I was terminated for watching inappropriate content in the company laptop.

I talked to HR and they told me they wont release the reason of termination or even that I was terminated. They will just release the dates of employment, my last position title and my last salary.

What should I answer in the application form to the question reason for leaving? And what about in the interview?

I was thinking to say that it was a voluntary separation (quit) but it is difficult to come up with an explanation when my salary was $150k (including bonus) and I would be willing to take jobs starting in $60k.

I can also say that I was laid off for many reasons. However, it won't be a little suspicious that when they call the HR of my last company they only release dates of employment, title and salary?

  • 17
    Why are you applying to $60k jobs if you have the potential for $150k jobs?
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 19:28
  • 1
    I have family and live in a not very large city, so no a lot of positions open above $100K if you don't have the appropriate connections. I worked for many years in this company so don't have many connections outside this company.
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 19:35
  • 2
    What was on your laptop and when was it viewed?
    – blankip
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 4:47
  • 4
    Reason for leaving: "I discovered my former employer was monitoring my computer use without my knowledge or consent; I don't want to work somewhere that treats employees like children".
    – aroth
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 6:55
  • 2
    @aroth At many companies, your USE of company IT equipment signifies implied consent. It's a part of internal control ensuring proper use of company assets. Not monitoring puts company at risk
    – Anthony
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 1:00

4 Answers 4


There's not much we can say to help you.

You can always spin it in your favor and hope they don't go digging too hard:

Interviewer: So why did you quit Company XYZ?
You: It was a great place, and I enjoyed my time there, I really learned a lot. However, I found that I wasn't really a good fit for the company culture.

However, let's be real: if they know you were making twice as much they're going to be suspicious.

Your best bet is not to reveal that information, advice I would give anyone going into an interview, not only yourself. I, for example, personally make a point to refuse to state my current salary - only my salary goals. I hope that you can get away with doing the same where you're from, and that you can ask your former employer to withhold salary information as being personal data. If you can't, then you may wish to tell a half truth:

Interviewer: So why did you quit Company XYZ?
You: To be truthful, the reason I left company XYZ is because I was terminated for cause. The fault was entirely my own: I used the company laptop for personal entertainment, and it was a violation of company policy, even thought it happened on my own time. I learned a lot from this incident, and ... (you tell them how sorry you are, and how much more mature you are now)

In this situation it's very important to:

  • A) Downplay your offense (make it more like you were playing video games than doing .. other things)

  • B) Thoroughly explain how you've "learned your lesson", and would never do anything like that again

If you're at all suspicious about what the company might say if contacted for comment you could potentially ask a friend to call, pretending to be a recruiter. Some people do this, some people think it's silly. You decide if it makes sense for you.

  • 27
    Heh, I mean, "I wasn't a fit for the company culture" isn't wrong per se. The company had a culture against watching porn on one's work laptop and he wasn't a fit for that aspect. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 15:15
  • 9
    The second approach might not be as bad as it initially appears based on research about revealing embarrassing details.
    – 2cents
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 18:26
  • +1 for honesty (and especially with the intriguing article Cecilla linked).
    – mattdm
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:39
  • 1
    And some companies just don't care if you use a company laptop for personal entertainment on your own time. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 23:17
  • @MichaelHampton Installing unapproved software (i.e. games) on company hardware on or off the clock is usually frowned upon. I could believe that installing Steam could get a person fired. Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 3:02

A potential employer is probably going to ask if you would be eligible for rehire -- how would your HR answer that question?

My advice is to not volunteer anything, but be honest if asked directly. "Misuse of IT resources" is probably all you need to say if really pressed. I didn't get along with one of my previous supervisors (several jobs ago) and was eventually let go, and I've always answered honestly (though I really didn't get asked about it very often): "differences with management."

Being fired cost me one job offer as far as I know, but I still found something else fairly quickly and it hasn't been an issue since (Especially now that it is many years in the past).

As an aside, if you were making $150k, you should have been able to afford your own personal laptop/tablet/etc. for watching 'inappropriate content.', if that's really something you need to do (if this habit has cost you at least one good job already, maybe you should find something else to do with your spare time, or get some help if it has become an addiction for you). I'm amazed people still get caught doing this sort of thing.

  • 9
    I would think in most IT circles, finding out someone was fired specifically for "Misuse of IT resources" to be quite a huge red flag (at least in some of the industries I have worked in). I'd consider finding a more.. "gentle" way of phrasing the same thing. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Sh4d0wsPlyr It depends. "Misuse of resources" can be anything from watching... um.... "adult" content to plugging in a flash drive that was not cleared through IT. I know of one place that WILL discipline or even fire someone for plugging a smart phone into the USB port, so it's not the huge red flag it once was. NOT GOOD, by any means, but not the career killer it once was. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 19:43
  • 2
    I'm neutral on being vague about the reason for being fired, but +1 for the advice on getting help.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:57
  • I would not admit "misuse of company resources."
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 0:17
  • @Sh4d0wsPlyr - You're probably right. Perhaps "differences with management" would work here as well -- hey, it works for everything :)
    – James Adam
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 1:33

Say that the company reduced staff (you). It's not a lie. If you say it was voluntary, then they're going to press you on the issue, which will lead to your having to explain what made you want to leave.

To be honest with you, it's a hard one to overcome. The bigger red flag to HR departments would be a willingness to take such a huge pay cut. Do NOT advertise that fact.

Also, get to doing volunteer work ASAP. It ALWAYS looks good on a resume and will fill the gap as well as giving you something to focus on other than your last employer


I would not mention why I was released. As long as you have learned your lesson, what good would come of it?

I find "I left the company because I felt like it was time for new challenges" is a reasonable response.

Regarding the salary difference, "The salary was great and I'm going to miss it. But wasn't worth the negative effect on my life."

I left my previous job because of the negative affect on my health.

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