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Long story short: I volunteered at an (anonymous) institution for a few months a couple years ago. My time there was productive and enjoyable and I'm very proud of the work I was able to do there. I put it on my resume for obvious reasons (impress future employers, character building, new opportunities, etc).

Fast forward to current times and this same institution is under investigation for crimes involving minors. None of the occurrences being investigated happened while I was there and I do not think I met any of the people involved, but if an employer were to see my resume and google this institution out of curiosity the most recent results do not paint a positive picture.

Do current events reflect badly on my character to future employers even if I was not present and am no longer affiliated with this institution? I would like to have something to fill out the "Volunteer Work" part of my resume, but I feel like I should remove it so as to distance myself from the institution.

  • I don't see why it would unless it was a very small institution or you were directly involved in the department and/or people in the scandal. As a Penn State graduate, I've never had anyone question or wonder if I had any association with their child sex scandal despite my being a student there during the time of the scandal. – Johnny Nov 5 '15 at 20:54
  • 1
    @Johnny - sure, but you never know how many people have seen your resume and went "this guy is from PS, ugh!" – Davor Nov 6 '15 at 15:13
  • Have you considered accepting an answer? You have a 0% accept rate on 3 questions asked here. – smci Feb 1 '17 at 0:25
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Keep it on your resume, in anonymized form, e.g. "Volunteer coordinator, Education nonprofit" or "Intern, Environmental NGO"

This keeps the benefit and minimizes the risk.

So if they never ask for the name, you never have a problem.

And if/when they do ask for the name in interview or reference-checking, you say "The organization was X; I served between date Y and Z in function W. You may be aware they recently had a scandal, and I had no involvement whatsoever in that, and have multiple references for you on my work at X", so you preemptively mitigate the risk.

Many people jump to lazy conclusions from a name-association or a brief Google or LinkedIn search, and few do more diligence. But this solves things. And as time goes on, people will be less likely to ask or care about the name of something you volunteered in n years before. (And of course by then the investigation will have completed, so if asked, you can point out you clearly had no involvement in it, or knowledge thereof.)

33

Yes negative publicity can affect how you are viewed even if you were not involved. Ask the many people who worked at Enron about how their resumes were perceived after the scandal. Since this is volunteer work which typical counts very little in evaluating resumes, I would drop it.

  • I vaguely remember that the main problem with Enron was that basically everybody was actually involved? – Volker Siegel Mar 1 '18 at 22:26
  • No everyone was not involved. They had thousands of people who were not involved in the fraud. Certainly all senior managers were involved but not the rank and file. – HLGEM Mar 2 '18 at 14:23
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Long story short - Probably.

Although I personally do not feel that a situation like this should effect your next employment there is a good chance that if the person doing the hiring looks at it, there could be some negative questions about it/you. If it were me hiring, I would ask the question directly to you about it, and see if you would elaborate more on it and your thoughts (thus explaining everything). But most likely people would not normally do this.

My advice would be to answer questions about it up front and explain the situation (that you were not involved, happened after you left, you did not know the people, etc). I'd be specific to include dates on your resume as to when you worked there as well. Likely best to remove it until either the scandal blows over, just remove it for good.

  • I have made sure to include dates so if questions ever came up it would be easy for me to point out that I was not there at the time, etc. Although at this point maybe it would just be best to remove it from my resume so I don't have to deal with questions.... – Struggling Nov 5 '15 at 14:53
2

I would keep it on your resume if you are proud of the work you did there and wish to highlight this to future employers.

Be sure to make clear the dates you were at the organisation and be prepared with answers for any questions that prospective employers who have researched the organisation and have become aware of the investigations will no doubt ask.

1

There are few cognitive biases one called Illusionary correlation other Group attribution :

Illusory correlation:

Illusory correlation is the phenomenon of perceiving a relationship between variables (typically people, events, or behaviors) even when no such relationship exists. A common example of this phenomenon would be when people form false associations between membership in a statistical minority group and rare (typically negative) behaviors as variables that are novel or salient tend to capture the attention

Group attribution

The group attribution error is an attribution bias analogous to the fundamental attribution error in that it refers to people's tendency to believe either (1) that the characteristics of an individual group member are reflective of the group as a whole, or (2) that a group's decision outcome must reflect the preferences of individual group members, even when information is available suggesting otherwise.

Which would imply that if association is being made you might be looked negative upon. Removing it from you resume completely would be overreaction I think, one could simply obfuscate it in such a way to not make it obvious.

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