How do I fix my interview/HR screw up?
March 28, 2015 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I've been working freelance from multiple sources while looking for a perm job. I interviewed at a company and they asked what I was currently doing. I said that I've been working on Project A and Project B from Company C. They seemed very interested in Project B, but I realized afterwards that that project is not from Company C like I said, but from Company D (who I haven't been able to contact since the project ended). I'm an idiot, and HR wants to check references, what do I do?

I've been doing some part-time remote freelance work from multiple sources while I look for a permanent job position. I interviewed at a company a few weeks ago and they asked me what I was currently doing. I explained that I have been working on Project A (a longer project, but less technical) and Project B (a very short project a few months past, but more technical). They asked what company these were from and I replied Company C, since that's where I get the majority of my projects from. They seemed very interested in Project B (the short term one, that's more technical), but not so much in Project A (the longer, less technical one), so I went into more detail about Project B since that's what they asked about.

Here comes the part where I'm an idiot; contrary to what I had thought, in my interview addled state, Project B was actually by a different company, Company D, who I haven't been able to get in touch with after the project ended. Since I thought that the interview had gone poorly, I never clarified my slip up afterwards (another grand moment of idiocy), since I assumed I wouldn't get the position in a million years. But, the HR recruiter called me about the position a day or two ago and left a voice-mail wanting to "have a quick chat about my candidacy for the position on Monday", which I'm assuming means check references.

I guess this means I didn't do as badly as I thought in the interview (Yay!), but leaves me in a lurch on the references aspect (though, completely my own fault I'll admit).

The job isn't my dream job or anything, but I really need a permanent position and this one seems at least enjoyable/interesting and a decent fit for me.

HR people/any people of Mefi, what do I do in this situation?
How should I clarify my screw up to HR during the discussion?
Can I even fix this mistake without getting my "candidacy" trash canned?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)
It's an innocent mistake. You're making way too big a deal over It. If it even comes up, you just say "Oh, by the way, I misspoke the other day when I told you about Project B. It was actually for Company D. Oh you'd like a reference for that project? Unfortunately I don't have a contact there anymore. Let me give you references Y and Z instead "
posted by ottereroticist at 8:37 PM on March 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

Did you write any of the incorrect information down, or did you just say it wrong? Were you recorded? Was there a stenographer?

If you called me back after an interview to launch into a long clarification about all this, I definitely wouldn't hire you. The chances of me noticing that the three references you gave me - probably to do no more than verify dates of employment, or ask a few softball questions to see if you were liked/competent - don't precisely jibe with whatever you said during one of many interviews with candidates is so slim that pointing it out to me would come off as self-destructive.

You care about this about a thousand times more than they do. Did you describe work experience you actually had? Then you still had the experience, even if you brainfarted where you did it.

If they come back to you and read back your interview/testimony and ask if they understood correctly, you can tell them you misspoke.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:38 PM on March 28, 2015 [13 favorites]

This was during an interview where you mentioned that most of your projects had been for Company C. They asked about a particular project (Project B) you had been working on and you talked about it. So... There's room for a misunderstanding there. You failed to clarify or you could've misunderstood the question. Whatever it was, it was a simple case of misspeaking and not an attempt to lie. You can just say you misspoke.

When they ask for references, I would send the references along and include someone from Company D. When you send along the references, briefly explain your relationship to each reference and the key project(s) you worked with them on. This gives you the chance to make it clear before they call anyone asking about a project you never did with them. You can mention that you think you weren't clear during the interview about the particulars of the projects, but you'd be happy to talk about them further. If the recruiter calls you to talk about reference checks, you can mention it to him/her as well.

It's very possible you may need to do another interview or something. In that case, you may get a good chance to mention to misspoke -- you've done a lot of freelancing to keep track of and interview nerves got to you! I agree that you shouldn't call them back freaking out about this and launching into an explanation. They liked that you had done Project B and they liked that you worked for Company C -- you've still done both those things, so I really doubt this mix-up is enough to sink your candidacy. Don't make it seem like you were attempting to hide something -- just treat it as a small clarification.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:46 PM on March 28, 2015

I also came to say you are overthinking this. Good luck!
posted by harrietthespy at 11:09 PM on March 28, 2015

Reference checking is usually just confirming dates of employment. Most companies will not divulge more than this because it opens up the potential for lawsuit and it's not like they're getting anything out of it. I would seriously doubt your previous employers would be willing to talk about what sorts of projects you did for them, and most likely the person giving the reference is in HR and has no idea what you worked on anyway.

Long story short, don't sweat it, if it ever comes up, then clarify the mistake.
posted by pravit at 9:27 AM on March 29, 2015

Reference checking, as in speaking to references the candidate gives to the employer, for me has always involved asking about what the employee did and how well they did it. I am confused by the number of people on AskMeFi who claim reference checking means merely employment verification. I imagine employment verification would be done via calling up the former place of business and asking HR if So-and-So ever worked there. They wouldn't use someone's references to accomplish that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:51 PM on March 30, 2015

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