Question: A client is in the final stages of interviews for a job. When she first applied, she was working. Now, she has left her previous employer. She wonders if she should tell the prospective employers that she is now gone.
People have advised her to “get in front” of the issue, rather than having the prospective employers possibly thinking she is hiding something from them.
What do you advise?
Maplewood, New Jersey
Answer: Julie, this is how I view the issue:
1. In interviewing, the first rule is “Honesty is always important.” It is so often the case that aspiring candidates interviewing for jobs are concerned about revealing a fact or an issue that they believe might hurt their chances of being hired. That is entirely understandable. However, it is my clients’ experience that such fears are usually overblown, and the remedy chosen – not revealing the truth – often brings about the greatest risks: either not getting hired, or worse, getting hired and soon thereafter, getting fired. The “default” in all of these issues is “Tell the truth.”
2. A corollary to this “first rule” is that, if relevant facts change then interviewers should be brought up to date; it’s part of “telling the truth.” Any fact that an interviewer might find relevant to the hiring decision should be brought up to date. That, of course, would include whether an employee is still employed, or for any reason does not meet the hiring standards or qualifications. Many years ago I hired an attorney who didn’t tell me he was facing suspension of his law license; I haven’t forgotten that to this day. Don’t forget: it is the interviewers’ possible opinion of relevancy, not your own, that you should be concerned about.
3. The first exception to this rule is for highly personal facts. One exception to the rule of “disclose all” is for highly personal facts, such as a recently-discovered pregnancy, news that you may need surgery during the next few months, or a divorce. These are not relevant to the hiring decision, and even if possibly deemed relevant, they are no one else’s proper business.
4. The second exception to this rule is for non-material facts. An immaterial change of facts on a job application is not one that would require updating. If by chance you moved from one town to the neighboring town, that fact would probably not be relevant to the hiring decision, and thus not necessary to disclose. However, if it is a prerequisite for the job you are applying for that you live in a certain city or town, your relocation to a different town would be supremely relevant.
5. The third exception to this rule is for “reasons and motivations.” Reasons and motivations are not facts, but matters of perspective. If you decided to leave your last job, and then you were terminated, what is the “real reason” you left? It’s hard to say. Likewise, if you were seeking more income, and a job offer came from a company with great travel opportunities that you could not pass up, your motivation for seeking a new job would not require disclosure or updating.
6. A caveat: It is especially necessary to be 100% honest about “facts likely to be confirmed,” including last date of employment. Bear in mind that most former employers will give out three things to prospective employers doing an employment pre-hiring investigation: (1) confirmation of employment, (2) dates of employment, and (3) title(s). These should ALWAYS be disclosed, and updated, as the prospective employer will surely learn of these facts.
Julie, in summary, your client should surely disclose to her interviewers the fact that she has now left her previous employer. You might remind her that many employers would see that in a very positive way, as it means she is probably one of the few candidates that they do not have to wait weeks or months for her to start on their job, as she’s presumably “ready to start tomorrow.” And, too, you might remind her that candor sells quite well, as we all want honest, candid, forthright employees.
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© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.