It should not be difficult to tell the truth, but a couple of lawyers are in hot water for "fudging" their resumes and web presence. Their excuse? To help them get jobs, and clients.
Prospective job seekers may wish to heed these tales of caution.
Michigan lawyer Ali Zaidi's resume, submitted to various firms for employment, included certain representations the Attorney Discipline Board found false, including claims that he was licensed to practice in Connecticut and Missouri; that he worked for three prestigious firms as a summer associate; that he was awarded a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard; and the outlandish claim that he was a member of the 1996 U.S. Field Hockey Squad who competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Zaidi also admitted that his claim that he practiced law under the name of the Great Lakes Law Group ("GLLG") was false, and that GLLG was an "idea that is still in progress." The discipline board has recommended disbarment.
California lawyer Svitlana Sangary's website has her posed with various celebrities, from former Presidents Clinton and Obama, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney and Kim Kardashian. Problem was they are all (and in some cases, badly) photoshopped. The California bar is recommending a long-term suspension for the deceptive implication that Sangary is more well-connected than she is.
Both lawyers frankly admit these misrepresentations are intended to help them gain jobs and clients. Zaidi was quoted as saying "I was scared nobody would hire me."
Ordinary job-seekers have the same fear, especially if they've been fired from a previous job. Former clients call me all the time asking how to deal with a termination. Even if I have negotiated a separation agreement, the former employee will still have to explain in an application or interview why the job didn't work out. What to say?
I concur with the standard advice given by most HR professionals. Be brief; don't blame others; say what you learned; and explain why it won't happen again. I would also add the caution to respect confidentiality - not only of people involved, but if you've signed a severance agreement, to ensure you don't disclose more than what you've agreed to disclose.
In short, if the application asks, tell the truth (involuntarily terminated), but have a good sound-byte explanation based on the above guidelines ready for the interview. Run it by your friends and family to see what makes the most sense, especially if you have contacts who are in the HR field. You can also find some resources on the web; here are a few I found useful:
It is never easy to find a job in a competitive market, especially if you were fired. But sometimes the coverup can be worse. Companies can and will fire you if they discover resume fraud after you've been hired; and if you file a lawsuit for wrongful termination, resume fraud in your subsequent job search can cripple your claim for liability or damages.
We all make mistakes. If you show you've learned from them and desire to get better, your honesty will serve you in the long run.