Suppose I am fooled to work in a start-up or a company that has been a very small over a long time, let say 10 years. I work them 3 months and I really enjoy the work -- I learn a lot of new skills such as Haskell, MapReduce, CouchDB and many other little things. Now the firm did not pay any salary: A) I may be unskilled, B) I did not meet some deadline (I don't know because I am not allowed to speak to the boss but I know that I am not getting any payment) or C) I was fooled.

Some detail about C

I heard that the firm have had similar cases from my friend, "The guy X was there and he said he does not trust the firm at all so he went to other firm". I don't know what the term "trust" mean here, anyway the firm consists of ignorant drop-outs that hires academic people, a bit irony. They hire people from student-organizations and let them work and promise ok -compensation but -- when you start working the co-employer starts all kind of instructions "Do not work so hard, do not work so long, do not work so much" -- it is like he is making sure you do not feel sad when he does not pay any salary (co-employer is an owner in the firm).

Anyway, I learnt a ton in the company but it was very inefficient working. I worked only alone, not really working in a "company". Now should by resume contain references to the firm and the guy who did not pay me anything? Or should my resume read that I worked in XYZ -technologies -- but 1 year's NDA -- what can write here?

Now I fear that if I put the firm to my resume: they will lie about my input to my next employer. I feel they are very dishonest. On the other hand, I want to make it sure that I have worked over the time. So:

Should my CV contain the not-so-good or even awful employers that may be fooling people to work there?

I am pretty sure everyone knows the firm and its habbits, circles are small but people are afraid to speak.

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    Being unskilled is no reason for them not to pay you. If they don't like your work they need to let you go. And not being paid is a very good reason to leave a job at any time (with no notice)
    – Zachary K
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 6:28
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    you signed an NDA without a contract of employment?
    – TZHX
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 6:29
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    I'd say from a CV-point-of-view it's still employment: you learnt new stuff, you learnt how a specific company worked (even if it isn't desirable to copy that behaviour) and you (hopefully) learned to spot such spotty behaviour in the future. The fact that they didn't pay you is bad for you, but doesn't mean the experience is any less.
    – Joachim Sauer
    Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 7:00
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    If you want a word of advice, life is too short to accept bullying, and by trying to justify and make excuses for what they did to you, then you are succumbing to your own fear that nobody will ever accept you professionally. You don't have to win or even get paid, but if it were me I would make sure this company would hurt, in any way legally possible. Companies do unethical things to people because people like you allow it to happen and make it easy for them. You are capable of anything and you don't need experience from scam artists like this. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 11:25
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    @maple_shaft I agree with the legal course. Small claims court is easy and free depending on where you live, and non-payment for services performed in the US is a federal offense, much like writing worthless checks. However, I fully disagree with your last sentence. Having this experience is probably the best you can obtain in any career. We learn from mistakes and failures, not successes. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


There is no shame in not getting paid by a company, and this shouldn't really factor into you putting them on your CV or not. If you learned something, and are comfortable talking about the experience in an interview, then put it on. The extent of questions about the non-payment will probably be limited to a question like "3 months is a short period - why did you leave?". Failing to pay your salary is a very good reason to leave, and few would look on that negatively. Staying professional in the interview (avoid excuses, mud-slinging, etc) will probably convince your interviewer that you are the reasonable one, and the other company's word doesn't mean much.

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    +1 - Don't ever disparage a previous employer in an interview. Regardless of the bad things that happenned no interviewer wants to hire someone who one day might be doing or saying the same thing about them. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 13:03
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    @BrentPabst Absolutely. Focus on your experience, and explain the facts about what really happened. Leave emotions out. You would be surprised how many people will give you the benefit of doubt. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 13:24
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    You worked for this company for a few months, during which you gained valuable experience. You were laid off because the company couldn't meet payroll. Do not bore your interviewer with the way they screwed you. What recourse you have is a different question than what you might put on a CV or mention in an interview. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 20:01

Yes, you should absolutely list it. You list your employment history to tell the reader which work you did, and in that respect it does not matter if you were paid or not.

You do not need to mention that you were not paid; this is probably not relevant to your next employer. If during the interview you are asked about your experiences, or why you left so soon, you can mention it. However, make sure you stick to (provable) facts, to avoid any impression of badmouthing or whining about your old employer. But the topic might well never come up anyway.

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