job at C?

  • Is there danger of retaliation from C if your new employer contacts C to verify your employment? If not, why not list them anyway? Is it better to have a gap than to be faced with a question about a less-than-pleasant job experience? See the suggested answer(*s) for ways to cope with this question in interview
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 19:23
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    Never badmouth your old company. No need to burn more bridges than absolutely necessary and your new employer will not like the thought of you doing the same when you leave them. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 12:20
  • Why did you stay in such a bizarre situation for more than a day?
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 2:25
  • @eriksan because people talk. Also future employers note how you talk about previous employers because at one point they will be a previous employer. Why burn more bridges than you absolutely need to? Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 13:58

4 Answers 4


First of all (as you know), never explicitly speak negatively about your previous employers: Here's a few reasons why. Just tell them it was not a pleasant experience, though you value the learning experience it offered you.

Also, as mentioned in the comments, if you clearly state that it was a contractor position, that will answer any questions about the length of time spent. Do not lie about the length of the contract, but bear in mind that an IT contract position is not generally expected to be long-term.

What I did in a similar situation was to be vague. Simply mention the facts, and leave out all emotion:

  1. You were hired to do X, but actually did Y, causing you to be unhappy with the position
  2. As a result of all the mergers, things were in disarray, causing a very unorganized working situation

Keeping your statements simple and free of emotion will get the point across that you did not like the job, without you having to say anything negative (or positive, really) about them.

Do keep in mind that something can be learned from every experience. Whether you hated it or not, at a minimum you learned what you do not like about employers, which is important. For this reason, I would definitely put it on your resume. It is much easier to explain that you discovered the hard way that a job was not for you than a work gap. And both are easier than if you run into a coworker from Company C and that coworker somehow lets your current employer know that you worked at Company C.

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    +1: It's all in the connotation as well. I try to stay away from negative words like 'not' in descriptors. Instead of 'not pleasant' or 'not good' I refer to it as 'unideal'. Means basically the same thing, but it has a more fluid sound and doesn't include 'no'. Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 20:36
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    The one thing I'd add to this answer is to make sure that the word "contractor" appears prominently in your resume and when you speak about the time at company C. Don't lie and say "it was a 3-month contract" if it wasn't. But just having the word "contractor" in there defuses a lot of the likelihood of someone asking "why such a short spell?" Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 3:39
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    I think you want to make sure you don't come off as inflexible when you complain that you were hired for X but then made to do Y. Lots of times, things change, and a company will want someone who can roll with the punches, within reason. If they hired you for Java development and made you clean toilets, that's obviously not reasonable. But if you did, say, Python development, that's more reasonable. Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 4:17
  • -1: putting a link to a Google search in lieu of an actual reference is seriously condescending and, worse, unreliable. Your search results are not necessarily going to be the same as OPs and are certain to change over time. Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 19:13
  • Your first link with text : Here's several reasons why is broken. Could you please fix it?
    – Jimmy
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 19:50

The important part of the answer to almost any interview question is the "why" part. Say you loved your job at company A. I ask you "tell me about your job at company A? Did you like it?" and you say

Yes, I did, it was great.

If that's all you say, it's a horrible answer. You have to tell me what was great about it - as you do so I will learn what you value and what you're good at. The same is true about your job at the horrible company.

It was awful.

That doesn't help me at all. Similarly, meta-stuff about how the recruiter deceived you doesn't help me either. Something like this might be good:

I accepted the position to do Java development, but a number of corporate changes shortly after I joined changed it to [whatever] and reduced the team size drastically for the same project. We were pressured to work 12 hour days [or 60 hour weeks, or whatever it was, do not just say "long hours" or "overtime" without a number - they may think you object to ever staying 15 minutes late] to meet artificially short deadlines. We didn't have the tools we needed to [specific task such as unit testing, source control, issue management] and the working atmosphere was very tense. I left as soon as I could, and the best thing I can say about that job is what a clear demonstration it was of the importance of [one or two big concepts that were missing such as customer involvement, solid architecture, unit testing, whatever.]

As an interviewer, I would hear this answer and parse it out to see that you have the strength to object to things a reasonable person would object to, you are not whining about trivial things like the flavoured coffee selection did not include your particular favourite, and you know some important concepts related to software development at a level higher than just the syntax of your chosen language. You stay reasonably positive by not declaring those above you in the chain incompetent (after all, they were probably dealing with the same sort of nonsense you were and deserve your sympathy) while being clear on factual and technical issues like working hours and software practices. This is actively better than a 3 month gap in your working record, right?

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    "to see that you have the strength to object to things a reasonable person would object to" -- note that to hear many people speak on this subject, that's a bad thing and an instant no-hire. Bizarre, but it's just taken me a few minutes to find anyone on this site who recommends saying anything at all that could be construed as negative about the past employer. Most say you should not under any circumstances do so, and list their reasons mostly in terms of how any criticism will mean you're seen, regardless of the kind of criticism. Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 10:29

There's a lot of discussion on this, however as you are a contractor it's ultimately quite simple. You list the role to show time spent, but if asked you simply say (as I've interpreted from your text):

I worked for company C for 3 months, in the time I was there changes within the company meant the role was no longer appropriate for my skillset, so rather than waste the customer's money I ended the contract in accordance with the agreement.

This shows you are a professional, able to judge the situation, and want to do right by your customer. There is nothing wrong in this.


I have been through this on interview and my best experiences are:

  • never lie about previous workplaces.
  • always keep being polite, you can tell the truth about previous workplaces, keep your opinion civilized. Don't start a never-ending complaining.
  • never mention exact people, you can tell that you had conflicts with co-workers.
  • try to be constructive. If your work was bad at previous place, say how do you imagine a better one.

Let's see clearly, if you leave a workplace, there are reasons, if you are lucky, it is just that you wanted to learn more, see more, get more experience. But there are occasions when the previous place wasn't good for you.

I never experienced any bad reactions when I said:

I left my first workplace because over the years sadly few guys got in charge who's management skills weren't sufficient, so we didn't get any project for awhile, I wanted to work and use my skills, and it wasn't a good place for that any more.

or an another

That workplace was consuming too much of my time, the job itself was interesting and new, but we really did have to work too much overtime like usually 12 hours daily. Sadly that place suffered of a transition between being a garage project and small company, and it really missed a middle management.

I expect respect for my choices, finding a job is a two side game: you are looking for a good job, and your future employer looking for an honest and well working employee.

If your previous job was really horrible, try to form a valid, rational opinion about it inside you, keep it simple, and tell. Instead of saying it was horrible, point out few major issues which were dealbreaking for you.

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