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I worked at a large bank and I took some food from the cafe at work. I know it was dumb. As a result I was fired. What would be the most effective and professional way to explain this to a hiring manager for future job applications? Or should I not list the job on my resume?

I'm 20 and I wasn't arrested or charged, so I don't have a record. But I was fired.

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  • @JoeStrazzere Most background checks go into criminal history. According to the OP he was just fired so it would not show up unless the background checks actually goes to the employer to verify why they were let go of. Even then they would probably not discuss it as it could be used against them. – Dan Aug 1 '16 at 14:27
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I would hesitate to hire anyone who broke any rule serious enough that they were fired on the spot. It doesn't really matter whether it was stealing, drinking on the job, poking around in confidential files, or whatever, it was bad, really bad.

So first, put the job on your resume. You worked there. Don't put why you left on your resume. If you get an interview, great! They don't always ask why you're looking for a new job. This might work out. Of course, if someone asks why you left, you will have to tell the truth. You have two approaches here.

In the first one, you start mild and basically make them drag it out of you. If they ask why you left, you say what you're looking for. If they ask "have you already quit?" you say you're available immediately. If they flat out ask were you fired, you admit yes, you were, due to a disagreement with your boss. And eventually they get the whole story. The upside to this is they may not persist all the way to the full story, and so you may be able to establish a "clean slate" at the new job, though I suspect you'll always worry you might be found out. The downside is, if they get to "fired for stealing" and they had to drag it out of you, you were trying to conceal it, they will not hire you. That's a risk.

The second approach will require you to do some deep thinking and learning in advance. Then when they ask why you left your job you say something like "I made a big mistake, an error in judgement. I did something foolish and they rightly fired me for it. The actual offense was minor - I shoplifted from the cafeteria because I had forgotten my lunch money - but the issue was my judgement. I know that now. I've learned from it." Be prepared to answer questions like "what would you do today if you found yourself in that situation again?" as well as detailed questions about whether charges were laid etc. The upside is that by being honest about your offense, you have a chance to show them you won't do it again. The downside is, they might decide it's not worth finding out.

Either way you stand a good chance of being well qualified for a job but not getting it. I recommend you try the second way first a few times. If it works, you'll be able to relax and put the past behind you. But if you have interviews end quickly after revealing the offense, you may want to try the first way for a while. Make sure you apply to a LOT of jobs and work HARD on your interviewing skills - you have a bit of an uphill battle, but should be able to overcome this eventually.

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    Excellent advice, particularly for the second approach, but keep in mind that many applications in the US include the question "Have you ever been fired?". – Lilienthal Jul 31 '16 at 20:04
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    @Lilienthal yup, no way around those. That's why having lots of applications underway at once is going to be important. This is someone who will get screened out early at many jobs and there's not much that can be done about it. – Kate Gregory Jul 31 '16 at 20:08
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    The actual offense was minor - I shoplifted from the cafeteria because I had forgotten my lunch money - I strongly disagree with the "minor" phrasing here... stealing even relatively small items is not "minor". I don't say this out of pedantry, but because I feel many employers could be concerned that you're trivialising a very serious offence by describing it as minor. – Jon Story Aug 1 '16 at 15:25
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    shoplifting is minor compared to bank robbery, drunk driving, murder, running a Ponzi scheme for 20 years, kidnapping a baby from the maternity ward, running a cocaine-smuggling ring, or working as a torturer. But theft at work and especially when you work at a bank is not minor. That is the point of the sentence you quoted part of. I'm not in favour of theft, but calling it a "very serious offence" doesn't leave you much outrage scale to apply to, say, child molestors. – Kate Gregory Aug 1 '16 at 15:29
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    I honestly don't think that "coming clean" is going to earn too much trust. – AndreiROM Aug 1 '16 at 23:37
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Find a new career, fired for theft as security at a bank is about the worst thing you could have done. I wouldn't hire you to look after the carpark.

Don't bother looking for work at another bank, and your time in the security industry is finished for any serious work. You could still get a job as a bouncer or something though.

Apart from that there are plenty of jobs around if you're not too fussy who wouldn't even ask if you have been fired before, and you're only young, you'll live this down pretty quickly. Just learn from it.

Either don't steal again, or next time you rob a bank, make sure you take enough that unemployment isn't a problem. A sandwich isn't worth the risk.

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  • Of course you should leave it off, it was a bad dream, but don't try another bank, and don't get into serious security, both will check and find out. – Kilisi Aug 1 '16 at 4:09
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    @TYREEfreeman forget working in security, that door is almost certainly closed to you now: at least for a few years – Jon Story Aug 1 '16 at 15:26
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You need to be truthful if asked, or if a spot on the employment application asks whether you were ever terminated "with cause," because the HR department might do due-diligence in this case. If they called the bank, they would be told that you had been terminated "with cause," and that it was not a criminal offense. They probably are not allowed to say more. A criminal background-check will come up clean.

The position taken by a bank, and by, say, any large IT organization, is that "if you steal a small thing, you might also steal a large thing." It doesn't matter what you stole: it matters (to them) that "you stole."

Nevertheless, this is "a hard life-lesson learned," not "a mark of Cain." And you just might present it that way, if asked. Why did you steal food? Because you were hungry ... and the interviewer is likely to understand that. Naturally, you'd prefer to let the mistake lie buried, but if it is uncovered do not deny it. Present it as something dumb, that you sorely regret, and be utterly sincere. (As you obviously are.)

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Was it really dumb? Yes. Will you ever get hired again? I'm sure that you will. At this point you probably don't have a lot of work history so depending on how long you had the job you may need to keep it on your resume. When asked, don't be cagey about the fact that you were laid off; at the same time I would not offer the explanation that you stole food. Say that you "were not a fit for the company's culture" instead; most interviewers understand what that means now and will make the decision thusly.

You may find that you need to take a "step down" in your next job - another bank for example may not hire you off the street after you were let go from a similar position. But you are young and have plenty of time to, for example, work in retail, climb the ladder so to speak, and after a few years go back to working as a teller or whatever if that is what you really want to do. Needless to say, in the meantime, you probably want to hold off on stealing peoples' lunches.

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    Most of this answer I liked, but suggesting the OP saying they "were not a fit for the company's culture" when they were terminated for theft is bad advice, if they check it a nohire, but being honest and upfront may get a second chance. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jul 31 '16 at 20:09
  • Leaving it off would be a decent answer too, but I don't see a lot of real positives towards disclosing to future potential employers that you committed a crime at your last job. – NotVonKaiser Aug 1 '16 at 14:55
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How long was that job? short enough that skipping it completely in the CV is possible? I would rather have a break of 6-12 Months in my CV with some innocent explanation (traveling?) than being fired for theft.

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  • I am mentioning this as an option. Maybe it appeals to people who steal more than to me. It is not a real lie if you don't list every job you had. However if they explicitly ask you if you have been fired or had a job before, then it would be a lie. Dont do that, since lying in an applicaiton is a reason fro immediate termination. – Sascha Aug 2 '16 at 19:54
  • No, it is not a lie not to list everything in your CV. When you are asked, you must not lie. But if the interviewer is happy with a 3 month gap and does not get the idea to ask "what did you do in that time" (actually i would expect this question), it's his problem. – Sascha Aug 6 '16 at 1:24

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