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Asked by Mark on April 3, 2016

I was harassed at my job before college by a district manager and HR really didn't do anything, but protect the company, not me. I was fired by them over it and I'm not sure how to answer the question about why I was fired on applications or in interviews. It has cost me some interviews I think. What do I say?

Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at Asurion, on April 7, 2016

Its unfortunate that you had to experience the situation you described & its sad that situations like this still occur. There are a few different ways to handle this situation:

First, you should know it's OK not to list every single job you've held on your resume. For example, I was a waitress throughout high school. In college I had a student worker position in the Dean's office and numerous internships. When I was a senior in college, preparing my resume for my first professional position, I only listed my most recent, most relevant experience on my resume - I did not list the waitress position on my resume as it was outdated and not relevant. That being said, this must be done with the utmost integrity and only for the reason listed above; it should not be done to 'hide' the past. Also, depending on the company's process, they may want you to complete a background check listing all prior employment. You will need to be prepared to list the previous job (and possibly the reason for departure) on this form. It's important to be honest and upfront if asked for employment history, as lying is grounds for termination. 

If you do need to list the job on your resume due to its recency or relevancy, know that you do not need to list the reason for departure on your resume. You will probably need to list the reason for departure on the application/background check form, so I advise you list the reason as 'involuntary departure'. If there is an opportunity to explain, simply state 'ethical differences with supervisor' and allow the company to inquire further if they wish. 

Best of luck to you throughout your job search process!  

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Answered by Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., on April 8, 2016

First, it is terribly unfortunate that you have had to experience this.  Any company that does not take harassment seriously is unethical and perhaps in violation of the law.  The first question that you should ask yourself is how relevant is the position at which you were harassed to the career you are now pursuing.  If it is not and/or you have other more relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities, then it may not be necessary to list this position on a resume.  It still may come up on a background check, and if this occurs, the best way to address it is with complete openness and honesty.  Explain how you felt you were harassed and the company retaliated again you by dismissing you.  If the company with which you are interviewing is ethical, they will understand the situation and empathize with you.  They may, however, ask you for someone at that company who can provide an unbiased reference about your performance there, so it may be a good idea to identify someone at that company who could be this reference for you.

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Answered by Adele, Hiring Expert at ADP, on April 8, 2016

Unfortunately, we have all experienced bad bosses or know someone who has.  When going on an interview, it is okay to share a bad experience, but it must be done in a positive way.  If you can be objective, explaining what you learned from that experience, you can talk about that situation and how you handled it in a positive way that reflects your maturity and willingness to "let it go".  Since then you have attended college and have experienced more situations, good and bad, that you have learned from.  Sometimes, interviewers are looking for culture fit as much if not more than knowledge, experience or skills.  Managers often say that they can teach someone the job, but can't teach people skills.  They want to know that you have a positive attitude, are eager to learn and grow and help the company succeed.
As far as the application, you may only need to indicate the date of hire and date of termination.  If they ask for a reason why you left the company you should be honest, but may be able to simply indicate "terminated" which could apply to many reasons why you left.  Also, companies are becoming a lot more sensitive about addressing harassment claims, and if an interviewer is not sympathetic to your experience you may not want to pursue that opportunity anyway. 

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