What to do about putting a previous job that I was fired from on my resume?
February 12, 2011 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I just went through an extended period of depression and ended up getting fired for missing work. What to do now?

I don't fault my former employers for firing me, I was working part time and had a no-show no-call for several days in a row. I'm not in a position to get the job back, and I'm ok with that. What I'm more concerned with is what to put on my resume. If I put the job on my resume, are they likely to call the company to find out why I stopped working for them? Or is it safe to keep it there, given that they've been my employment for the past 6 months?

It was a tutoring job and I'd like to keep working in the education area (I'm trying to get into grad school, etc.), and now that I've gotten myself together (saw shrink, dealt with stuff, stabilized, etc.) I'd like to try applying for a job at another company. There was no non-compete clause, so I'm ok there.

My principle concern is my resume and references.

Throw away email: fired.depression.question@gmail.com (my attempts at a clever name that was almost 30 characters long about how long a gmail name I could make were all taken)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't put the job on your resume, it'll look like you've been unemployed for far longer than you have been. Put it on there and you'll make a better first impression, and deal with the why-you-left part in the interview.

For that, you can say you had a serious illness and left to focus on your health, and now that you have recovered you're looking for new opportunities. All of this is true. If they press further and ask if you quit or were fired, you can say something like "the company and I mutually agreed to part ways."

Most employers can only give your dates of employment to people who call. If you're looking for a personal reference, there is probably someone you worked with who viewed you highly and can say a few good things about you, doesn't always have to be a supervisor.

Being fired doesn't mean you're now unemployable. If that were the case, hardly anyone would have a job.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

You might want to think twice about volunteering stories having to do with health, serious illness, etc.. It was a part-time job, and you left. I'm not sure you need any kind of story at all - hou weren't happy there, and you and that company parted ways, blah blah. Do you have someone at that job you knew and got along with? And do you have stronger resume items from the past that you can focus on? Don't shoot yourself in the foot here.
posted by facetious at 2:01 PM on February 12, 2011

I have a recruiting firm and as such deal with these situations quite often. As a general rule, never lie on a resume or application. The chances of it slipping through are quite slim, and if you are hired and later found to have made misrepresentations on applications, you will almost certainly be fired.

Unless you had some arrangement with your former employer where you were paid under the table and there was no record of you having worked there, a six month or year gap in employment is not unusual in today’s job market and is easily explained. But if there is any record of employment you must include it.

While it’s true that many large companies will only confirm dates of employment and earnings, some firms may be more forthcoming, but this is out of your control. In a situation like this you should be truthful without offering more information than you need to. I agree whole heartedly with facetious that you should not be volunteering information on any health issues.

So, proceed as follows. Give the correct dates and earnings of your previous employment, and if they want a reference from that company, give the name of someone with whom you had a good repoire. Now you would be well within your rights to call this person asking if it would be ok if you used them as a reference and chat them up a bit. Now you have to wait and see what happens. My guess is that all will probably go well from here, but you may be asked to embellish about your departure from the company, maybe account for days you were out and didn’t call in.

If this was just a few days as you say, then saying you had a family crisis will most likely suffice. If it’s really a week or two then that’s diff-ernt and you might have some splainin’ to do. Just take it a step at a time, wait to see what comes back and explain things as you need to. I think you’ll be fine.

People understand that things come up and sometimes one is forced to act out of character. Maybe you’ll get the job and maybe you won’t, just tell the truth (as much as you need to) and see how it plays out, and let the chips fall where they may. That’s really all you can do. Don't obsess over it, it was a part time job. Just remember, never misstate anything on your resume or applications, it’s and invitation for trouble.
posted by PaulBGoode at 5:36 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a couple of gaps in employment history which I explain as going backpacking. Hasn't been a problem so far.
posted by Bubbles Devere at 6:24 PM on February 13, 2011

You can do some temp work and/or volunteering in your field to build new references as well.
posted by mbird at 10:12 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

In general, for both resumes/applications and interviews, the key is to be honest but don't volunteer negative info.

IMO, six months is too long of a period to leave off of your resume right now. I think you should include the job like you would any other because otherwise it will seem like you've been unemployed for a long time.

Long-term, this will cease to be an issue once you've worked at a new place for a while (at least six months, so that your new experience is longer than your old experience). Then you can have the job on your resume but just not give any reference contact info for it. Future reference checkers down the road will be primarily concerned with talking to your most recent supervisor. If they do ask you for a reference for that old six-month stint you had a while ago, you can answer something along the lines of "Sorry, I'm not in contact with anyone there anymore." They will probably be too lazy to look up the company's phone number themselves.

If you really want to eventually drop the job off your resume entirely someday, once you've put in at least a year at your next job, you can obscure the gap by listing start/stop dates in years instead of months. Assuming you find a new job by the end of the year then it would appear as if you ended a job in 2010 and started a new one in 2011 and no one really knows if there was one week or 23 months between them.

Another possibility is if you end up doing some freelance private tutoring in the near future, you can list the entire period as "Tutoring, Various Employers, 2010 - 20XX" and give contact info for your satisfied freelance clients for your references for that period.

The key thing to remember about resumes is to present yourself in the best possible light without lying. Condensing the entirety of your employment experience to one or two pages necessitates leaving stuff off anyway, so you don't have to include every short-term job or individual employer if you don't want to.

Whatever you do, do NOT make something up to cover the period -- leaving jobs off a resume is OK, but making up fictional jobs or fudging the dates of other jobs is the sort of thing that will screw you later. Also, if you ever have to fill out a formal application form and it says in writing somewhere on the form's instructions to include all former employers for the past X years, don't leave any off. A common tactic of companies wanting to reduce headcounts is to go back through all their employees' old applications with a fine-toothed comb and fire anyone who lied on their resume or application. Because this firing is "for cause" this prevents collecting unemployment benefits in many states.

Short-term, leaving the job on your resume (so you don't appear to have been unemployed for a long time) leaves you with two potential "danger points": one during the reference checking process and one during the interview process.

For the reference checks:

I used to do HR (amongst other things) for a small company and one thing I learned while checking everyone's references is that almost no one besides me ever actually thoroughly checks references! It seems most reference checkers (if they check at all) just call the provided references at their provided contact information -- they don't bother to look up the company's contact information on their own or insist on talking to the applicant's actual former supervisor. So, they might not check with your former supervisor at all, and only call whomever you list as your reference for that job (if they call your references at all).

So, is there anyone at your former job who could provide a good or at least neutral reference for you? A coworker? A tutee? Or is your former supervisor kind enough to just confirm the dates you worked there but refuse to say anything else about you? (Many larger companies have a policy of only confirming dates of employment anyway, although some others will also state whether or not a former employee would be rehireable.)

For the interview:

If you're asked directly in an interview if you were fired, I would error on the side of telling the truth that you were fired. When I was checking references, the main thing I was looking for was whether the applicant's story matched the information I was able to find elsewhere. I didn't expect everyone to be perfect and never have had any problems at a former employer. But I needed to know that they were honest with me. (One applicant told me that he had been laid off from his previous job due to lack of business. I called his supervisor and found out that he had actually been fired for borrowing the company truck without permission and then accidentally crashing it. If the applicant had been honest with me about his mistake he would have still been under consideration for employment, but lying to me was an automatic no-hire.)

However, even while being honest about being fired, you don't have to go into detail. I agree with facetious that it's a bad idea to allude to a health problem or anything else that could be perceived as an unresolved, ongoing issue. Instead I would answer something along the lines of, "I had a personal crisis that caused me to no-show/no-call for several days in a row and I was fired as per company policy. That crisis has since been resolved and I don't anticipate having any further attendance issues." (I am assuming this is true since you saw shrink, got stabilized, etc.)

If you're not asked directly whether you were fired but just why you left the job, you can honestly respond that it was "for personal reasons." If they seem concerned about that or press for more detail, you can reassure them with something along the lines of, "the circumstances were unique to that situation and won't affect me at my next job."

I'm glad to hear that you're getting over your depression and taking constructive steps towards putting your life back together! Good luck!!!
posted by Jacqueline at 8:13 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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