It's not BP
December 9, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

For two years, I worked for an organization that now has a bad reputation. Should I include it on my resume?

About five years ago, I worked at a large organization that, within the past few years, has gotten a really, really bad reputation. Probably partly deservedly (and they definitely had some crummy practices when I was there), but most of it is due to the fact that it became a catchall for everything that was wrong with a certain industry. I imagine the majority of Americans wouldn't recognize the name, but among those who do, most would probably have a bad reaction.

I worked there for a little over two years. I started out in an entry level position, and received two promotions. I was not really involved in the sort of stuff that the org is known for.

I'm not hugely proud of the work I did there but I'm not ashamed, either; my first two positions were heavily administrative. In my last position, I had several projects that were meaningful to me, and it helped put me on the track that I am am on now. I've done similar work at other organizations since.

I'm wondering if I should include this job on my resume for both work or for a graduate program application. Because I worked there so long, I don't want to have those blank spaces on my resume, and I did do things that are applicable and meaningful to what I want to do now. However, I'm afraid just the name of the place is a huge turn-off to people, and may make them toss my resume or application aside. I will likely be applying to graduate school in a year, so I am thinking about both current jobs and future school plans.

Any advice?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, include it. People read resumes for what it says about you, like your skills and experience. If they are politically simplistic ("with us or against us") people, then think twice, but you probably don't want work for someone who can't see past the organization's name to your job title and progress.
posted by salvia at 10:49 PM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

Include it.

It would be a long gap on your resume without it. Also, when you fill out the formal application, you'll be asked to list all jobs.

Look at it this way - lots of people worked at Enron with a relatively small number involved in the actual shenanigans. Many people went to work there every day and did their level best. There's really no reason for those people to be ashamed of having worked at a company that collapsed. Why wouldn't they list that as an employer?
posted by 26.2 at 11:16 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely include it. It has to be better than a two year hole. If it ever comes up in an interview, you can explain your role, what you learned, and why you left.

I used to recruit in an industry that always had a black sheep or two, but we didn't hold it against junior-level applicants.

Was it AED?
posted by charmcityblues at 11:20 PM on December 9, 2010

Include it. You have an excellent opportunity to make your cover letter actually, truly stand out from those of masses.
posted by halogen at 12:05 AM on December 10, 2010

Is there a parent company or an umbrella corporation you can list instead? I once worked at a place with a terribly sketchy reputation (it was a start-up at the time! I didn't know what I was getting into! waaah!). I list it on my resume under the massive parent company's name, with the general division noted, but not the smaller company, which is far more recognizable. But I was always honest with people I interviewed with in person about which specific group I had been with.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:16 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Federal government, huh? Tough break.

Seriously, though: yes, include it. It's (a) better than leaving a big blank time period and (b) involves legitimate work that used your specific skill sets. Also, you were promoted there twice. And it does provide something to joke about a little in the interview, which could cause both of you to relax. (And relaxing during a job interview is always good.)
posted by honeydew at 1:02 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Include it. When I worked in HR shortly after Enron went boom, we saw lots of resumes from people who had previously worked at Enron and Arthur Andersen. It wasn't that we were getting more of those than usual, it was just that it was noticeable to those of us screening resumes because those names were in the news so much. Even so, the companies' bad reps didn't affect the resume-screening process, rarely came up in interviews, and were never an issue when it came to hiring someone. It's your individual experience and qualifications that matter most, and you definitely don't want to have to explain a huge blank spot, because then you either have to lie (which is not the impression you want to make) or tell them why you left it off (which is just the same as including it in the first place).
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:20 AM on December 10, 2010

I've worked for Miller Brewing (which was part of Philip Morris at the time), Halliburton, Enron (all the way until it collapsed), ExxonMobil, and even the BP you mention in your question's title. All are on my resume. Having these companies listed on my resume has not held me back at all. People understand that you can work for a company without having been part of a scandal.

The hardest part, I think, is keeping an interview on track. During interviews, my advice is to keep the gossiping out and do not speak negatively of your former employer. Since interviewers are human, after all, they sometimes have a desire to get "the inside scoop" or to share their viewpoints and encourage you to agree. Have some answers ready, like "Yes, it was shocking news to me, too, but I had some great opportunities there, like working on the XYZ project... [segue back to your experience and skills]".
posted by Houstonian at 3:01 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

It would only be a huge turnoff to really idealistic people -- probably not a problem unless the jobs and grad school programs are idealistic-type things that deal directly with that issue. So, say, if you worked at Blackwater and now you're trying to get a job at Amnesty, you would need to explain yourself -- and you could probably spin it in some interesting way. But the average person in corporate america or higher ed probably won't care that much. In any event, it's a bad idea to leave such extensive experience off the resume. Not only do you end up with a huge gap, but it also looks dishonest.
posted by yarly at 5:17 AM on December 10, 2010

Honesty and openness are the best policy when writing a resume.

You need to include it.
posted by Flood at 6:43 AM on December 10, 2010

I go along with the "include it" crowd. Aside from the really fanatical idealists, as yarly points out, most interviewers are going to care about your skills and how consistently you were employed - unless your name is Tony Hayward or Ken Lay.

Nobody (well, hardly anybody) blames the rank-and-file employees of places lilke Enron or Blackwater. Most hirers have enough experience in corporate America (or corporate Anywhere) to know that the rank-and-file people aren't responsible for the misdeeds of those at the top.

The only exception is the small minority of VERY idealistic fields and/or companies with VERY high standards. Even these, you probably can spin somehow - "In working at Blackwater from XX to XX, I learned a lot about how oil spills affect the environment, and what the best procedure is for preventing them."
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:54 AM on December 10, 2010

I worked at Fox News for a few months. I put it on my resume and still managed to find work afterwards. When it came up in job interviews, it would be like, "Wow, that must've been interesting, huh?" I would concur, and they would sort of laugh. I don't feel like it held me back from finding employment with less notorious companies. Don't worry about it.
posted by wondermouse at 8:30 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I worked for Arthur Andersen, in their headquarters, many years before the big scandalous implosion. I only recently dropped it because it goes back so many years and isn't relevant to what I do now. I also worked (prior to that) for a company with a super-sketchy reputation, even when I worked there, but it was all I could get at the time (and only recently dropped it from my resume for the same reason as the other.) Don't sweat it.
posted by davejay at 1:07 PM on December 10, 2010

I worked for a time at a political organization that definitely might provoke a strong reaction from those who didn't see things from my point of view. Worried a lot about whether anyone would hire me outside of that field but it didn't seem to matter to the (completely non-political) organization that eventually did. (I didn't apply at Fox News, though it would have been hilarious if I had.) The job skills are what really count.
posted by citron at 9:06 PM on December 10, 2010

I still put my Arthur Andersen job on my resume (the shredding jokes stopes after about 5 years.)
posted by vespabelle at 9:31 AM on December 11, 2010

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