Employers, what do you prefer?

A resume liar, or a candidate who gives you the hard truth?

Let's say you have a great candidate for your vacant position of Director of Widgetary Management. Work experience is on point, excellent presentation in the interview, meets or exceeds all of your hiring criteria.

The only negative is an 18-month gap in employment, and the gap is current.

You would ask about that gap, right?

Scenario One

Let's say you do, and let's say the explanation is innocuous: "I quit my job and thought I'd be able to get another right away, but it turned out to be more difficult than I'd expected. So I waited for the right opportunity -- and here we are! Of course, while I was unemployed I kept up with all of the latest developments in widgetary science and attended all the major conferences."

That's a decent explanation, right? And then you call her last employer listed on the resume (the one she left 18 months ago), and that employer gives her raves. You would hire, wouldn't you?

In the literary world, this is known as "foreshadowing."

One year later (summer of 2021) . . .

You're at a Human Resources conference and run into your friend Henry, who is in HR at another company in your industry. Henry is complaining about how his company's Director of Widgetary Management "ghosted" her boss during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. She just stopped working and dropped all contact with the company. "How awful!" you reply. "We hired a fantastic Widgetary Director about a year ago. She has worked out great. Maybe she would have some good contacts for you. I'm told that she attends all the major conferences."

"Really?" Henry asks. "I would appreciate that. Can you give me her name?"

You know that Henry is not the type to raid your employees. "Melba Toast. Here are her email address and phone number."

"Did you say -- 'Melba Toast'?"

"Yes -- cute name, isn't it?"

"Melba Toast is the director who dropped off the face of the earth last year during the pandemic! We have her down for job abandonment, and she isn't eligible for rehire. She went completely incommunicado. We even sent somebody to her house because we thought she might be dead. If you ask me, it was rotten of her to bail on her VP like that during such a difficult time."


Would you fire Melba for lying in her interview, even though she is doing a great job for you now? Even if you decide to keep her, I can't imagine that her lack of candor is going to give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Scenario Two

Now let's go back in time to the summer of 2020, during your interview of Melba. You ask about her gap in employment, and she says, "I am not proud of this, but I was overwhelmed with the pressure of working from home and fear of getting coronavirus, and I just lost my ability to function. I stopped working and didn't communicate with my VP. Since that time, I've been getting counseling, and my counselor and I both think I am well equipped to handle whatever crisis we may face in the future. I've also made amends with my VP. If you will check with the employers I had before my last position, both of whom I worked for for many years, they will tell you that I did an outstanding job."

Honesty is the best policy.

Better? Or would the truth be a turn-off?

"What does Robin think?"

If I were doing the hiring, I'd prefer the Melba in Scenario Two. I would have concerns, but at least she's being honest, and given the crazy circumstances in which we were living this past spring, maybe her inaction is understandable though not justifiable. If she really was an awesome Director of Widgetary Management at the other two companies, it might be worth giving her another chance.

Yes, this blog post is a rip-off

I got these scenarios from Karla Miller's workplace advice column in the Washington Post. The letter writer "ghosted" her employer during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, feels terrible about it now, and needs to find another job.

I agreed with some of Karla's advice. She thought the letter writer should call her former boss and apologize and explain to the best of her ability, without asking the former boss to provide a reference. YES to all that.

One of the letter writer's other former employers had gone out of business, so Karla advised the letter writer to track down the owner using whatever resources she had so that she could get a good reference from that employer. ABSOLUTELY.

But, Karla said that one option would be to leave the most recent job off the letter writer's resume and application since she wasn't there that long and might get away with it. 

I understand that telling the truth may make it harder for Melba to find another job. But it will also make it easier for her to keep her job if the truth comes out (again) later.

Of course, that's just me. Readers, if you were HR, what would you do? Please comment below, and be honest! Tell the truth!

Image Credits: Still images from flickr, Creative Commons license. Advice by Ray McLean, Pinocchio by Captain Roger Fento, "Need money for weed and munchies" by Danny Roberts. Video clip from the great Office Space (1999).

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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