career counselor is advising me to lie

A reader writes:

I was told by a career counselor that if asked in an interview why I left my previous job I should answer that I was laid off. I was actually fired, but the company did not dispute my claim for unemployment so I am now collecting. I feel to tell an interviewer that I was laid off is misleading, but this career counselor stated that in the eyes of the government since I am collecting it is ok to say I was laid off, since technically you cannot collect if you are fired.

That career counselor, unfortunately, is an idiot. I hope you weren’t paying this person.

First of all, you can indeed collect unemployment if you were fired, at least in most states — as long as you weren’t fired for gross or deliberate misconduct. If you were fired for mere incompetence, bad fit, etc., you can get unemployment.

Second, prospective employers don’t care if the government has deemed you eligible to collect unemployment or not. You can’t lie and say you were laid off when you weren’t. What’s going to happen when they call your employer to check references and are told you were fired? When they come back to you to ask about the disparity (if they even bother), are you going to say, “Well, they didn’t challenge my unemployment so I’ve decided to call it a lay-off”?

This “career counselor” is giving you wrong facts and really bad advice. Run.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. Kerry*

    I agree.

    And I continue to be frustrated that there are people out there giving such unbelievably bad advice to job seekers who need help, not crap like this.

    What exactly are this person's qualifications to be a "career counselor" anyway?

  2. Evil HR Lady*

    Bad advice from career counselor.

    However–while it's a little late for this person–if you ever get fired, negotiate a term reason. Often, to get you to shut up and go away, they'll list your official term reason as something other than the real reason.

    It's worth a shot to make job hunting easier.

    And you can negotiate a voluntary termination reason with an agreement that the company won't challenge unemployment.

  3. Charles*

    Evil HR Lady;

    How is your solution – "negotiating a term reason" different from lying?

    Is it simply because you won't be "found out"?

    Or is it because two parties have now agreed to tell the same lie?

  4. Evil HR Lady*


    There are at least two sides to every firing story. Usually 4 or 5 sides. In a situation where gross misconduct occurs the company won't negotiate. In a situation where the employee is terminated for non-willful non-performance it can just as well be the manager's fault as it was the employee's fault.

    If the job was misrepresented, or the work changed the company can think, "this person isn't performing up to snuff" while the person is saying, "hey I did the job I was hired for just great. that job doesn't exist any more. My real job was eliminated!"

    And it is important that you know exactly what your former boss/company is going to say about you before you go job hunting.

  5. Anonymous*

    (Totally Unique Anonymous here…)

    I'm in the same position as the OP.

    I have consulted with my former supervisor, senior manager, and primary customer for that position, and they are all willing to give me a positive reference, in spite of the circumstances under which I left the company.

    Is there a good way to find out what the HR department will say?

  6. Anonymous*

    My career counselor taught me asking the following questions when interviewer wraps up a job interview without hiring me on spot :

    What is your hiring process ?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t say it quite like that, since they’re likely to think “you’re going through it right now.” Instead, ask about what their next steps and timeline are.

      1. Karl*

        Thank you. I am the person that posted this question.

        My career coach taught me asking

        a. What are the training and development opportunities available in your company?
        b. Can you walk me through a typical work day for this position?
        c. What is the next step in the interview process.

        These things, if the applicant is hired right the way on spot , or there’s good sign of the interview, the interviewer will definitely
        talks about the training/development, and gives the applicant a tour , and even introduces the applicant to the company’s existing employee who’s busy working in that part , even the
        applicant does not ask for it.

        If the interviewer wraps the interview up without making or saying any decision, in other words, the interviewer even hasn’t decided whether to hire the applicant yet, there’re inappropriate and abrupt questions.

        Some career coaches are not profesisonal at all

        1. Karl*

          The career coach I’d ever worked with:

          A human resources solution company that serves both individual and organizational customers, located in a single detached house in residential zone, converting into office from someone’s home. In their web site, there’s a list of their organizational clients ( almost all big corporations and all governmental organizations in Canada ) , so my coach had ever said he could introduce me a job too as the company has such strong network and client base – but I ended up with finding he could not do so.

          The coach, hired by that company as a part-time counselor. During my first session with that guy, he said he would also contact my references to make sure if my referneces say positive comments about me before I consider use them as references for my job search, but he did not contact at all.

          On the same day, after the first session was over, two hours later, he phoned me telling me there’s a position needing people urgently, if I was intereted in, go to the temp staffing agency located next door to the coaching company. ( the temp agency was owned by the coaching company’s president too ) .

          Then I was placed into a dead-end job, a physically demanding job, and the working environment was pretty bad, and could make me dirty . The job was a temporary assignment ( only one month ), during the month, I had to work from morning to evening, no time for coaching, even though
          he said in first session he was going to launch me a systematical coaching from resume, covcr letter, interview, to networking, exploring hidden job market and discover more possibilities , and the whole life/career planning
          and might meet me many times in a week for intensive coaching.

          After the temporary assignment was finished, my second session with him began, starting from resume/cover letter writing by showing me a sample.
          After my new resume was drafted , he said he was going to discuss my case
          with his president and he and the president were going to work out a good
          plan for my life long career. ( I did not know whether he talked to his CEO boss or not, and also wondered why he should teamwork with CEO boss to
          work on my case – I am not that great )

          The plan :

          He just told me to attend a certain company’s job fair two weeks later, and the other career fair ( more than one companies’ ) another two weeks later.
          That’s all. Then the only thing to do was just to practise interview skills with him. ( one format for all apporach, he gave me a handout with a couple of mock interview questions on it, tell me about yourself, why should we hire you, tell me your strength/weakness, what does customer service mean to you, how you handle situations when you have conflict with your boss, why you left your last job…. no more, just those questions )

          The first two weeks, two appointments, doing nothing just practising these few fixed interview questions, he did not provide feedback just saying ” good “. I asked him where the plan was, he said we just focused on the upcoming two career fairs first , and the life-long plan was to be discussed later

          The first career fair held by a particular employer : That particular employer, was frequently holding career fairs, almost once a month,
          their turnover rate was high. There’s on spot interview in the job fair.
          After I attended the job fair and went through the interview on site,
          the coach told me he’s familiar with their HR manager and could ask
          the HR manager whether he’s going to hire me on my behalf , and would
          let me know tomorrow. However, he did not let me know tomorrow, three days later I actively phoned him , he started telling me the HR manager would make hiring decision by the end of the month ( If I did not actively phone the coach, the coach even did not say this, and what
          the coach said happened to be what I knew already , in other words,
          it seemed the coach was not that familiar with that company’s HR manager )

          Again, doing nothing, just practising repeatedly the same set of several
          fixed behavioral interview questions , for the other career fair.

          The Other Career Fair

          By more than one companies, private and pulic ones.

          There’s NO on-site interview. The companies just promoted themselves
          on the booth , and the booth reps just instructed booth visitors on ” how to go to their web sites to apply for positions on-line ), completely wasting time

          It seemed i met a bad coach

          1. Karl*

            My question for last thread was,

            did I meet a bad coach in this case ? according to your experience/knowledge, what kind of coach he’s ?
            perhaps the one who over promised

  7. anonymous*

    There is a reason why many suggest to lie about being fired from a previous job. Many companies have an unwritten and unspoken policy for job candidates. “Previously fired job seekers need not apply! This means that on an application you check “yes” for the question, “Have you ever been fired from a previous job?” You will not get an interview, even if your academic and other credentials says that you are a top candidate for the job. What is worse is the electronic job applications. The company is able to set parameters that if there is something they don’t approve, such as being incarcerated, fired from a previous job, your age, via date of birth or high school graduation year, as well as illegal reasons, such as race, religion, or gender, as well as not answering the “voluntary questions” your application goes directly to the cyber trash can. As for the old fashioned and soon to be obsolete paper applications, many managers first thing spot check certain points. If you check yes to the question about being fired, your application goes to the reject pile. As for a resume, don’t ever put down that you were fired from a previous job. As for the job interviews, hope and pray that the “Have you ever been fired from a previous employer?” question is not brought up. If it is, then hope it is towards the end. That way the would have heard the good things about you., instead of just rushing through to get rid of you.
    I know this first hand. I have been fired from a previous job and have truthfully answered that tormenting question. I have applied to jobs that I just received my eduction in and I have not been invited to one single interview. My friend found out and told me to stop telling the truth. His wife who used to work for HR told me that she was given orders by management that any application or resume that had fired on them were to be sent to the reject pile regardless of reason.Managers won’t admit it, however, they personally believe that any previously fired j0b seeker belongs in Hell’s blackwater ceptic tank.

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