How should you clean a resume?
June 26, 2005 10:47 PM   Subscribe

My last job has been a terrible, terrible mess for which I am quite responsible. However, every other job I have had has gone well. How should I deal with this on my resume? I've even toyed with the idea of deleting the job entirely but this is difficult as it is my last job. Has anyone had similar experiences?
posted by sien to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Is there someone at that last job who would vouch favourably for you? If so, keep it in and only give their contact details.
The choice as to whether to delete the job from your record becomes more difficult if it lasted any decent length of time. If it lasted years then creative embroidery in your resume is not going to sew over the hole unless you can come up with some other explanation to account for the missing time. And employers invariably like to see continuity when they read the resumes.
If you have a contact at your prior job who will act as a referee and would not mind agreeing that you had worked at that facility longer than the reality, then you can fudge it that way.

Alternatively, include it in your resume but just don't provide contact details for referees from there. Then you have to come up with a succinct explanation ("it was good experience but not as impressive as my previous work" - type of thing) for an interview.

It's a hard question. Did you do anything bad or were you just slack/incompetent? The answer to that may make your decision about embroidery/alternative explanations a little easier.
posted by peacay at 11:45 PM on June 26, 2005

Careful sien, you give quite a bit of info on your linked site. I'd have emailed you but there's no address in your profile.
posted by tellurian at 12:26 AM on June 27, 2005

Similar thing here, except I didn't stuff up. I just had a horrible horrible see you en tee of a boss. Complete psychopath, she was.

Anyway, friend of mine in the HR game said to say on my resume that I still had the job! Prospective employers never check the referees of current jobs, for obvious reasons.

(I ended up getting a job without using that tactic. Personally, I thought it a bit too risky.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:16 AM on June 27, 2005

One possibility... listing a home business, without explicitly stating that it's your own. It might take some finesse to pull this off, but it becomes considerably easier if you've been sharpening/applying your skills somehow on your own time or have been doing some form of consulting. I know back when I worked for tha man I was usually doing stuff on the side, and any of that could have worked in a pinch.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:59 AM on June 27, 2005

I had a fiasco of a job. Not a mess which was my fault, but a useless boss I couldn't work with, until I quit. After a couple of lost opportunites due to that, I took it out of my CV, and claimed I'd been travelling. Worked for me.
posted by pompomtom at 4:58 AM on June 27, 2005

I suppose you could say you were travelling, but that would carry the danger of an escalating Seinfeld-style series of lies and deceit to cover your tracks. I'm not sure what it was that you messed up, but if I was interviewing and someone was able to honestly state what they did wrong in a previous job and demonstrate that they'd learnt from the experience, then that wouldn't stop me hiring them if I was confident they wouldn't do it again.
posted by chill at 5:27 AM on June 27, 2005

Nevernevernevernever lie on your resume.

posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:21 AM on June 27, 2005

Best answer: (1) Don't make too much of this. I hardly ever see resumes which don't have at least one short-term or failed job or extended period of unemployment, given five years of accelerating bubble craziness 95 to 2000 and five years of dislocation since. In my firm, and I think at most any firm you'd want to work for, hiring managers are smart enough to look at the whole picture. Unless you were or are about to be fired for some serious misconduct or gross personality problems, you could probably include one bad job and not have it kill you if your other job history is good.

(2). Fee free to edit and omit. Everyone understands that resumes are edited to put your best foot forward. You're certainly free to leave out a job, or substitute a sideline consulting or freelance gig for a bad recent full time job IF the consulting or freelancing was provably real.

(3). Don't lie. You can't put in a freelancing gig if you don't have any evidence to hang on it. You shouldn't say you were traveling if you were actually working. If you don't have a freelance or consulting substitute for the current position, and it ended badly enough that you don't want to put it on your resume, just leave the time blank. If asked, you could say that you had a short term job that you didn't think was relevant and didn't want to mislead potential employers about your qualifications...
posted by MattD at 6:22 AM on June 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

you don't have to have a reference from your latest job.

generally there's something positive to say. one of my entries is: Started as a single Java programmer writing to a dictated design; finished leading a small team (two programmers and web designer) to beat an impossible deadline with shifting requirements - that doesn't mention that the "design" was a complete mess; the breakdown i had; the screaming matches during meetings; that it was never deployed; that it took minutes to render a page. etc etc (i guess it helps that my boss disappeared without paying me at the end, so a reference was impossible... :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 6:41 AM on June 27, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks heaps folks, that's very good advice. For more detail, I undertook something that was, in retrospect, simply far too big a task and was promised all sorts of things that never appeared. Nonetheless I failed to get anything solid done. The company actually got it's main task done - to get more funding, but it was, well, that I'm not going into.
posted by sien at 3:39 PM on June 27, 2005

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