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Handling Interviews After Being a Fall Guy? 140

Posted by Cliff
from the unpoisoning-the-pill dept.
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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Handling Interviews After Being a Fall Guy?

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:12PM (#19165839) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by networkBoy (774728)
      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        (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 endea

    • Re:a "novel" idea. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bwt (68845) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:45PM (#19166545) Homepage
      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. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:26PM (#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).
      • Finding landmines. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ushering05401 (1086795) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:36PM (#19167627) Journal
        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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nahdude812 (88157) *
        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 c
        • by geekoid (135745)
          or his manager was crappy at assigning priorities.

          I've been there.
          I've had manager change priorities of projects 20 times in a day. This was a regular occurance.
          I also ahve had a manager give a list of 10 tasks I need to do. Great, when asked for priorities 5 of them were number 1, the other 5 number 2(as was the boss, ba dum bup).
          So I picked a number 1 priority I could do quickly. a day later it was done, and when I told the boss she yelled at me for doing the wrong one.
          • by nahdude812 (88157) *
            He didn't say that his manager changed his priorities so frequently that he was unable to be productive. He didn't say that his manager was unable to actually prioritize his work meaningfully. He also didn't say that his manager held him accountable for decisions the manager made. He said he didn't like the manager deciding what he worked on.

            Maybe he misspoke, but since there were other equally qualified candidates who had reasonable reasons for leaving their previous jobs, we went with one of them. Inc
      • by sjames (1099)

        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 bac

    • by sohp (22984)
      What's former FEMA director Mike Brown doing now? Among other things, he runs a Colorado-based disaster preparedness consultancy and is bad-mouthing his former bosses [wcsh6.com].

  • by L. VeGas (580015) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:12PM (#19165845) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:13PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ushering05401 (1086795) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:30PM (#19166241) Journal
      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: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Applekid (993327)
        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. :)
      • >> 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?"
      • by moz25 (262020)
        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.

        My GF doesn't seem the least bit bothered about me occasionally talking shit about my old girlfriend. After all, she must have been a psycho bitch to let a wonderful guy like me walk away, right? ;-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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 abo
      • 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 mon
        • by toadlife (301863)

          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

    • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 0racle (667029)

      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 (Score:3, Informative)

        by MattW (97290)
        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 ch
        • > 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
        • 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
        • by Phisbut (761268)

          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.

          If you were fired because you were stealing office supplies, then they can say they fired you for stealing office supplies, and you shouldn't have any right to get back on them for that. That is not slander, that is truth. And if America has gone bad enough that you can sue someone for saying the truth, then I really, really pity you.

          • by BVis (267028)
            It's not about the truth. It's never been about the truth. It's about what you can prove, and who will back you up.

            Case in point: my current position (which is great) came to me via a recruiter. Said recruiter lied to me about the terms of the offer; the offer I accepted is not what I'm getting. Said recruiter said that I would be receiving a packet in the mail from my future employer with all of the details in writing, which was never sent (nor did my current employer know anything about it when asked.
            • by winnabago (949419)
              I guess the question is - why did you accept the position if there was nothing in writing? Did you already commit to relocation, or were you desperate?
              • by BVis (267028)
                I took the position because I was assured of that 'something in writing' being forthcoming, and because it was a great opportunity and I didn't want to lose it because of a delay. And, I didn't have a job at the time. It was very possible that insisting on something in writing would introduce unacceptable delays in my start date or loss of the opportunity altogether.
                • by winnabago (949419)
                  I don't know if your recruiter really made out all that well, their percentage was probably of the lower salary anyway.

                  Of course, getting you to commit before all terms were confirmed is pretty sleazy, but probably not lawsuit worthy. At the very least, I'd bring it up to the employer so that they didn't use this recruiter again.
                  • by BVis (267028)
                    Oh believe me, they know about what happened, and won't be using them again. The thing that might make this actionable is that what they told me couldn't POSSIBLY have been true, due to the tax laws involved. (Basically, they told me that my employer would match a percentage of my salary that the current tax laws don't allow them to do, even if they wanted to.) So while they may not have actually lied, they were definitely negligent at the very least.
                • by Phisbut (761268)

                  I took the position because I was assured of that 'something in writing' being forthcoming, and because it was a great opportunity and I didn't want to lose it because of a delay.

                  Did you sign anything like an employment contract with your current employer or is that the "something in writing" that never came? If you signed a contract, then you get to be offered what is written in the contract and nothing else is promised. If you didn't sign a contract, you are free to leave right now and get yourself anot

                  • by BVis (267028)
                    I'm always free to leave and get myself another job, I'm an "at will" employee. I can quit or be fired for any reason, no reason, or because the wind's blowing the wrong way. There is no employment contract here. Employment contracts are not enforceable in this state.

                    Basically without filing a lawsuit, my only option is to quit.
                    • by Phisbut (761268)

                      Basically without filing a lawsuit, my only option is to quit.

                      Then why don't you? Instead of whining that you're not getting what you think you deserve, why don't you quit and find another job who'll give you what you're worth?

                    • by BVis (267028)
                      Because low pay is better than none? Because I have a mortgage to pay? Because the job I have is a good opportunity? Because I was out of work two months before I got this job and don't have any reason to think that the next time will be different?

                      It must be nice to be able to afford to just throw away a job like that. Most of us work for a living.

                      That being said, I fully plan on finding another job if my current one doesn't take steps to bring my compensation to within the range I was promised. I'd li
        • 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 firi

          • by MattW (97290)
            It really depends. This is true in a lot of cases and it has nothing to do with lawsuits when it is the PWG (proverbial white guy) -- it's because some companies will actually challenge unemployment claims. In some states, at least - in Texas, for example - your unemployment "insurance" rate is based on how much is paid out to former employees who file. So if you let someone go without cause and they file for unemployment, you end up paying for it. If they file and you have a paper trail, you can challenge
    • by sho222 (834270)
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by flink (18449)

        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

        • 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".

        • 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.
    • by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:18PM (#19167245) Journal
      "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."
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:13PM (#19165885)
    What is this? Ask Lee Majors?
  • by 6Yankee (597075) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:14PM (#19165889)
    So, we're ripping our Ask Slashdot items directly from Salon.com now?
  • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:14PM (#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....

    • by eln (21727) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:42PM (#19166511) Homepage
      Wow...I've never seen someone actually have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Slashdot post before.

      Take care, buddy.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Just think... he had the nervous breakdown, then he finished his post. That's dedication right there.
        • 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.
      • by djh101010 (656795) *

        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?
      • by ipmcc (466386)
        > Wow...I've never seen someone actually have a nervous breakdown in the middle of a Slashdot post before.

        You must not come here often.
  • by ulysses38 (309331) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:15PM (#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.
    • by u-bend (1095729)
      C'mon, that was really funny. Laugh at work and make your uptight cubicle neighbors glare and cluck. Should go higher than +1.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:22PM (#19166087) Journal
    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).
  • by Otter (3800) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:29PM (#19166215) Journal
    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.

    • by djh101010 (656795) *

      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 ans

  • Salon got it right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:29PM (#19166223) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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: (Score:3, Funny)

      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?
  • by Caste11an (898046) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:31PM (#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*
    • by mythar (1085839)
      just wait until your former boss also gets hired at your new company. you said all those nice things about him, remember?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Caste11an (898046)
        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!
  • by datastew (529152) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:33PM (#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
  • 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... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:41PM (#19166493) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by Lumpy (12016)
      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 h
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Better to stir unrest, then leave. It's just fun.

      I saw downsizing coming at one small orginization 350 people. Pointed it out to the other programmers. Withing a week almost all of them had left. When I was the last one on a project, I left.

      They deserved it to.
  • 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

    • by Grishnakh (216268)
      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!
  • 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.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      When I did contracting, I would get so irritated when they started talking like I was an applicant for a job.
      I always would stop them. "I'm a contractor, contracts end. Maybe someday I'll be a good enough contractor to have never ending contracts like SAP, but right now I just get things done."
      Seems harsh in text, but when I said most people just laughed, apologized for going into 'interview mode' told what they wanted, I told them how long."
      Having glowing business references is nice, as is finding out yout
  • 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...

  • by Gybrwe666 (1007849) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:56PM (#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
  • by Twixter (662877) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:10PM (#19167111) Homepage
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:15PM (#19167209) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Unoti (731964) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:30PM (#19167503) Journal
    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.

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @03:38PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mooingyak (720677)
      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.
      • 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 l

        • by mooingyak (720677)
          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
          • People would actually tell you they're being evicted? Wow. I don't recall being asked that during my renting days

            It doesn't always happen, but it certainly does happen.

            I ask about evictions on the application, and sometimes it comes up in conversation.

            I'd be surprised if someone being evicted wouldn't come up with one of those though if they were asked.

            Oh, sure. They come up with all kinds of things. But it's hard to keep up the charade if you're lying. Observe:

            Me: So why are you moving?
            Applicant: I want

            • by mooingyak (720677)
              "Hi, I'm Alice, and I'm calling to see if your apartment would be good for my son, Bob." Would you think anything of it? Honestly?

              I actually didn't make the connection that his Mom was booting him out, but it did immediately strike me as odd that Bob isn't calling on his own. After that point, the why of it is almost immaterial.

              BTW, I found it strange how many landlords either hinted or outright told me that they preferred single tenants or working couples with no children (I had one kid the last time I we
              • BTW, I found it strange how many landlords either hinted or outright told me that they preferred single tenants or working couples with no children

                First of all, what those landlords said to you was illegal. Very, very bad business practice. They probably are not landlords any more. HUD probably sued them into oblivion.

                At any rate, the reason that many landlords prefer not to rent to families with children is that children, as I'm sure you are aware, cause more property damage than adults. Most adults do

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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.
  • 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 unk
  • 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
  • by jafac (1449) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @04:51PM (#19169125) Homepage
    (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.
  • by Maljin Jolt (746064) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:34AM (#19175715) Journal
    Fallen software developers go homeless, fallen managers go into politics, isn't it?
  • by macdaddy (38372) on Friday May 18, 2007 @10:50AM (#19178883) Homepage Journal
    He was a programmer/DBA/general IT guy for a Dot-Bomb startup. He built the mission-critical website and DB backend for the company. My sister and he went on vacation for a week or so months after they were in production. He took a company cell, a company pager, and his own cell with him so they could contact him if something came up. While he was gone something went wrong. Rather than call him so he could work on the problem the owner's son decided to muck around in the DB to see if he could figure it out. He seriously fucked it up then. When my brother-in-law came back to work (I don't think they told him about the problem until he came back) they fired him. The blame was laid on his shoulders rather than the company or the idiot that management let work on the broken DB. Brilliance in action. They've since gone under. What a shame.

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