Why did I touch the darn book?
August 26, 2006 4:23 PM   Subscribe

I was fired for a ridiculous reason. Do I discuss it in interviews or should I make up a polite but evasive response?

I was working as an independent contractor at an office. My boss called and told me I was being fired for "looking at the appointment book". She was basically accusing me of stealing client contact information to use for my own gain, but never came out and said that. Do I actually tell potential employers this and hope that they can see it's ridiculous (aka would I be looking for another job if I was stealing clients?) or should I say my contract was terminated due to personal differences?
posted by blueskiesinside to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't ever speak badly of a former employer. It will make you look petty. Period.
posted by alexmikayla at 4:26 PM on August 26, 2006

You needn't discuss it at all, really. As an independent contractor, saying simply that your contract ended -- and it did -- should suffice.

Might the former client reveal more? I don't believe so. At least here in Georgia, a previous employer can only answer a limited number of referential questions. IIRC, this is limited to salary, dates employed and rehire-ability.
posted by grabbingsand at 4:26 PM on August 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't discuss it. However you describe it is more likely to make you look bad in front of a potential future client than not mentioning it at all. Move on.
posted by normy at 4:50 PM on August 26, 2006

As grabbingsand said, the amount of information a past employer can release about your employment is severely limited by current legislation. Saying that your contract ended, or some other stock independent-contract reason should suffice.
posted by ifranzen at 4:59 PM on August 26, 2006

What they said. I have been trying to remember if I was ever asked why any of my contracts ended, and I can't remember being asked that.

Use someone at the company you have a good relationship with as a reference - it need not be your boss.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:30 PM on August 26, 2006

Folks, one either gets the rights and responsibilities of independent contractor, or employee, but not both.

If your status was in fact as a contractor, just say the contract "reached its end". Many people will take that to mean its natural end, but your answer is nevertheless true and fair. However, as a contractor note that you have none of the protections of a former employee. If the former client wants to say your work was inadequate or your professional conduct was called into question, he can. If he says something provably untrue that damages your business, you no doubt could sue. But if he merely repeats the "looking at the appointment book" line, there's probably nothing you can do about it.

Look, it's not like this was your only client, right? Unlike employment applications, contractors don't usually aren't obligated to disclose everyone they've ever done work for. So just don't mention him. Give out references who you know will speak well of your workmanship and ethics.

If his name comes up anyway, speak well of him, well of the company, proudly of your contribution to the project, "...oh and let me tell you about the terrific new project I'm working on now that that one has reached its end!"

P.S. Did this just happen? 'Cuz unless "looking at the apointment book" violates some term of the agreement, he can't just break the contract on his own little whim. It's probably not worth it to try to sue for the balance unless the amount would have been big, BUT you can use this fact to negotiating a graceful ending for both of you: he commits to providing a positive reference for the work you completed, while you agree to release him from the remainder of his contractual obligation (which also allows you to honestly say that the decision to end the contract was MUTUAL).
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2006

(P.P.S. I should have been clearer on the suing-a-client issue: even when completely justified, it's VERY unlikely to be worth it. Clients are notoriously leery of bringing in someone known to have dragged a client into court. Plus this guy's absurd paranoid accusation will become a matter of court records. Yuck.)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:56 PM on August 26, 2006

I don't know what you should do, but I can tell you this:

I've worked as an independent contractor, and every job I tried to book ALWAYS asked me to provide a letter of recommendation from my last client[s].

And, the best rec' I ever got was from someone who 'fired' me from a project due to personal differences. The letter mentioned the falling out, but was so positive that it got me the next job anyway.
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2006

Working directly with interviewee's, and HR departments in my last 4 jobs, I would HIGHLY recommend you stay as FAR away from negative things as possible. It will make YOU look negative if you dwell on the issues. The number of potential candidates that I have seen dismissed simply because they spoke negatively of former employers, often by NAME, or company name is astounding.

You never know who knows who. Be tactful.
posted by SirStan at 8:15 PM on August 26, 2006

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