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Handling Interviews After Being a Fall Guy?

Cliff posted more than 6 years ago | from the unpoisoning-the-pill dept.

Businesses 140

bheer asks: "Salon's Since You Asked column is carrying an interesting question right now — what do you say in interviews after getting fired as a fall guy at your last job? Cary Tennis, who writes the column, admits he may not be the best person for this sort of question. So I thought I'd ask others what they thought about this. Software developers are sometimes able to get away blaming the business requirements/analysis process, but anyone with any experience in this business probably has had nightmares about being the fall guy and may even have a strategy or two up their sleeve. How would deal with being in such a crummy position?"

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Strategery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19165771)

and may even have a strategy or two up their sleeve.
Which will surely be just as useful after being posted to a high-traffic and very Googleable website.

Let either the stony silence or the march of the ACs begin!

a "novel" idea. (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165839)

what do you say in interviews after getting fired as a fall guy at your last job?

I dunno, writing a book seems to have worked out for George Tenet.

Re:a "novel" idea. (2, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165933)

Three ways, only one leads to employment.
1) bitch that you were the fall guy and that it wasn't your fault, etc.
2) Say your employment was terminated as a business separation that was for the companies good, even though you were not the actual issue.
3) Quit before you're fired.
-nB

resumé laundering (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19172863)

(Posting anon for should-be-obvious reasons)

Not quite the same situation, but I faced a similar dilemma when I got fired not too long ago. They said it was for violating a company policy; I say it was a minor verbal-warning-level infraction, and the real reason was I'd been interviewed on local TV as a "gay rights advocate" and the good-ole-boy management didn't want a known homo on staff. Answering the "why did you leave?" question in subsequent interviews was tricky, because neither version would endear me to your typical hiring manager.

So, my solution was to stop putting myself in the position of being asked. Instead I went back to school, and picked up an MBA. After that, a glance at the timeline on my resumé removed the question from their minds, and if they did ask, a simple (and factual) "I went back to school for my MBA" dismissed it. And the extra degree didn't hurt either.

Re:resumé laundering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19174157)

Or if there is enough time after the job you were fired from you can say I left to work as an independent consultant and I realized it wasn't as fulfilling as working full time with a single company. So I am looking to become part of a team again.

Re:a "novel" idea. (3, Insightful)

bwt (68845) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166545)

I'm baffled by this question. Under no circumstances would I explain the real answer. Why I left the previous job is "none of your damn business" if you are my prospective new employer. If they ask a question like that, you don't have any obligation to explain. I would give platitudes like "It was time for a change", "I left because of politics", "I am ready for something new", "I need to grow professionally". If they press for details I would say something like "nobody leaves jobs if everything is great".

Re:a "novel" idea. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19167405)

"Why I left the previous job is "none of your damn business" "

So were cool why we aren't hiring you here....

"It was time for a change"

How long is it going to be before you want a change here?

"I left because of politics"

Then you really won't like this job.

"I am ready for something new"

Then why you applying for pretty much the same job here?

"I need to grow professionally"

And when you do, you are welcome to reapply. Thank You.

I'm sure this is just geek bravado...but with this attitude, I know I'm not going to hire you. I've hired several people that have been fired in the past. I've also given recommendations for folks I've had to ask to leave. Sometimes a job just doesn't work out. When someone asks about it, you put as much of a positive spin on things as possible and move to the next question. Hell, I've asked these sorts of questions and dug in because I want the real dirt and seeing how this person handled it is an insight to their character.

I can safely say I have been fired once. When asked about it, I told my future boss that if he ever tried to put his hands on my ass, I'd punch him too. And then we laughed about it. Some reason, knocking out an employer seemed to be something he didn't see as a bad thing. Actually said that even though he wasn't going to touch me, I might still want to beat the shit out of him at some point. Probably the best job I've EVER had.

Unfortunately, I've moved up several times since then, still at the same employment while my old boss is running some school in Alabama or something. I'll have to post this anonymously because its better for me to give the information about alleged beat downs personally than have it show up in google where it is a little harder to explain.

(As a side note, sadly, the bad boss was brought up on child porn charges a few months after this...he was a dirty creepy freak when I worked for him, but I *REALLY* didn't believe he was more than just a run of the mill sleaze...at the same time, I've never met anyone that set me on edge like that whenever he'd try to get any of us interns alone...I've never hit anyone that didn't physically attack me before or after that day).

You're silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19167607)

You're being silly. It is understood that people will leave jobs. It is understood that sometimes it is just "time" to go, and no one presses you beyond "It was time to move on". I mean, maybe if this is a "C" level job, but for a regular staff job? Just what *is* a good reason for you? That they were so impressed by your little company that they had to leave their job to come and work for you?

And as to your idea about references, no *sane* company these days gives more than a "is not rehireable" or "is rehireable".

By giving your opinion in representation, you're opening yourself and lawyer up to significant lawsuits and damage.

What will you say at your next job interview? "I was a dumbass and didn't know when send people to the HR department. But please hire me because I won't do *that* again".

Nice touch bringing up "child porn" charges anonymously. I guess "wife beating" is too mundane? Going for the gold with the baseless charge from an anonymous source? Maybe you could work in "agent of Al Queda" next anonymous post?

By extension... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19170603)

"I was dismissed from my last job."
Then you're probably not a stellar worker.

"I left my last job voluntarily."
How do we know you won't just up and leave this one?

"I'm between jobs right now."
You're idle.

"I'm still employed but looking to change positions."
You're taking company time for personal business.


If their intent is to find faults, they will find faults.

Re:By extension... (1)

CyanDisaster (530718) | more than 6 years ago | (#19173405)

"I was dismissed from my last job."
Then you're probably not a stellar worker.


Maybe, maybe not. Management may have tried to save themselves by sacrificing someone lower than them.

"I left my last job voluntarily."
How do we know you won't just up and leave this one?


Is it wrong to leave a job that you don't like or has no room for promotions? I'm sure you wouldn't want to be flipping burgers until retirement.

"I'm between jobs right now."
You're idle.


Being unemployed doesn't necessarily mean being idle.

"I'm still employed but looking to change positions."
You're taking company time for personal business.


Maybe he's taken some time off from work, where he's not getting paid for not working.

To me, it almost sounds like you wouldn't hire anyone because you've got a negative attitude as to why they're looking for work in the first place. Do you honestly believe that people don't have legitimate reasons for looking for a new, possibly better, job? I left my last job because my boss pretty much refused to listen to what anyone else had to say, in addition to being overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. That, and I found it difficult to work with a coworker whose work ethic was terrible. Does that sound like the sort of place where you would like to work? Probably not. Although I can understand that your thoughts may apply to some people, I can assure you, they don't apply to everyone.

Hope be with ye,
Cyan

Finding landmines. (4, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167627)

I was trained to interview and hire by a guy with 15+ years of experience. He taught me that questioning the reason for leaving a prior employer is one of the fastest ways to separate candidates.

The more detailed and impersonal explanations about shortcomings or roadblocks to advancement that existed in a previous workplace typically pointed to a better candidate. Why? Analysing frustrations or failures without integrating personal emotions exhibits political IQ... hugely important in mid to large size companies. Being able to provide detailed explanations about the causes of frustrations or failures demonstrates scope of vision... a massive indicator of an employee's ability to deal with compromise/problem solving in the workplace through an understanding of the pressures and demands that shape production across multiple interrelated divisions.

You might be amazed at the number of job candidates who look great on paper but boil their lack of advancement or success at a prior job down to interpersonal conflicts with management etc... I know I was amazed.

The more wholistic awareness a candidate displays in answering this question, the more secure a prospective employer can be in the candidate's ability to preserve and improve the corporate culture.

Regards.

landmines like that question deserve lies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19172713)

Man I hate that question. You would have disqualified me then if you had interviewed me my first week looking for a job, but you would have lost out on a great employee.

I read the original Salon article a little while ago and it really hit home. Giving a good explenation for being fired is almost impossible, especially if you have not been trained on how to gloss over important facts. I remember trying my best to give a good answere to that question truthfully and 'correctly' and knowing that it didn't make any difference what I said before or after they asked that question.

There were politics involved in my firing, but when you are dealing with people who just start yelling their rank loudly and making threats while you are trying to discuss substantive matters what are you going to do? I just stated the obviouse while watching my predictions come true. It's also very important to your job really well. Thats what I did, and I did it well. BTW lousy bosses hate it when you are right and polite. Then out of nowhere something that was not my fault was blamed on me and I was fired. Someone else litterally inserted a bug into my code and my boss chose to blame me rather than the real culprit and I wasn't even told why i was fired other than 'performance' until after I left so I couldn't even defend myself.

You would have disqualified me then if you had interviewed me my first week looking for a job, and you would have lost out on a great catch. Incidentally you would not have disqualified my corrupt and imcompetent boss. My answers about why I got fired got better as the week wore on but being fired is a weight around your neck and that is very difficult to overcome.

Finally I got tired of being turned down for jobs just because my former boss chose to use me as a scapegoat. Week 2 I began to lie as persuasively and with as many alibies as possible. Once you choose a good lie its remarkably easy and interviews become far more pleasant. Just make sure you choose a good lie. Its nice to not be judged by your boss' incompetence and corruption. On the second week the job offers came rolling in. Sure I probably could have eventually found a job telling the truth but it likely wouldn't be as good as the one I got. Incidentally I did get on offer from a company that didn't even ask why I left my last company. They were just like, "You'r unemployed and you have these incredible skills? Great!". Its good to be a programmer...

Now I have a great job at a great company with a great pay increase. My new company is thrilled to have found someone as skilled and productive as I am.

I'm glad I got fired, and I'm glad I lied about it.

Re:a "novel" idea. (2, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168551)

You certainly don't have any obligation to explain to me why you left your previous position. I also don't have any obligation to hire someone who as far as I can tell has something to hide about the circumstances under which they left their previous job.

Never get hostile like this in an interview if you hope to get the job (though if the question makes you not want to work there, then I guess get hostile). Answer reasonable questions, and why you left your previous job is a reasonable question since it can say a lot about a person. For example, one guy responded that he didn't appreciate his previous boss prioritizing which things he worked on so he quit. This says two things about him. 1) he doesn't take direction from managers, and 2) he's willing to quit over something which would be at worst a pretty small annoyance.

Re:a "novel" idea. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#19170645)

It's good to remember, If (not when, IF) a potential new employer does actually call a reference, it's generally a very cursory check. Did Mr. X work as [title] between [date] and [date]?

Most companies won't do more than confirm or deny even if asked (to avoid lawsuits).

Finally, as a fall guy, that means there were managers over you who would be willing to say nearly anything to a reference checker to make sure the actual facts behind the fall don't get dragged out in a lawsuit. Their best bet is to back your play when you use the various platitudes about needing more room to grow professionally, etc. by agreeing that you were a competant employee and they're sorry to see you go.

So, figure out who at your former employer would have the most to lose if you sued for libel. That's your reference.

Re:a "novel" idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19170381)

I was the fall guy two jobs ago.

The story from my perspective:

I was technical lead on a project with new marketing teams every six months. The problem was that the system that marketing was asked to describe was too complex for the schedule (24 months). When one marketing team couldn't complete a spec in a reasonable period of time, they'd hire another. Some red flags there, sure. Bigger issue: they didn't move the delivery date when they started from scratch again, not even acknowledging that the original schedule was too aggressive.

Cut to V1.0, we released a complete and utter piece of crap one month late. VP Dev got fired. New VP Dev fired the team, and I was singled out as the fall guy because of some scalability and maintainability issues discovered in the app's severely rushed frameworks.

What I said in interviews:

Q: Why did you leave XYZ, Inc.?

A: The company was pursuing many strategies, including maintenance of a legacy VB/MS-SQL app, a new web/java/Oracle product (mine) and acquisition of competitive products. At the time my team was cut, we had just acquired two direct competitors and our first v1.0/beta release had just appeared. A new VP dev got hired and made an executive decision that the company had too many projects. My project was too immature compared to everything else and was cut.

(every single word is true)

Q: What could you have done differently at XYZ, Inc.?

A: Well, aside from learning a few more development practices that don't work all that well, I've learned about leading from below to help your boss be a success. I was able to predict a number of issues that we might have been able to avoid if I'd expressed more leadership earlier in the project. At the time, I discounted how important the information I had might be and I also refrained from acting if it wasn't "my responsibility". I've learned that those issues are my responsibility, and to make sure those issues are resolved, I need to teach and convince the person who can act, and really take responsibility for that part of getting it done.

(also true, though partly speculative)

The List:

1) There is always a lot going on around the project. Talk about why those issues led to the project being cancelled.
2) You didn't take an oath to "tell the whole truth", and you don't have to repeat other people's judgment about your work, especially if you disagree with them.
3) Avoid getting into the blame game, especially trying to make yourself look blameless. You just look like you're ducking responsibility.
4) Everyone makes mistakes, it's how we take responsibility and fix them that really counts.

Denouement:

The VP who fired me later left due to frustrations with upper management and since then, we've had several great conversations about what really occurred back at XYZ, Inc. He's been one of my best references, and I'm now working for him after he contacted me to fill a spot for ABC, Inc.

Several successful projects later and it looks like I'm about to be promoted to Principal Developer/Technical Architect after I demonstrate some leadership ability on my current project.

Re:a "novel" idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19173801)

Tenet's rewriting of history doesn't seem to have worked out so good. Maybe the Democrats can create a Fair History law which requires their version of history to be given equal time.

Here's what I did (3, Funny)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165845)

Well, I'm not the kind to kiss and tell, but I've been seen with Farrah. I'm never seen with anything less than a nine, so fine.

I've been on fire with Sally Field, gone fast with a girl named Bo, but somehow they just don't end up as mine.

It's a death defyin' life I lead, I take my chances.

Re:Here's what I did (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166547)

(Even older reference) Watch 'The Maltese Falcon' and practice saying "Someone's goin to take da fall, and it ain't goin to be me, shweetheart".

Here's what you do. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19165875)

a) Don't bad-mouth the old company.
b) If they ask be vague but not misleading, tell them you had a disagreement with Management.
c) Always keep in mind that the old company can't tell them much (if anything) about why you left the company.

Definitely (4, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166241)

I figured out years ago that if you talk shit about your old girlfriend to your new one, then your new one will wonder what you will say about her. Your new company probably doesn't want to hear any bitching.

If you were the fall guy then something obviously went wrong at your last company. Coming up with some *generalized* insight about the failures in *processes* @ the last company you worked for without attributing blame (use non-accusatory language) or personalizing the situation will let your potential employer see you as a bigger picture type candidate.

Use your experience @ your last company as a platform from which to inquire into practices at the new employer. You have a very real interest in not ending up in a situation like your prior one, and *quality* employers appreciate candidates with insightful and even difficult questions about company standards and practices.

Corporations use rebranding all the time. Rebrand 'fall guy' before you go much further in the process even when thinking things over inside your own head. How you approach the issue internally will subtley change the way other people approach the issue.

Regards.

Re:Definitely (2, Interesting)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167087)

I gotta wonder: is pressing Shift and 2 at the same time really easier than pressing a and then t? Just trying to read and my eyes keep focusing in on that @.

Me being a jerk aside, I think you just helped out my professional life AND my personal life. :)

Re:Definitely (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167143)

>> if you talk shit about your old girlfriend to your new one, then your new one will wonder what you will say about her

plus

>> Use your experience @ your last company as a platform from which to inquire into practices at the new employer.

equals

"So, are you a psycho bitch from hell like my last girlfriend?"

Re:Here's what you do. (2, Insightful)

Drew McKinney (1075313) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166401)

c) Always keep in mind that the old company can't tell them much (if anything) about why you left the company.

Exactly. The old company can say very little about "why" you were let go. In fact, most companies will only provide the following regarding your employment (for legal reasons): length of time at position, position title, and salary. That's it.

Why did you leave your previous position? "The direction the firm did not align with my career objectives."

If they ask you to elaborate, speak more about what you wanted in your career versus what they wanted. Play the politician.

Never mention you were "let go" unless they specifically ask. Then it was they whom switched the conversation to a 'negative' position. At that point you can mention that there was a disagreement.

Never say the words "fired" or "let go". Keeping the conversation as positive as possible is key here.

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

caffeinatedOnline (926067) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167945)

True, according to the law, the old company can't say much. But in reality, you would be suprised at what an old job will say about you to a new one, especially if you left the old job on bad terms.

Yes, you can sue the old company, if you find out that what they said was what led to you not getting hired. Once again, in reality, not alot of places are going to inform you that because your old boss bad mouthed you, you didn't get hired. In fact, an interviewer who hears that you shot smack/coded like a monkey/'stickied' keyboards/etc. is going to be more grateful to the person that gave them that information then to you, who was one of 'the pile of resumes'.

Re:Here's what you do. (0)

toadlife (301863) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168821)

True, according to the law, the old company can't say much.
This is a myth. There is no law that says what your former employer is allowed to say about you outside of standard defamation laws. If you were fired because you were caught looking at donkey porn, then your employer can say that you were fired for looking at donkey porn. You can sue them for it, but if the employer can prove that they were not lying then you have no case.

Due to the litigious nature of our society, pretty much all companies have a policy of not saying anything about former employers, but this is to avoid litigation, not because of any law.

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166577)

great idea but it all depends on the person that the new company is talking too. Remember 'how' you say something matters as much (if not more) then 'what' is said.

Re:Here's what you do. (2, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166953)

c) Always keep in mind that the old company can't tell them much (if anything) about why you left the company
This is like it's illegal to fire someone for being black, ie. complete crap. You can be fired for being any race because there's rarely a time that an excuse can't be found to get rid of you.

Same with this, your old company can say pretty much whatever they want, no one is going to call them on it. Shouldn't and can't are very different things that are not related.

um, no (2, Informative)

MattW (97290) | more than 6 years ago | (#19169349)

As a rule, companies refer all questions about former employees to HR. HR, as a rule, will only confirm stated dates of employment, title, maybe salary. Why? Anything bad they say can be construed as slander, and since your new job is on the line, the damages could be significant if slander proves to have cost you a job. They've cut their ties to you, so there's no point to them saying anything bad; it doesn't benefit them.

Some companies wlil say glowing things about someone they really liked who left by choice, and then say nothing about the others. The one negative catch phrase that has seemed to propagate is, "[Person X] is not eligible for employment" or "not eligible for re-hiring" or such, which translates into, "We wouldn't want them back", but is apparently "safe".

Also, again, firing black people isn't that easy. Anyone who's been a manager knows it can be a real bitch to get rid of an employee in any protected class - race, gender, or (in some states) sexual orientation. Firing a straight white guy is a piece of cake; any reason will do, because at-will employment means you can fire them for NO REASON. If you go to HR and tell them you want to fire the gay black woman in your group because she's been snorting coke at her desk, coming in all of 3 hours a week, and took a bat to your car when you asked her about her project, they'd probably ask you to put her on a Performance Improvement Plan for 6 weeks and issue warnings for every infraction before they'd even consider firing her. :p

That's a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn't a BIG exaggeration.

Re:um, no (1)

QuestorTapes (663783) | more than 6 years ago | (#19170705)

> As a rule, companies refer all questions about former employees to HR. HR, as a rule,
> will only confirm stated dates of employment, title, maybe salary.

As a rule, yes. As a requirement, no. They are free to speak any truth about your employment that they wish, and many employers offer much more information, depending on the unwritten rule that no one will inform the person interviewing exactly what was said.

If the poster is being made a fall guy by one or two not-too-senior people, it may be a safe bet that the company will not say damaging things. However, if the person who picked him as the fall guy is senior staff, they may also deliberately target the poster.

I've known a few managers who have done that to people they didn't like.

The safest thing would be to have a trusted friend pose as an interviewer seeking to verify references.

> Also, again, firing black people isn't that easy. Anyone who's been a manager knows
> it can be a real bitch to get rid of an employee in any protected class - race, gender,
> or (in some states) sexual orientation.

Actually, there are a -lot- of clueless managers. I once worked for a manager who tried to fire a female employee who got pregnant. This was less than a year after congress passed that family leave legislation.

One of his subordinates had to practically -beg- him to check with the lawyers first; he didn't want to bother. He was stunned when the lawyers told him he not only couldn't fire her, but in spite of the fact that she was the least senior staff member, she was now safe from seasonal layoffs or other cuts to hours.

Re:um, no (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#19171243)

Yeah I'm a male WASP and it's pretty easy to fire me, hell in one job it seemed the only times I got a pay raise was after being fired. I think My record was getting fired 3 times in one day; one time when I was fired, I tried to stop working and go home but that didn't work. I'm not sure I understood what the boss meant by saying "God damn it Your fucking fired.", I thought it meant stop working turn in your keys and go home, your not getting paid anymore but that's not what happened. Eventually I learned that when he fired me, I was supposed to stop working, fold my arms across my chest in a non-threatening manner and silently stare at him while smiling until he got tired of swearing at me and went away so I could get back to work.

Re:um, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19171601)

I'm not sure I understood what the boss meant by saying "God damn it Your fucking fired.", I thought it meant stop working turn in your keys and go home, your not getting paid anymore but that's not what happened. Eventually I learned that when he fired me, I was supposed to stop working, fold my arms across my chest in a non-threatening manner and silently stare at him while smiling until he got tired of swearing at me and went away so I could get back to work.


A friend of mine works at a mid-size law firm (~100 employees). His record so far is getting fired twice in a week (not as impressive as your record), but it was (and still is) much the same thing: You're FIRED. *pause* Hey.. goddamnit where do you think you're going!? Get back here and recover the documents I deleted in my H drive! (which is a home directory)

Oddly, he's been there for years and admittedly is pretty well compensated for the bullshit.

Re:um, no (1)

M_Hulot (859406) | more than 6 years ago | (#19171699)

Your points about companies being reluctant to give bad reference is well taken, but where did the 'black people' rant come from? You seem like one of those people who suddenly butt into a random conversation with lines such as 'What about those blacks eh?'. It just leaves everyone else embarrassed and slightly bemused.

Re:um, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19172679)

That's the reason I wouldn't EVER want to live in the U.S. A country that actively discriminates white, male, heterosexual people (such as myself) is definitely a no-no.

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

sho222 (834270) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166977)

tell them you had a disagreement with Management.

Saying that is pretty much code for "I'm unemployable." If I'm interviewing somebody and they're telling me that they left their last job over a disagreement with Management, I'm thinking, "OK, so if we disagree when you're working here, you're either going to quit or I'm going to have to fire you."

Re:Here's what you do. (2, Interesting)

flink (18449) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168251)

If I'm interviewing somebody and they're telling me that they left their last job over a disagreement with Management, I'm thinking, "OK, so if we disagree when you're working here, you're either going to quit or I'm going to have to fire you."
So if management wants to put you into a soul crushing, career limiting, dead end job for which you are way over qualified, you'll just suck it up? What if you're asked to do something legal but morally reprehensible?

I worked with someone a few years ago who was way overburdened. She was basically being asked to play three roles for one salary (product, project and dev manager). She repeatedly asked for help and got none. So she left. Her boss discovered he didn't like doing three jobs any more than she did and shortly thereafter we got real project and product management. Should she be unemployable?

Every job is going to ask you to do some things you disagree with. Most of them you can live with. Go on record with your disagreement and move on. If it's something you can't live with, then you should leave. I'd prefer to have an employee with a backbone than one that's working at a job they hate because they won't stand by their principles. Besides, it's not like employers show any loyalty to workers these days. It's unfair for you to expect anything other than the same in return.

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

(negative video) (792072) | more than 6 years ago | (#19170151)

So if management wants to put you into a soul crushing, career limiting, dead end job for which you are way over qualified, you'll just suck it up?

That's a specific complaint--one that most interviewers will be sympathetic to--not a nebulous "disagreement with management".

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 6 years ago | (#19172801)

No -- if you put me in a soul-crushing job with no future, I'm going to go look for a new one while I'm still employed by you. Then, I can say "I'm looking for a better job than my current one" without bad-mouthing you.

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

flink (18449) | more than 6 years ago | (#19173763)

How is saying you disagree with management bad mouthing? The post I was responding to stated that saying you left a job due to a disagreement with management made you unhireable. I provided an extreme counter example to show that such a generalization is insupportable.

All I'm saying is that it is totally legitimate to say "I left because management made a decision I couldn't work with. I felt that it was best for me to seek employment elsewhere." You're not even saying it was a bad decision. Incompatibilities aren't always someone's fault. It's a business relationship, not a marriage -- ending it shouldn't be a divorce.

Re:Here's what you do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19167165)

c) Always keep in mind that the old company can't tell them much (if anything) about why you left the company.

On that note, I've been wondering -- what's the policy/law about that? I heard it's illegal for a former employer, when called for a reference, to badmouth you (it's viewed as retaliation). I would guess the worst they can do is not give a sterling reference. Can someone explain?

Re:Here's what you do. (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#19171547)

No law that I'm aware of prohibits passing along negative aspects of the employement record, however former employees can and do sue for slander, improper termination and/or discrimination so anything negative passed along really should be easily verifieable in court, objective stuff is best, frequently late is bad, tardy 4 times in 15 work days not so bad; lazy is bad, missed production goals 5 times more company average is not so bad. The best thing is to say as little as possible so you don't have to waste a day in court.

Re:Here's what you do. (4, Funny)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167245)

"c) Always keep in mind that the old company can't tell them much (if anything) about why you left the company."

Reminds me of dilbert:
new employer: "What type of employee was he?"
dogbert: "We can't discuss that, but we can discuss the weather..."
new employer: "how's the weather?"
dogbert: "It's lazy and stupid."

Cross-site duping vulnerability (2, Insightful)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165889)

So, we're ripping our Ask Slashdot items directly from Salon.com now?

Cross-site blogging vulnerability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166425)

"So, we're ripping our Ask Slashdot items directly from Salon.com now?"

There's always your blog.

Become an entrepreneur. (4, Funny)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165905)

You do NOT want "Whistle Blower" or being fired on your resume. I don't give a shit abut the whistle blower laws - you WILL be FUCKED! (See "Economist" - sorry, you're on your own)

I don't know what else to say than ... "do your best" ... OK, get ALL the evidence in your favor...you have to black mail them.....I don't recommend it ..but...this is corporate...horseshit....I'm insane...don't listen to me...son't sue me...pleeeeese....yah! I can't spell either....

Re:Become an entrepreneur. (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166511)

Wow...I've never seen someone actually have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Slashdot post before.

Take care, buddy.

Re:Become an entrepreneur. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166695)

Just think... he had the nervous breakdown, then he finished his post. That's dedication right there.

Re:Become an entrepreneur. (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167223)

Its not dedication, every slashdot poster with over 25 comments is automatically sent a Think Geek "Dead Man's Post" device which will automatically post your last comment in the event of a terminal event.

Re:Become an entrepreneur. (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167475)

Wow...I've never seen someone actually have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Slashdot post before.

Take care, buddy.
New around here, eh?

Re:Become an entrepreneur. (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19170837)

Wow...I've never seen someone actually have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Slashdot post before.
Take care, buddy.

That's got to be the funniest thing I've ever read here on Slashdot!

Much...much..funnier than my post!!!

keep it short and concise (4, Funny)

ulysses38 (309331) | more than 6 years ago | (#19165919)

Just say this:

"While in my previous job I might have fallen from a tall building, or I might have rolled a brand new car. But it was because I was the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star."

Leave it at that. And call Lee Majors for a reference.

Re:keep it short and concise (1)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166459)

C'mon, that was really funny. Laugh at work and make your uptight cubicle neighbors glare and cluck. Should go higher than +1.

Just a few questions? (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166087)

If you are the fall guy, presumably you will have had one or more positive reviews? If there are positive reviews and perhaps good references from other workers at said company, having a disagreement with the management about something (especially if your views on that disagreement were/are the industry standard practices) should not be a problem. Just be gentle/discrete when you explain it. Nobody wants to hire someone that talks badly about their employer(s).

Ask Lee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166091)

what do you say in interviews after getting fired as a fall guy at your last job?

After being a fall guy, the typical career path is to do a few made-for-TV movies, followed by a short stint on Tour of Duty and then some god-aweful bionic man reunion shows.

Look at it from the other side... (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166215)

Look at it from the interviewer's side. You sit down in his office and say "I was fired because all my old co-workers were incompetent and dishonest and I took the blame for it, and there's nothing I could have done." If you're him, how do you think he estimates the probabilities of:

a) Yeah, I guess that could actually have happened.

b) You're so dense and arrogant that you still don't have the slightest idea why they fired you.

I mean, it sucks and I certainly feel sorry for you if a) is really true but I predict difficulties trying to convince anyone of that.

Re:Look at it from the other side... (1)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167651)

Look at it from the interviewer's side. You sit down in his office and say "I was fired because all my old co-workers were incompetent and dishonest and I took the blame for it, and there's nothing I could have done."
Right. Anyone can get into a bad situation. My last place of employment lied to get people to work there (red flag: no in-person interview? Run away.) The VP of IT sent out frequent abusive emails to the entire division. The servers were a mess and we weren't allowed to patch. The morale was deep in the crapper. So, to the "Why do you _want to leave_ where you're at" question, the answer was "The job I'm at isn't as advertised, and I know that (this place) has a very different culture". Had the answer to "why did you leave the previous job" also been "Oh, that job sucked too..." and the previous "Oh, yeah, they sucked too...", then there's a pattern.

But, a single "I left due to not playing the politics" situation isn't bad. 3 in a row, well, the guy probably isn't going to play well with others here, either.

Salon got it right (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166223)

From the article:

You were fired because your projects failed and somebody had to be fired.

That's how things are done. It was just business.
Or more accurately, "Projects you were working on failed, and you were the junior member. So you were let go."

Just try to explain the machinations of the world without being overly emotional, blaming your former colleagues, or talking bad about your former employer. Don't seem like somebody whose got a chip on their shoulder and the whole world's against them.

We all want our lives to be meaningful and make sense. We all want justice in the cosmic sense, rather than witnessing scapegoating. However, for most people, the workplace is not the place to find meaning or justice. In an interview, you have to pass yourself off as someone who isn't emotionally attached to their work. Someone who could be layed off without erasing the HR database. Someone who could fire other people and not lose sleep. Someone who just comes in reliably, gets their shit done, and doesn't engage in politics. Just do what you need to do to get through the interview, and don't worry about afterwards right now. The best way to find another job is to have a job in the first place.

Re:Salon got it right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19167043)

But without the "emotion", how can one ever have enough "passion" for their job?

Just make stuff up (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166231)

They'll already have made up their mind within the first 10 seconds of having seen you anyway so as long as you don't come across as a complete nut you'll be fine.

 

Re:Just make stuff up (3, Funny)

MyOtherUIDis3digits (926429) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166743)

They'll already have made up their mind within the first 10 seconds of having seen you anyway so as long as you don't come across as a complete nut you'll be fine.

Oh, so kinda like dating?

I just went through this (5, Insightful)

Caste11an (898046) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166253)

I didn't get fired -- I had enough information that I knew my time was coming quickly. The boss had been reporting to the board that all of the company's failures were my fault. Plus, I caught the boss fixing the elections for board members (which resulted in the winner of that particular seat not being appointed).

I secretly reported the boss to the board while starting my job search. As several projects were coming to a close anyway, I used that as my major "talking point" for leaving: development on major projects is coming to an end and things will go into a "maintenance phase" for the forseeable future; I'm ready for a new challenge; I'll continue to assist my current employer as a contract employee until they are up to speed on things; etc.

With additional pressure on the boss because of a fixed election, more blame was heaped on me (not regarding the election, but still...), until I found my job posted on CareerBuilder with nary a mention of my performance or the boss' displeasure with me.

I began interviewing regularly and didn't lie. The fact is that when I told my former employer that I was moving on because of the perceived problems, I agreed to be available to assist with the transition. When I went into interviews, I kept things positive and mentioned that I might need some flex time in the first week or so of employment in the event that my former employer needed help. The fact that I was up front about things, while keeping the whole whistle-blower/fall-guy thing out of it made me more attractive to folks. In the end I had multiple job offers and was able to take my pick without having a single day of unemployment. And I got out before the former employer really made things bad for me.

I realize that an after-the-fact interview will be different, but it bears repeating that you should say the nicest things you can about your former employer no matter how you feel about them. Hell, I lied and said I was sorry to go, but by projecting that positive attitude I think it really helped me make a smoother transition and has gotten me in with a place that seems to genuinely care about its employees. *crossed fingers*

Re:I just went through this (1)

mythar (1085839) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168025)

just wait until your former boss also gets hired at your new company. you said all those nice things about him, remember?

Re:I just went through this (2, Insightful)

Caste11an (898046) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168791)

Luckily, I didn't do that ;)

I said nice things about the company, not the boss. I can be thankful that discussion of the former boss never came up in any of the interviews I had!

Don't call yourself the "fall guy" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166259)

Dont blame the other company. Talk about what you learned. Talk about your responsibilities. Talk about what you will be able to bring to the new company. Someone who called themselves a fall guy or blamed some conspiracy would set off red flags to me even if was true.

Damn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19167071)

Maybe I shouldn't have put "Fall Guy" as my job title on my resume.

old job didn't provide growth opportunities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166289)

No one seems to be providing good advice. Here's my AC attempt at it.

Talk about the new job, and how it is more in line with what you want to do - you weren't happy in the last job - didn't provide growth opportunities you were expecting - so you're looking for something new.

Get some letters of reference. (3, Informative)

datastew (529152) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166303)

I just went through "Interview Training" and one thing the managers complained about is that they can not find any previous employers willing to give any kind of reference beyond name and dates of employment. It appears everyone is worried about lawsuits.

They stressed that letters of reference are somewhat valuable as a replacement, so make sure you snag some of those before you take the fall.

-no sig

Fall guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166353)

A. Lie B. Tell the truth. It's really gonna depend on the flow of the interview. In my last interview I actually just told them that I had some difficulties with management, but that I wasn't going to disparage them, that way it casts the bad light on them rather than you. I think that worked well. (I still got the job) I think that those questions are more geared toward how you repond than the actual reasons. Obviously you had a problem at the old job or you wouldn't be gone!

When do you learn more?? (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166449)

I think you learn more from failure than success. That is if you care to analyze the situation you were in and decide to take something positive away from it.

This is why... (2, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166493)

It is better to leave when you see it coming, than wait for the disaster to happen and be blamed for it afterward.

Granted, it might be difficult, but usually, you have a few months before a problem turns into a reality. I have left jobs in the past because of unethical behavior on the employer's part, but believe me, it was for the better. Not only did I get a better paying job with better benefits, I no longer got that sinking feeling when management asked me to do what I felt was wrong.

Re:This is why... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168259)

Exactly. I have seen it many time and my father told me about it decades ago.

when you see others you work for getting screwed, no matter how much you like your job, get out.
Anyone that says they were fired and did not expect it or see it coming is either blind, went to work high daily (yes those exist!), or incredibly handicapped.

I left a lucrative corperate job because I saw 6 people get screwed in other departments, and I saw they were making their way to our department. I interviewed for 2 weeks and had a job in hand, walked in and handed in my resignation. I got calls for weeks afterwards from friends and co-workers demanding that I fess up that I knew what was going to happen and had insider information.

Fall guy is one thing, but seeing a wave of really bad mojo coming around that will set you up for a fall guy or a demotion because of restructuring is just as bad. Do NOT trust your employer, they will screw you as fast as possible if they see a benefit in it.

From #7165902 (2, Funny)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166641)

I tried the honesty route, and it backfired:

Why did you leave your previous job?

Well, I needed money at the time so I embezzled $1.5 million dollars from the payroll department, and my boss couldn't prove I had done that. He then proceeded to tell my secretary to bring a totally bogus sexual harrassment charge to convince me to quit. I mean, it's hardly sexual harassement to stop going out of your way to get raises for people when you stop sleeping with them, right? I mean, I wasn't trying to coerce her anymore, the pregnancy made her look all fat.

Well, not only did I not get the job, but it turns out that they record all the interviews to protect themselves legally. I lost all my money in child support and sexual harrassment payments to my secretary, and in 18 more years, when I get out, I'm going to know how to respond to that question.

Why did you leave your previous job?

On the advice of council, I'm going to take the 5th



Disclaimer: The above is fiction only. I am not a criminal.

Re:From #7165902 (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 6 years ago | (#19169731)

When you embezzle $1.5 million and get the secretary pregnant, you're supposed to take the money and flee to some island that doesn't have an extradition treaty!

As a Contract Employee (2)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166649)

Q. Why did you leave USPS?
A. My contract was over.
Q. Why did you leave Nortel?
A. My contract was over.
Q. Why did you leave IBM?
A. It sucked.

Your co-workers will know. (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166717)

When someone becomes a fall guy, it's usually quite apparent to EVERYONE that that's what's happening. And trust me, colleagues (as in, people that are on the same "level" hierarchically as you) will be grateful as hell about it. Expect glowing peer recommendations.


Hmm...maybe it's advantageous to try to become a fall guy...

Been through a few of these... (4, Insightful)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 6 years ago | (#19166789)

I've been fired (or asked to leave) more than once in my career. The way that I've always handled it is to simply not lie, but I would strongly recommend not wearing a sign on your back that says "Hey, I was fired from my last job! Yay!", either. Usually when the question comes up, I simply say that I left because of a disagreement with the employer or something equally non-committal and non-antagonistic (to your old employer).

I've never gotten in a situation where I've had to flat out admit being fired.

Another thing to keep in mind, which has already been pointed out, is that legally, most companies won't admit anything other than employment. The last one I got walked from wouldn't say anything to prospective employers about me other than "He worked here from Aug 2001 to April of 2003."

They are scared of lawsuits, especially since they cannot verify who is asking, truly. For all they know, you have a friend in a company who is trolling. As unlikely as that may be, it generally works in your favor.

Part of my company now specialized in staffing and head-hunting. One of the many lessons I've learned about that is that generally (at least for the hundreds of positions I've seen filled in the last three years) prospective employers are far mor interested in references rather than previous employer statements. Which strikes me as odd, simply because I've never given a reference that I hadn't pre-qualified and generally only gave friends. The biggest complaint I've received on my references was that they "weren't high enough" in the org chart, which was from a Senior VP at Symantec, so take that with a grain of salt. Make a few manager/director/VP friends that you can count on, and references are a slam dunk. I've interviewed lots of people, been witness to hundreds, if not thousands of others, and I've yet to hear a bad reference call.

For the life of me I can't remember where I read it, although I think it was a link on careerbuilder.com, that talked about this subject, finding a new job after getting canned. One of the things that interested me the most was a statistic that around 70% of all firings have nothing to do with performance. (Disclaimer, I can't remember the exact figure, but it was around 70%, okay?). And that's my experience, as well. Both as a boss and as an employee. I've been fired for doing my job (2 times, when the employer was hoping that either the project I was working on would fail, or when my employer set me up to fail), but it has never been my ability. I've also fired people, but it was purely about non-ability issues (abusing company resources, etc.)

I think that my experience has been that when you can't manage your manager (work together with them, put up with them personally, etc.) its past time to get out. For better or worse, if your manager dislikes or hates you, or acts in ways you can't stomach, its time to polish off the resume and start again. The sooner the better.

Bill

Re:Been through a few of these... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166951)

Yes, but.....

If you have been fired, what do you write on the employment application if it asks if you have been fired from a previous job?

Lying on the application is typically grounds for getting fired.

Anonymous Coward who was targeted for a 1-person layoff once

Convicted of A Crime - Time Served (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19168765)

A relative of mine wasn't fired from a previous job. It was worse than that. He had been in prison (for a crime he didn't commit, but that's a whole 'nother story). The question was, how to answer the question regarding "have you ever been convicted" on job applications? He kept answering "yes" and then answering the followup questions about what he was convicted of. No one would hire him. He filled out apps for months (and he was living with me at the time). I finally persuaded him that, under the circumstances, he was being overly honest. My argument went like this.
If you answered on the application that you were convicted of this, I wouldn't hire you and I doubt that hardly anyone will. But suppose you lied on the application, and I hired you, not knowing. Now suppose after several years of proving yourself a hard-working dedicated employee, I found out. Would I fire you right away? Not necessarily, I would consider what my experience with you over the years told me about your character.
He lied on the next application he filled out. He has been gainfully employed for 10 years. No one there knows about his incarceration, and even if they did, I don't think it would change the perception of his bosses and co-workers that he is an honest hardworking employee.

Practice a Factual Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19166921)

I can see this situation happening, but I would have a hard time believing an interviewee if they didn't explain it properly.

1. Acknowledge that it's a rare situation that these things happen. Unfortunately, the culture of your last employer supported it.

2. Factually spell out the conversation you had saying that it was your fault, but your boss was not taking responsbility for his subordinate's success or failures.

3. That it felt to you that you were being setup for failure, but didn't have an avenue to communicate it without being reprimanded or even dismissed.

Other folks are recommending that you ask how they would handle the situation at the new company. That's definitely good stuff. Interviews should be a two way street, so you need to be comfortable taking as well as giving information. I would not personally look at this as a weakness, to be honest.

Make a sound bite... (3, Insightful)

Twixter (662877) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167111)

Your goal in these sorts of situations is to give the people interviewing you something to walk away with so that when the thought comes up in their minds "But they got fired at their last job" they automatically have the response you've given them that pops out.


If you have a long explanation when they think of that question, they'll simply hear crickets.


You need a sound bite. Something like:
Ya know it was a good project that I enjoyed working on. I got along well with the team members. But when the project failed, they needed to downsize project staff. I had stuck my neck out to try and make sure the project succeeded, ...so my head was one of the ones that got rolled when they closed it down.


You changed a negative firing into a positive: "I work hard to make projects succeed." Now when they think, "Well they got fired at the last job;" their brain will respond..."They will stick their neck out to make our project succeed!"

They have no idea (2, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167209)

Your new employer has no idea why you left your last job. The last job should only be confirming employment dates for you anyway. You can get somebody to call and ask about you if you fear worse.

It sounds like you have every opportunity to be (mostly) honest. The previous company wouldn't provide the necessary training and resources for your projects to succeed, and they didn't know how to do project management (you weren't in a position to fix that) so you're looking for a new opportunity where you can accomplish goals with the support of management. There's nothing wrong with that.

How I've Handled It (2, Insightful)

Unoti (731964) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167503)

Point to the strength of your work. Bring a portfolio of things you can show off. Discuss what you've done well. Have a good resume, talking about how you've been a paragon of postive change, productivity. Think about what you do best, and make a bullet point list of those things. For each of those items on that list, have and practice 1 or 2 little stories that tell about how great you are. Be ready to wheel those stories out. (Same idea works well in sales.) It's important to have a collection of mini-stories ready.


References. References don't need to be your former boss. They can also be peers, customers, or vendors. Think about people who know that you've really done the things on your list of things you do well, and see if they will serve as a reference. A reference doesn't have to know everything about you, they just need to be able to back up and verify at least one story that you tell during the interview. When you provide your reference list, include a brief one-sentence summary of the story this reference can verify.

Take the high road. Point to what you do well, and leave it at that. Alternatively, if pressed, you can tell your prospective employer the truth, but try to stay positive. Let them know that you stayed up front and honest through your communications, and tried very hard to escalate things to management before it got out of hand, but they weren't in the mood to listen.

Confidence and honesty (4, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167669)

A lot of responses here have been something like "Lie. Your former employer can't badmouth you, anyway." Please allow me to assure you that this is not true.

This can bite you in one of two ways:
  1. How would your former employer answer the question, "Would you ever rehire John in the future?" Because they can certainly answer "no" and not be committing any type of slander.
  2. Backchannel research can and does happen. My wife was looking at a resume of a guy who claimed to have been laid off from a large firm that had just done a large, public round of layoffs. As it turns out, he was not laid off; he was fired for cause. Unfortunately for him, my wife found out about this through the grapevine.

    All this poor sod knows is that he didn't get an interview. But really, he is now never welcome to work at my wife's firm, and "the grapevine" now knows what he is doing, so he will probably have difficulties finding work elsewhere. It's a small world out there.

The correct strategy is to take a cold, hard assessment of what happened. Be objective and dispassionate. List out the mistakes you made and what you've learned from them and how you won't repeat them in the future. List out what you feel you did right as well.

Distill all that into a concise story. We're talking about 30 seconds to a minute. Be honest, but put a dispassionate spin on it and keep your sense of humor.

Recite it in front of a mirror a few times and then test it on a friend. Ask him if he'd honestly hire you after hearing that, or if not, why not.

Keep revising until you've got a story that is truthful, but paints you in the best possible light. In terms of learning from your mistakes, accepting your former employer's mistakes and realizing that it was just business, and keeping your confidence about you.

Everyone is human, and we all eff up from time to time. How you pick yourself back up again says volumes about your character. Honest self-assessment and attempts at self improvement are good. Lying, blame shifting, and deceiving are bad.

Re:Confidence and honesty (2, Insightful)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168937)

1. How would your former employer answer the question, "Would you ever rehire John in the future?" Because they can certainly answer "no" and not be committing any type of slander.

Plenty of employers will refuse to answer even that question for fear of liability.

Backchannel research can and does happen. My wife was looking at a resume of a guy who claimed to have been laid off from a large firm that had just done a large, public round of layoffs. As it turns out, he was not laid off; he was fired for cause. Unfortunately for him, my wife found out about this through the grapevine.

This I'll back you up on -- a former co-worker from job "A" once interviewed at another place I had worked (job "B"). My old boss at job "B" recognized the company name from job "A", knew I had worked there, and called me up to get info on the guy.

But I think very little of the posts actually encourage lying, and instead suggest being vague at best on the subject.

Re:Confidence and honesty (1)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 6 years ago | (#19169837)

Plenty of employers will refuse to answer even that question for fear of liability.
True. All I was trying to say before was that plenty of employers will answer that question, even though they would not answer a question such as, "Why, specifically, did you fire Mr. Jones?"

I get the same thing all the time as a landlord. Tenant applies for a unit and I get a call from the landlord. I would never answer a question like, "Was Mr. Jones a good tenant?" or "Did Mr. Jones take care of the unit?" But 99% of landlords know the code words, "Would you ever consider renting to Mr. Jones again?" Ask me that, and you will get a one word answer that tells you everything you need to know about Mr. Jones. It's slander-proof, because whatever answer I give must be the truth.

But I think very little of the posts actually encourage lying, and instead suggest being vague at best on the subject.
Again, I do not advise being vague and/or evasive.

If I'm interviewing somebody and I ask, "Why did you leave your last position?" (or "Why are you moving?", which I ask at least 3 times when interviewing a rental applicant) I don't want to hear, "Well, it was just not a good fit and hey, did you catch the Red Sox game last night?" All that tells me is that you got canned and you don't know or care why.

It's the same thing with a rental applicant, except I ask three times at different points in the conversation, so it usually goes something like this:

Me: So why are you moving?
Applicant: Well, it was just time for a change.
[...]
Me: So why are you moving?
Applicant: Well, I didn't get along very well with my former landlord.
[...]
Me: So why are you moving?
Applicant: Well, I'm being evicted.
Me: NEXT!

If I can see that you are being honest with yourself and honest with me about what went wrong at your previous employer, you are in a lot better shape than if you are being vague and evasive.

Re:Confidence and honesty (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#19174293)

People would actually tell you they're being evicted? Wow. I don't recall being asked that during my renting days, but it was always either closer to something or I wanted a bigger place, which I assume are legit reasons. I'd be surprised if someone being evicted wouldn't come up with one of those though if they were asked.

I've always hated the "why are you leaving" question, mostly because it's always been a very complicated question for me. It usually involves a feeling of not being paid a fair market value for my work, but I've been told that's a bad answer to give so I try to avoid it. I instead aim for things like 'I don't feel like I have opportunities for advancement' type answers. I don't like it but it seems to work.

Somewhat hypocritically, despite that I hate that question, it's usually the first thing I ask an applicant. It's like pledging for a frat or something.

I was fired once, but that job lasted very little time so I just don't list it on my resume. Still, someone fired from a position could, if nothing else, list reasons that they would have left.

Re:Confidence and honesty (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19169191)

Interestingly enough, in your example, he should still lie.
If he reported to your wife's firm that he was fired for cause, they shouldn't want to interview him anyway. So his odds are better if he lies and says he was laid off, since they might not discover the lie. He'll lose more than if he could honestly say he was laid off, but lying should still net him more interviews (with people who don't background check as well as your wife did) than saying he was fired with cause.

When I was a Fall Guy, I told them... (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 6 years ago | (#19167689)

Well, I'm not the kind to kiss and tell,
But I've been seen with Farrah.
I'm never seen with anything less than a nine, so fine.

I've been on fire with Sally Field,
Gone fast with a girl named Bo,
But somehow they just don't end up as mine.

It's a death defyin' life I lead,
I take my chances.
I die for a livin' in the movies and TV.
But the hardest thing I ever do
Is watch my leadin' ladies
Kiss some other guy while I'm bandagin' my knee.

I might fall from a tall building,
I might roll a brand new car.
'Cause I'm the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star.

I never spend much time in school
But I taught ladies plenty.
It's true I hire my body out for pay, Hey Hey.

I've gotten burned over Cheryl Tiegs,
Blown up for Raquel Welch.
But when I end up in the hay it's only hay, Hey Hey.

I might jump an open drawbridge,
Or Tarzan from a vine.
'Cause I'm the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine.

Two Observations (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168681)

1) Companies are getting more and more wary of saying anything bad about any former employee--including the really big transgressions like theft or lying on one's resume. The reason for that is their fear of getting sued--by you, the aggrieved ex-employee. Many will just be willing to give the dates of employment and job description. So I don't know how real a concern this is.

2) This sort of disaster happens to many people eventually. If you sense the writing on the wall, begin to feel creepy/hinky, or even sense a subtle change in the atmosphere, here is one thing you can do: Cultivate someone in the organization who knows you, admires your work, and would be willing to give you a good personal recommendation. It could be another manager, a team leader, somebody in a different department. It's a good idea to do this anyway, but if things look like they're going south, it'll give you a good reference you can count on. Be certain to get in touch with that person just before you're ready to fill in your new application. Use them as your ace in the hole.

Bad jobs happen to good people all the time, but a preliminary step or two can really help with damage control.

As he walked into the interview... (-1, Troll)

SadGeekHermit (1077125) | more than 6 years ago | (#19168931)

...John was wearing a 500.00 suit (tasteful and practical but not flashy) and 100.00 dress shoes (ditto), simple navy blue tie and white dress shirt, he set his briefcase next to his chair, shook hands with his interviewer and introduced himself. After being invited to take a seat, he sat, relaxed, his arms carefully poised on the arm rests with his hands folded in his lap to convey the impression of openness (body language is everything to an H.R. drone).

(snip -- most of the conversation is very dull.)

H.R. Drone: So I see you worked at Acme until a month ago... I'm guessing you didn't quit, or you'd be working already. What happened there?

OPTION 1:

John: (Sighs, obviously relaxed) Well, there were some problems in a project I was working on. Things were going well on our side, but we had some issues with a vendor and we went over budget, then there was a delay, and the company decided to cut the project rather than continue trying to rescue it. Some of us were laid off in the process. The company was pretty nice to us, so I'm not complaining. We all parted on friendly terms. They said that if the project were to start back up, they'd invite me back, but I'd rather try something new. This opportunity looked pretty interesting, and I should be a good fit for it...

OPTION 2:

John: (smiles) Well, the company decided to streamline the IT department and merge some groups together, and in the process a few of the project teams got laid off. They were pretty nice about it, so there were no hard feelings. I'll miss the place; they're nice to work for. But this opportunity looks intersting, and my experience should be a good match for it...

OPTION 3:

John: (fidgets, fingers beard, glares at interviewer with his good eye) How long have you been spying on me? You work for THEM, don't you! Are you recording this? Where's the cameras??? Don't lie to me, you work for the Shop, don't you? You do, don't you? You'll never take me alive! Stay back! I have a ballpoint pen!!! Damn you, blackbird, show yourself! (backs into corner and points Bic pen at interviewer) STAY BACK!

having been there recently. . . (4, Insightful)

jafac (1449) | more than 6 years ago | (#19169125)

(I recently completed a project, well, about 99%, and the customer pulled the plug for reasons unrelated to the performance of my team - they ran out of money)

#1: If you're uncomfortable with lying - DON'T.

#2: If you were in charge; don't DENY that it was your fault. Take responsibility for what is your responsibility. Show that if mistakes were made, you have learned and moved on. It's better to show that you were in charge of a project, than to pretend you were a junior member. Taking responsibility for failures shows maturity.

#3: Don't take responsibility for things that were not your responsibility. Lots of people get put "in charge" of things; when, in reality, someone higher up in the chain can sandbag you.

#4: No project fails completely. Accentuate the positives. Highlight what you DID accomplish. Show that; despite project constraints, you came up with innovative approaches to solving issues. Be positive, and try not to make yourself look like a victim. Everyone in this industry for more than a year or two knows that projects fail from time to time. But a project is more than just "Failed" or "Succeeded". Whether you get paid may hinge on that dichotomy. But whether you did good work certainly does not.

#5: Unless you're just out of college, you've got other successes in your work history that you can talk about instead. Your last job is the most relevant. But it's not the ONLY relevant item.

Hope that helps.

I wasn't really made the scapegoat in my case. But it still sucks that I can't say that my project was a complete success, and got used, and worst of all, I have no use-case metrics to prove that my approach improved anything. But when I explained it in interviews, it was apparent that I was on the right track, and was just unlucky.

Say you're still under NDA and change the subject. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 6 years ago | (#19171807)

Or you can be still more blunt about it: "My relationship with my previous employer is none of your f---ing business. Do you want to hear about my qualifications, or not?" But then, I won't take drug tests either. "Only if I get to watch YOU pee in a cup along with me, lady."

DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT!!! EVER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19173575)

I had this happen to me. I should have sued (when the unemployment commissioner tells you that you have a wonderful lawsuit, you should really take the hint - but heck us engineers hate going to court).

So you DO NOT discuss the job, except in the most general of terms. Cite the NDA you signed as not allowing you to discuss your job there because it was of an extremely confidental nature. If you have to give out a reference from that job, pick someone there who you got on well with and talk to them before hand to make sure it's okay.

NEVER EVER EVER say you got fired!! You will lose the job you're applying for on the spot.

After 5 or 6 years the place will probably go out of business anyways (because they didn't fire the real cause) so you don't have to worry about it for too long.
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