how do I tell employers I was fired for a video I put on YouTube?

A reader writes:

I have been recently fired  from my job for misconduct (horseplay and disregard for company policy regarding video recording devices). A video was made on my smartphone during an overnight shift (I was working by myself and a coworker kept me company). I very stupidly uploaded the video to YouTube and distributed it to my coworkers, and a couple reported me to the security office. I was subsequently let go, but still received a severance package, which showed me that my now previous employer was pretty fantastic.

I’ve since had two interviews and was completely open with the first one. I said I used my phone while the company had a zero tolerance policy and I was let go. The second one, I don’t know what the hell I said, but tried to cover it up by saying it was something I couldn’t discuss for confidentially reasons, and as you can imagine, I was probably laughed at when the phone interview ended.

I’ve read many things online which advise on never lying and to open about it — but honestly when they ask, and they always will, what do you say?  Everyone I speak to says to lie about it — differences of opinion, cutbacks, etc.

My previous employer doesn’t give references, and I still have fantastic relationships with my supervisor, who will give me a personal reference. Legally, I don’t think my employer can divulge the reason I am no longer with the company, but is it ever okay to give a “white lie” that really wouldn’t be detrimental to a new employer in an interview, considering that I know for a fact I lost one opportunity already because of a concern the HR department had with me being let go? Truthfully, I believe people deserve a second chance, and although what I did was absolutely stupid, I don’t believe it should be the only thing that holds me back.

Well, what you did wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I mean, I don’t know what kind of video it was, but assuming you didn’t videotape yourself defiling food that would be served to customers, like that Taco Bell employee a while back, you just made a silly mistake.

However … what concerns me more than that is your relationship with the truth now. I totally understand that it’s tempting to want to make this go away, but integrity and honesty are a much bigger issue to most employers than a tendency to make silly videos on your phone. Just owning up to this and saying you made a mistake is going to come across far, far better than minimizing it or lying.

And I say this because even in your letter to me, you’re distancing yourself from responsibility for what you did.  For instance, “a video was made on my smartphone…” But, you know, the video didn’t just record itself — you made it, and you’re going to come across better if you just say that. And sure, maybe that was just a bad choice of wording, but then there’s this: “I’ve since had two interviews and was completely open with the first one. I said I used my phone while the company had a zero tolerance policy and I was let go.”  That is not “completely open.” The problem wasn’t really that you used your phone. The problem is that you made a video at work and uploaded it to YouTube. And I want to be clear here: I’m less concerned by what you told them (which I think is an understandable way to try to frame this) and more concerned that you’re describing it to me here as being “completely open.”

In order to talk about this with employers in a way that will convince them that you learned a lesson from the experience, you’ve got to sound like you take responsibility for it. What would scare me in an interview is less what you did and more the fact that you’re only partly owning up to it.

Now, could you get away with not mentioning what happened at all, as other people are advising you? Maybe. If the company doesn’t give references, then quite possibly. (But please be aware that whoever is advising you is giving you terrible information. Saying that you left over “differences of opinion” will raise its own red flags, and whoever told you that they can’t legally tell reference-checkers why you were fired is wrong.)

In any case, while it’s possible that you could get away with a cover story, I don’t think you should try to. I think you’re probably coming across as shady to these interviewers because … well, because you’re being shady about this. I think you’ll do a lot better if you’re just honest and direct, take responsibility for it, and explain why it won’t happen again.

{ 150 comments… read them below }

  1. Mary*

    I think you gave great opinion there Allison.
    2 things – 1 – I was also under the impression they couldn’t say why an employee left.. only if they would hire them back. 2 – I too was ready to say “it is a confidential matter” but they got the truth out of me, I just couldn’t say it.
    I put in my 2 weeks notice and was let go that “quit” or “fired”?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      1. Nope, assuming you’re in the U.S., it’s perfectly legal to give an honest reference. They can say what kind of worker you were, why you left, whether you were fired and why, or anything else about what you were like to work with. Some employers have policies of only giving out limited information, but that’s just internal policy and not the law (and is often only followed by HR, not individual managers).

      2. You resigned. They then moved up your last day, but you resigned.

      1. Joey*

        No reference policy is for a couple of reasons:
        1. A consistent message about the separation is communicated to whomever.
        2. Managers frequently give info that was never addressed with the employee.
        3. Inconsistent information is detrimental to unemployment and legal claims.

        Here’s a secret: HR doesn’t care (usually) if you break the no reference rule for good employees. We just don’t want piss off the ones who hear the real reason for getting fired through the grapevine. Those are the ones who get pissed and sue.

        1. Mary*

          I might have on my rose colored glasses, but it seems to me I still have a good relationship with HR in the company.

      2. Anonymous*

        You resigned. They then moved up your last day, but you resigned

        If they were sent on gardening leave, yes. But if the paycheques stopped before their notice period, it might be worth filing for unemployment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, for unemployment purposes you can definitely do that. But as for whether she now needs to answer “yes” to “have you ever been fired?”, the answer is still no. She resigned.

          1. Mary*

            I was awarded unemployment due to the reasons for my resignation. I do say I quit, (the final pay check was given on pay day, not the day I was relieved), the hard part is the answer as to why..”honesty” has honestly killed my chances. I am sure a hiring manager is out there who appreciates it though.

  2. Blinx*

    Well, it’s not actually clear that the OP filmed the video. Another explanation would be that the coworker filmed the OP performing said horseplay. Curious — what happened to the coworker?

    At any rate, OP should take responsibility for their actions and say something like “I was fired for violating company policy.” Further explanation would be “by doing something stupid.” Everyone does something stupid now and again, and some people get caught and pay the price. Question is, what did you learn from it? Would you do it again? Would you have respect for future employers’ policies?

    1. Jamie*

      “Curious — what happened to the coworker?”

      I’m curious as to what consitutes horseplay at work.

        1. Amouse*

          me too. I’m picturing some sarcastic video about the workplace maybe a mock-tour or something like that but who knows.

      1. EM*

        If you’ve always worked in professional settings, it’s hard to imagine adults engaging in “horseplay”, but it happens. It’s things like playing tag, trying to give your buddy a wedgie or a noogie, mock-fighting, playing with equipment (joyrides on forklifts definitely qualifies as horseplay). Yeah.

    2. Colette*

      At any rate, OP should take responsibility for their actions and say something like “I was fired for violating company policy.” Further explanation would be “by doing something stupid.”

      To me, this seems far too vague, and leaves too much up to the interviewer’s imagination. Taking a video and uploading it to YouTube is different from, say, taking a forklift for a joyride or stalking a coworker. It’s better to just be honest.

  3. Nodumbunny*

    My comment is being written to convey that an opinion was held that when passive voice is used, responsibility is not being taken.

    1. Ellie H.*

      Love it. I hate passive voice and am currently on a campaign of revising all official communication from my office to exclude it.

      1. Patti*

        Awesome. While we’re campaigning, can we also petition for punishment for those who abuse the “reply all” button? That’s my current office soap box.

          1. Esra*

            I loathe the read receipt. It should be used incredibly sparingly. 99% of the time it is the email equivalent of a whine.

            1. Amouse*

              There’s one guy who asks for it every time he e-mails the whole company. Does he really want that many read receipts in his inbox? My co-worker also requests them every time and then leaves the e-mails sitting in our common inbox so when I’m going through to find ones for me I always end up hitting her e-mails and having to close the read receipt requests all day. She was mystified as to how this could possibly be irritating when my co-worker and I kindly asked her to please move them. And there my rant for the day.

              1. Jamie*

                Perfect example of people who should have limited access to read only.

                I’ve found it useful in rare instances. Sending out a policy update – so people can’t later claim they weren’t updated.

                Rare instance, not instances – that’s the only time I’ve ever used them.

                1. Amouse*

                  “Limited access to read only”
                  Do you mean that their ability to request read receipts can be limited? If that’s possible I wish I were in IT and could secretly restrict them haha

                2. Jamie*

                  Yeah – that was what I meant, although I have no idea if that’s possible. I’m IT and if one of my end users were overusing it I would just say knock it off. Same result and less messing around with configurations.

                  I did work at a place once where they restricted access to all users. So you couldn’t select the all users group, but you could individually select everyone…or you could just reply to someone else’s all users email and change the subject/body and there you are.

                  Kinda of pointless to limit it when you have workarounds built right in.

                  I don’t think the IT people there knew my “knock it off” trick. Said with a smile it is the most handy of all the things in my IT toolkit.

                3. Amouse*

                  This is too nested to show but is in response to what you (Jamie) last wrote:
                  ha! Easier and probably a lot less work in the long run. I like the direct approach.

              2. mh_76*

                Years ago, I had one colleague who would say that she hadn’t received my emails often enough that I would request a read receipt whenever I emailed her. She ignored them so, when she asked me to troubleshoot something else and left the room, I tweaked the setting in her Outlook to “automatically respond to read receipts” (or whatever the wording was). On my end, I set up a rule that moved read-receipts from her to a separate folder and ignored them unless I needed to see that something was read. Actually, I think that that rule was set up to move all read-receipts… don’t remember, too long ago… I would sometimes move the r-r’s to the relevant topic’s folder though.

                For other emails, I still use that feature occasionally but only if the need arises to verify that an email I sent was at least opened. I know that they can be annoying but at times, they’re quite useful (the Legal term “CYA” comes to mind…cover your a**).

                1. Amouse*

                  I think if not abused it can be a useful feature. But like many “tracking” features when put in the wrong hands (read: obsessive people) it strays from its original purpose. When people send me them who don’t send them all the time I’m not annoyed. When my co-worker’s obsessiveness paired with daily (without fail) complaining about how “nobody reads their e-mails” drives her to request a receipt every time she sends a message and then leave them in our common inbox to be tripped over. Then. Then I’m annoyed. :-)

                2. mh_76*

                  There is a setting Outlook that you can change to “never send [replies to] read-receipts [requested]” or something like that…

                3. Amouse*

                  There is a setting Outlook that you can change to “never send [replies to] read-receipts [requested]” or something like that…

                  Thanks! I’m going to look for that!!

    2. Liz T*

      When I teach my students about the passive voice, I tell them the classic is, “Mistakes were made.”

      1. Amouse*

        This reminds me of my manager! I’m wondering as a teacher if you can tell me what this would be: Instead of saying “So I will need you to put that information into the database,” she will say: “So, putting that information into the database…” Is this like a futurustic passive or something or just bad grammar? It’s really weird and frequently confusing because she doesn’t directly speak to you.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not clear because it depends on the rest of that sentence; it could be a perfectly legit participle.

          1. Amouse*

            ha! That is a perfect illustration you just unknowingly made. There is no rest of the sentence. She’ll just say “So, going into the database and putting that in” and nod and that’s why it’s so awkward and confusing because you’re thinking “I know there should be more to that sentence” and “I know she’s talking to me but it doesn’t seem like it” and as you’re thinking these things you’re missing the direction she’s giving you. Also she closes her eyes as she’s talking when she’s thinking about what to say but that’s separate thing.

        2. Camellia*

          Since ‘rustic’ can mean uncouth, rude, or boorish, I really like your use of ‘futurusic’. A perfect sniglet!

      2. The IT Manager*

        OT, but I just want to add. There’s a book called Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts that’s on my to read list in large part because of the title. And now everytime I hear or read the phrase “mistakes were made,” I add the words “but not by me.” :)

        1. Esra*

          I really need to read that too. My managers loooooves “mistakes were made” because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is beyond irritating. If I messed up, I want to know, not hear vagaries. If I didn’t mess up, why do I have to act contrite on someone else’s behalf?

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            Ugh. I had a manager that would call a department meeting and chew us all out for the mistakes of a few. Whenever I would ask that he address the ne’er-do-wells individually, because I was never sure if he was talking about me but I just wasn’t aware of the mistake I’d made, he’d say, “Don’t step in front of a bullet that doesn’t have your name on it.” I told him he needed to work on his aim. He was Not Amused.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      This comment is in response to the previous comment, in order to convey that the above comment is the Best Comment Ever.

  4. Amouse*

    I very stupidly uploaded the video to YouTube and distributed it to my coworkers, and a couple reported me to the security office.
    Yeah this is concerning. You’re making it sound more like the stupid part wasn’t doing it in the first place but the fact that you uploaded it to youtube and got caught. Look, like Alison said there are far worse things you could have done. You were probably just bored on night shift. But even if you don’t believe what you did was stupid in itself you need to display some sense that you respect your employer and their reasons for making policies like this. Of course they don’t want youtube videos made by their employees all over the internet, it makes them look like they’re employees lack dedication and totally messes with their image.

    If you can’t convincingly say that you learned making videos at work is a stupid idea then think about the impact this would have on your workplace and how it affects their image as well as what it says to them about you as an employee and try and see the flaws in your behaviour from that perspective. When you think about what a company interviewing you would want, why would they care that this incident occurred and whether you’ve learned from it? Write it all out on paper if you need to. It sounds like the incident is fresh and you still need to do some reflecting. You can’t approach this as “how do I cover my tracks so this doesn’t affect my career in the future?”
    You need to own up to it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is really good advice. If you just think it was a stupid thing to do because you got fired over it, you won’t be as convincing as if you understand WHY your employer would fire you over it … why an employer would have those policies and what they’d worry the impact on them could be. If you can get that perspective on it, it’ll really help.

  5. Wilton Businessman*

    I agree with Allison, you’ve got to own your mistake. You can’t have a “cover story”, tell it like it is. You need to acknowledge your mistake, show remorse that you did it, and hope they believe you.

    Yes, some people will shy away from you. Thems the breaks.

    Or you could start your own blog ( and become rich and successful.

  6. OP*

    Thanks for the comments, folks! I’m the OP on this one — believe it or not, but I’ve been off for just over a month now, and I’ve had plenty of time to mull over what happened. It would be incredibly stupid of me to not take responsibility for this, and truthfully I have. Nothing in this said video was “bad” (ala Taco Bell) just filming a coworker but I just so happened to catch a little too much of the office equipment/company logo etc. It was more so a “what if” our customers happened to be sent the video, they expect better/we expect better. I mean it was a definite learning curve for me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and this happening has opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t really pay much attention or any at all to.

    As for the reference statement, (I’m trying to write this without it making it seem it’s an excuse of any kind, but I assume it sort of is) I actually live in (Ontario) Canada. Part of my separation package included the following: The practice of the Company is that employment references for former and current employees are not provided. This applies not only to formal requests for references of any kind, but also informal discussions with anyone outside the Company. All employment verification requests for present or former employees are to be forwarded to HR via the Request for Letter Confirming Employment form. The letter confirming employment will provide confirmation of: Dates of employed, most recent job title and salary information.

    As for the question: “so, why are you no longer with XX?” my best and most honest answer should be is “actually I was let go. I had recorded a video on my phone, which I uploaded to YouTube. In retrospect, it was incredibly stupid because in doing so, it violated the company policy on the matter. From the whole ordeal, I’ve learned that this type of activity is foolish and grown not only as an individual, but as an employee. This experience has taught me what’s most important and I’m eager to show you and XX Company what I can bring to the company in terms to my skills from my previous role” (or something to that effect).

    Again, thanks everyone! :)

    1. Jamie*

      “This applies not only to formal requests for references of any kind, but also informal discussions with anyone outside the Company.”

      This isn’t relevant to the topic at hand, but I’m curious about this. I know a lot of companies in the US have the no reference policy (just employment verification) but how do you police an informal discussion?

      Maybe I just work in an industry where it seems like there is 3 degrees of seperation between everyone you work with…but I’ve gotten calls from people with whom I used to work about so and so because they see a mutual company (with me) on their resume and want to know if I knew them.

      I’m just curious if in Canada this is more of an honor agreement or if this is something legally enforceable?

      1. Colette*

        I’m in Canada, and I’ve worked for multiple companies who have “we don’t give references” policies – but I’ve often been able to get references from my managers. I don’t think there’s a significant difference between Canada & the US about how these are enforced.

      2. Esra*

        In my experience, it’s more of an honour agreement. Like you said, it’s incredibly difficult to police casual conversation (as it should be).

        The no references period thing is crazy though. I’ve never heard about that happening.

        1. Jamie*

          That makes sense – thanks.

          This is why I wouldn’t take too much comfort in the no reference policy. You may not get them through HR but they are still potentially out there.

      3. GeekChic*

        I work in Canada now and have seen managers fired over giving informal references outside of company policy (saw that in the U.S. too). How did the employer find out? People talk….

        That said, I still wouldn’t rely on the employers statement that was provided to the OP because the OP has no way of knowing if the company is that vigilant about their no references policy.

    2. Amouse*

      Canada in the house!
      “actually I was let go. I had recorded a video on my phone, which I uploaded to YouTube. In retrospect, it was incredibly stupid because in doing so, it violated the company policy on the matter. From the whole ordeal, I’ve learned that this type of activity is foolish and grown not only as an individual, but as an employee. This experience has taught me what’s most important and I’m eager to show you and XX Company what I can bring to the company in terms to my skills from my previous role”

      One nit-picky thing. I wouldn’t just say it was stupid because it violated company policy. Try to go a bit deeper and explain the reasoning behind why the company would have the policy at all. If you show a fundamental belief in respecting the company’s core values and image it might carry more weight. Good luck, I hope you find a job soon!

      1. Ellie H.*

        I don’t know – I think most of us think that making videos and uploading them to YouTube is kind of stupid, but it’s not necessarily *inherently* stupid across the board, out of hand . . . in this case it WAS stupid specifically in that it violated company policy. But this, too, is just nitpicking on my part; I agree that it seems useful to indicate appreciation of the underlying reasoning/values behind the policy.

        1. Amouse*

          Oh I agree. I don’t think uploading videos is inherently stupid. I think in this case it was stupid more than just because it violated policy. It was stupid because the policy actually makes sense.

          Cause if I think of managers I’ve worked with a lot of them had a sense of humour and might totally understand why someone would make a video while bored in a call center but the greater principle of not understanding why it was disrespectful would still win out and they’d still fire that person or reprimand them

    3. Patti*

      That is a great answer. Yes, some may still shy away from you, but as an interviewer, I would find that refreshingly honest and mature. Acknowledge that you have learned the lesson, and move on. Good luck!

      1. Patti*

        And also agree with Amouse above… the more you can “side” with the company on this one, the better it will be received.

    4. Rana*

      You might want to reword it to avoid “the whole ordeal,” as that implies that this was something more prolonged and involved than what actually happened: you did something stupid and were fired for it. “Ordeal” also implies that you were a victim in this, and thus undercuts your claim that you understand why this happened and why you won’t do it again. “Incident” might be better.

  7. Tater B.*

    To me, “why did you leave/why were you let go” is one of the most important questions in an interview, whether you were fired or resigned.

    To be honest, I still struggle with this. I resigned from my job for a number of reasons which I have already discussed on this site. At first, I answered with the blanket “seeking advancement opportunities” answer, but I felt so insincere with that (Note: I am not saying this is true for everyone; this is simply the way I feel). Even if they had promoted me, I still would have left.

    Plus, I’ve had plenty of time to think about all that transpired and I realized I didn’t do everything right. I made a lot of mistakes and it was truly not a good fit for me. So, I’ve been working on cultivating an answer which shows my newfound awareness and maturity. To me, that answer is received so much better than the previous one.

    Sorry for rambling! I’m working on that as well! LOL

    1. khilde*

      “Sorry for rambling! I’m working on that as well! LOL”

      I do it, too. I prefer, however, to think of it as “thought processing outside of my head.” :) Which I think it totally legit. I come to conclusions and gain insight better when I’m talking about it (believe me, I’ve tried to just sit and “think.” The problem is that I really, really need feedback and interaction from another person to help me form my thoughts). So I accept this about myself, but I am learning the best people that I can do this with because not everyone tolerates it or understands it. I’m lucky that my coworkers understand this about me and when I need to talk about an idea, they let me. I am also trying hard to learn how to clip my thoughts down to the main points, though that’s still a struggle (like this post, case in point!). Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I feel the same way about myself (the rambling) and that if you have people you know and trust that you can ramble to first to collect your thoughts, then maybe when you go in for interviews all of that processing is already done and you’ll have a great answer!

  8. AnotherAlison*

    I’m curious – is it better to say he recorded & uploaded a video and leave it at that or explain that the video was more or less harmless, other than revealing company equipment and violating policy. (Not that he’d want to say something that sounded like he didn’t think it was terrible offense, but as the potential employer, it would make a difference if this was a video of someone hanging out at work vs. racing forklifts around the warehouse.)

    1. Patti*

      I think if he offers it up, the interviewer will still feel like he doesn’t understand the gravity of it. However, if they ask (like I would), “What was in the video?”, that would be the place to explain it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If I were the interviewer, I’d definitely ask what kind of video. I wouldn’t be bothered that he didn’t proactively explain, but I’d ask. So OP, you want to be prepared with a concise explanation for that.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        Yeah. It’s different if the video is “we set up a giant game of dominoes with empty product boxes in the warehouse after hours” vs. “extensive quasi-humorous narration about how dumb all our customers must be to work with a crappy company such as ourselves” or “upskirt shots of all the female employees.”

      2. fposte*

        And I’d also want to know if it’s still up–I haven’t heard the OP say that s/he took it down.

  9. OP*

    I didn’t want to put too much out there seeing as how this will end up on Google in the near future, but I think for this to help me, it would be best to be clear on what happened exactly (in the video). My coworker and I were chatting (it’s a call center, slow evening). They went to pick up an item from another coworkers desk, which fell and broke. They tried to put it back, so I grabbed my phone for a “video confession” (my team was pretty loose net, so it was more so for just laughs if you will). I just followed them around saying “come on, admit it.” And that was it. The video it self showed a few paper items on desks (truthfully nothing important) and our company logo hanging on the wall. I uploaded it to YouTube because one of my coworkers wanted to see it (me trying to be funny). Once I did, I thought the rest of the team would want to see it as well, and I then distributed it. So in defining what happened, it was horseplay. It violated our policy for no phones etc. And I respectfully paid the price.

    Truthfully guys, I know without actually saying all that (even a readers digest version of it) will leave what I did up to the interviewer to decide for themselves. How can I put this into context?

    1. Jamie*

      And see, this illustrates why it’s important to find some way to let them know it was silly – not egregious.

      I’m not saying it was okay – but I can’t be the only reader who imagined something much worse before the details.

      And who uses the word horseplay anymore? I don’t think I’ve heard that in a context outside of my mom telling me to stop being wild in the front room – it messes up the couch cushions.

      I think this is what I’d call a lapse in judgment and hope they ask for the details. Just makes sure you mea culpa and own your responsibility.

        1. Jamie*

          Yes – rumpus! Or like being fired for causing ballyhoo. Or tom foolery.

          I’d have a hard time keeping a straight face during the exit paperwork.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I was on the phone with my son’s guidance counselor when I read this. I thought I was going to lose it. Rumpus, tomfoolery, and ballyhoo.

          2. Chinook*

            Hey, as a Canadian who has been given cowboy shirts as work dress in her (nationally known) accounting office and passes horses on her way to work, lay off the guy. We have a different lingo up here and “horseplay” refers to something kids do on the playground when there are no adults (or older kids) around.

            *gets off her soap box and back to lurking*

            1. Amouse*

              haha I’m trying to guess where you’re at. probably in the Western provinces around where I am now :-)

              1. Chinook*

                You will know where I am if you understand how Canada Day fireworks can make you start craving pancakes for breakfast 14 days in a row.

                1. GeekChic*

                  Chinook – always nice to see someone from my hometown. Amouse’s response makes me think that our famous tourist attraction isn’t quite so famous in certain places… ;)

                2. Amouse*

                  ha! My first impulse was right, wasn’t it. You’re somewhere in Alberta (probably Calgary). I don’t expect you to actually answer :-)

      1. Amouse*

        Or if they’re not internet savvy they might think ” It’s posted on Youtube! Dear Lord now the whole world will see it!!” as opposed to the truth which is probably that around ten random people on the internet will see it and the odds of it becoming a youtube sensation are pretty much non-existent. Still, it’s the principle of the thing.

        1. Jamie*

          Good think the link isn’t posted here – tens of thousands of hits wouldn’t help the situation. Speaking as someone who would totally hit the link. :)

          1. Amouse*

            haha All of a sudden it’s on the national news as a “viral sensation” Do you guys put those videos on the news in the US? The national news here in Canada is always showing “videos that have gone viral”

          2. OP*

            For what it matters, I deleted it as soon as I was told the company’s security team had it (roughly 12 hours after it was uploaded). And, it was made hidden, so only those with the link would have seen it; unless someone gave it to someone else (ie: customer). Stupid, stupid stupid!!

            1. Jamie*

              I have a question – are you in management? I could see this being a bigger stumbling block if you were a manager when this happened…however, once you’ve moved on to other things and there’s some significant time and distance you have a hell of an answer for “tell me about a time at work that you wish you’d done differently?” variations of which come up in interviews all the time.

              Silver lining and all that.

              1. OP*

                No, just a subordinate. However that is a good point, though. As I mentioned before (things happening for a reason), it would be intriguing to know if this will, indeed be something that can be (truthfully, legitimately) used to my advantage.

                1. Jamie*

                  Anything cringe worthy can be used to your advantage later, if you learn from it.

                  Some of it will be time – enough time needs to pass before people will hear the story as being far removed from who you are now (Who you are then? In the future, when you’re telling it? I don’t know…I’m sure I just make all the here who are really great with the grammar thing weep with that train wreck of a sentence.)

                  Time and achievement at another job where you can show, not just tell, the lesson landed.

                  In the meantime I’d just try to tell as honestly as you can and move the focus back to your actual work accomplishments and skills in the interviews.

    2. Ellie H.*

      “The video was of myself and a few coworkers making jokes that didn’t refer to our work or the workplace, but it violated company policy in that it was filmed on the premises and showed the workspace.” How does that sound?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I like that. It explains it with out getting all, “My coworker did this, and then I did that.”

      2. KS*

        I like this. Especially when preceeded by “I made a terrible lapse in judgment and regret it deeply”. It shows the OP regrets what happened and gives a brief explanation of the incident.

        1. Natalie*

          Maybe it’s just me, but I think the OP would be better off using fewer modifiers. The behavior was really just a normal lapse of judgment, not a terrible one, and speaking too severely about it could either sound insincere or rehearsed.

          1. Hari*

            Agreed. It really wasn’t that “terrible” of a thing. It violated company policy but I bet the situation would have played out differently if the logo was not shown. OP probably would have just been reprimanded if anything at all.

        1. Amouse*

          OP: I would memorize your answer to this question or if it’s a phone interview write it down. Just don’t sound rehearsed when you say it! lol Computer voice” I Reegrett (space) my (space) actions (space) deeply”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This is hugely important, especially with that particular sentence, which does sound a little too stiff/political if you don’t say it in a VERY natural, conversational tone.

      3. Jamie*

        This is good. The key is in striking the right tone of letting them know no one was personally hurt (so they know it wasn’t anything vicious) but you totally get why it was wrong and it’s definitely in the lesson learned file under never, ever again.

  10. OP*

    I sincerely appreciate all your input on this. It’s given me a few perspectives I haven’t looked at, so thank you.

    Since there are those in the audience who do this for a living; do you honestly believe that with what I say (now that I have confidence in explaining truthfully what transpired) to perspective employers that I will have an excellent opportunity for the position? I’m not turning my back on anything anyone has said here (especially since people seem to care enough to show and express their time and opinion, thank you!) understanding this isn’t a “this is the best way to lie through an interview” type website, and I KNOW I would NEVER get that type of advice here. I know now that I probably hurt my own self with the way I worded my explanation in my first interview, but would it have made (perhaps not the world of difference) but just any? I have phenomenal experience in where I’m coming from and the talents that I’ve picked up from my previous role; but I still have this gut feeling that it may never matter. Is he the best fit for this position/company? Does he have the most experience/ability to learn and adapt to this role? Oh, but how about the maturity level? Does one truly learn from silly mistakes, or does something major need to happen for that rock to turn over and him to see the severity of the situation?

    I have a terrible tenancy to over think, I’m sorry for that…

    1. Omne*

      I’ve done a lot of hiring and in all honesty it would be a negative for me. However, if you explained it completely, as you did here, and took responsibility for it I wouldn’t disqualify you. If you were the best candidate I would still hire you.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with Omne. It would give me pause. It wouldn’t be an automatic disqualifier if you talked about it in a responsible way, especially if you were an outstanding candidate, but it’s definitely a negative.

    3. fposte*

      I think it’ll lose you a few opportunities on this job hunt, but I also think there will be employers who will consider it a ding that strengths could compensate for. And I think it’s only going to have a strong effect on this job search–it’s not likely to shadow your entire career. I do think you should try not to be a short-timer at wherever you’re hired at this point, though, because you want this new job to be the data point that wipes out the firing, not something that raises an additional question.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      All other things being equal, I’d give you a chance. Being able to accept that you were fired over your violation, without bitterness, seems like an indication of maturity to me. However, my knowing the whole story is a big factor. With the initial question to AAM alone, my answer would be no chance.

      Assuming everything you said is true, it was kind of a bum deal for you and I feel bad about your situation. Some of the things my husband did at work when he was young and was only written up for. . .

      1. Hari*

        +1 Knowing the whole story would be the game changer. If anything I would feel sympathy. I would figure OP got fired more as “to make an example of” rather than the severity of what actually happened. In this case, especially since no one could access the video without the link, there was no fallout and very reasonably unlikely a external person would ever see it. However in the future if employees thought this kind of behavior was “OK” the video made could be far worse than causal jokes and could reach a much larger base.

    5. Jamie*

      For me it would really depend on the position. If it was a position where there was good and structured management and the skills fit…it would be a red flag but if you were the best candidate it wouldn’t absolutely rule you out.

      I’ll be really honest – if it were a position where I wasn’t as confident in the supervision and the role required autonomy and using your judgment…I’d probably pass until you had at least another job in between. It’s just too fresh for me to trust the “tell” of lesson being learned…I’d need the “show” too.

      So it really depends on what kind of position it is.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yes, I was going to add that, too. Working alone on the night shift again would not be an opportunity I’d give the OP for a while.

        1. Camellia*

          Actually, it seemed as though it was okay when he was alone. The ‘horseplay’ happened when another co-worker was present.

    6. Patti*

      I agree with the folks above. In honesty, now knowing more of the story, I don’t think it’s a big deal. At most, it displays a perceived disregard for company policy, although that obviously wasn’t the intent. It’s serious, and it would weigh in my decision, but if you convinced me that you were sincere in your remorse, it wouldn’t be an automatic disqualifier.

  11. OP*

    And see, this is where I am at a crossroad. I completely understand that my next employer probably doesn’t want to be a guinea pig in determining whether or not I’ve learnt from the actions that put me in the position I am in. However, with that being said, the job role I’m looking in is very saturated and there are a lot of great/excellent candidates. Playing with numbers, I have a situation where it’s giving those with the “power” to chose when they have plenty of fish. With my personality, I am a very down to earth type of person, and my intentions are always good. But intentions don’t put food on my table or keep a roof over my head.

    Weighing the decision I need to make is killing me. The last several comments all have read (and proven) that hearing one was fired immediately raises red flags. The majority of these people probably don’t frequent resources like this one, and will just play the numbers game with me.

    This is all leading me to my original question regarding whether or not a white lie can truthfully help me out. Every single person here have advised me on being honest, upfront and taking accountability. The next step would be to confidently acknowledge with the interviewer that the situation has been a learning curve with maturity being the focal point, and agreeing with the decision my previous employer made (using the appropriate passive voice). However, I think that you may have proven to me that it “probably” won’t matter.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. People haven’t said they wouldn’t hire you. They’ve said you’ll have a higher bar to meet than if you didn’t have this in your recent past. And that’s true — you will. The answer to that is not “so I should just lie,” but rather “I will need to work harder in order to make this a non-issue.”

      1. OhYouKnow*

        If employers would still give consideration to anyone who admits they’ve been fired or had criminal activity then why do they even ask the question at all? It’s an easy way to weed out people they just don’t want to deal with and then call it “risk management”. And with this job market, it’s easy pickings.
        However, there are many comments on here from HR folks and hiring managers who seem to promise that if they liked and believed the candidate that he/she is still in the running. I hope, for the sake of job seekers and for our collective experience as people, that you truly mean that and would put that morality into real life practice. No one is infallible and all it takes is a bad manager on a power trip to get you fired.

    2. Jamie*

      I am not going to say there aren’t people who would do that.

      However, you’re going from odds where it’s a strike against you to a sure thing that you’re out of the running if they find out you lied.

      If asked why you left the job and you lied – that ends the conversation with the vast majority of hiring managers.

      Which ever way you decide you need to clearly evaluate the risks/rewards of your options.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Another alternative is to take a gap job that isn’t in your (saturated) field and would be more likely to overlook your record.

      In another version of my life, I co-owned a window cleaning company. This was pre-recession, but we would hire just about anyone (including people with criminal records, depending on the offense) and average tenure was ~6 mos. You do something like that for a year and establish a spotless post-offense record, and you might have a better chance.

      White lies always get found out. I remember a case of a person at a former company who lied on his application and was fired after the lie was found out, even though he had two solid years with the company at that point.

      1. Amouse*

        “Another alternative is to take a gap job that isn’t in your (saturated) field and would be more likely to overlook your record.”

        This! I keep thinking: “I worked in my share of call centers and there were people who’d probably done things far shadier than make a silly youtube video and upload it at work,” Why not try to get another call center job OP or some other kind of gap job that’s a bit less picky about candidates and then just excel there for a while.

        1. FormerManager*

          Agreed. I used to work in a call center type environment and ended up in management at the company. Due to our turnover, our hiring process tended to be fast-paced. Thus, we never called former managers/references.

          (I was also told–by a director, no less–“it doesn’t matter all they tell us are their dates of hire and job titles, so why bother?”Sigh.)

          So, I’m sure I hired a few people who’d been fired for all kinds of things. Some may have even finessed it in the interview but truth be told as long as they did their job and then some what happened at previous jobs didn’t matter.

          So, I’d definitely look into something like this. Also, while turnover in a company can be a “turn off,” it can also indicate that hiring managers may be encouraged to let some things slide to get some warm bodies in the building…

      2. Jamie*

        And this is something to keep in mind. People with criminal records have a harder time getting jobs, but many do every day.

        This isn’t even in the same league as having a criminal record. You’re one job stint away from this being a non-issue for the rest of your career. Job hunting is frustrating enough, but try to keep in mind people get fired for worse every day and most of them end up with new jobs.

        I’m not trying to minimize that it sucks to have to overcome one more thing – but no one died and this isn’t something from which you can’t recover.

        I’m kind of stunned that no one else mentioned – he got a severance. I was shocked. Is that a Canada thing? Because no place I’ve ever worked is cutting you a check if you’re fired for cause.

        1. Amouse*

          Wait hold the phone: people in the US don’t get severance for being terminated? Any place I’ve people have been given severance although this was usually not for an “incident” but rather the fit just wasn’t right etc.

          1. Jamie*

            From my experience I’ve known people to get it with layoffs. I’ve seen it when there was a restructure where people resigned with severance in lieu of being laid off.

            In short, I’ve only seen it when the termination was for things beyond the employee’s control.

            I’ve never known anyone to get it if they were terminated for cause – just final check and vacay cash out – but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen. Maybe my experience is atypical.

          2. The IT Manager*

            Are we having some kind of miscommunication about what a word means because why would an employee be paid severence if he or she was fired? That makes no sense at all because severence pay is for things like lay offs. If someone quits of their own accord, they’re rarely,(if ever) paid severence. I’d never expect anyone fired to get severence pay.

            severance pay (n) (Business / Industrial Relations & HR Terms) compensation paid by an organization to an employee who leaves because, through no fault of his own, the job to which he was appointed ceases to exist , as during rationalization, and no comparable job is available to him

            1. Amouse*

              Nope. I knew a guy who worked several years at the company I formerly worked at and was really well thought of then moved to an entirely different department and ended up being terminated because the job wasn’t working out (so for cause) and he got a package based on his years of service. It might have been an exception because he had been there a long time but he was still fired. So whether you call it severance or a “fired Package” it amounts to the same thing.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Most employers make a distinction between “not working out because it’s not the right fit” and “fired for cause,” the latter meaning something like violating policies, excessive absenteeism, cussing out your manager, etc. It’s similar to the distinction that most state unemployment agencies make — you’ll get unemployment compensation if you were fired because you just weren’t very good at your job, but not if you did something avoidable to cause your firing. Often you get severance in the first case (although certainly not always), but nearly never in the second case.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  I agree with the fact that they have to pay you any pension money you are owed. No idea about vacation money and if most people in the US might get paid for that.

                  That’s not what I think of as severence though. Severence is very specifically something extra like a “sorry you don’t have a job anymore, here’s a little something to tide you over” kind of thing not something they owe you.

                2. OP*

                  My “package” is surely not the “defined” severance package one would typically get for being laid off, etc. There could have been several reasons for why I received the package (I did put in a hell of a lot of hours before I left, and even took over the graveyard shift for a few weeks when the company was down and out for absenteeism reasons – all to help them out). This shift was never my typical working environment, and there was zero supervision. Regretfully, lack of supervision had a major impact on my team in several ways and embarrassingly, I even had a meeting with the director of the department to address that, and I ended up throwing an egg in my own face. A lo of people tended to do “what ever they wanted” without much repercussion. I know (without sounding like dick) that I was a huge asset and I don’t think they “wanted” to let me go, but given the circumstances they had to. The way I see the package, was sort of “no hard feelings – although we both know you dun-f*&^ed up.”

                  I truly took pride in my work and took several leadership advances within the role, and I know they appreciated what I was able to do for them. And since my departure, I’ve also come to learn that a very big training course was created to teach the entire company (5000+) that “when we say no phones, we mean it for a reason.”

                  At the end of the day, I get that the customer is the objective for rules, not us. People having equipment that can capture client data readily available at their disposal is unacceptable and if I can be a “help” for other people working and reporting incidents or to not to feel uncomfortable reporting incidents like this, than this a good thing. The last thing I would want to hear about, would be an identify theft issue stemming from my previous employer because someone lifted data (after them letting me go for having this rule for this purpose).

        2. Chinook*

          It is a Canadian law that we must get our unpaid vacation pay when we leave. Other than that, if he was fired with cause or resigned, there should be no severance. I am thinking he saw the vacation pay as severance.

          1. OP*

            Not quite…

            “Notwithstanding our position that we have just cause to terminate your employment, in an effort to resolve this issue finally, without prejudice to our position that we have just cause, we are prepared to offer you, on a purely gratuitous basis a lump sum payment equivalent to $XX. This payment would be made to you within two pay periods of the termination date.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              OP, did you have to sign any kind of release form, releasing any possible legal claim against them? Just curious, since that wording sounds legalistic.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Oh, that’s interesting. That sounds like the process companies use when they’re concerned the person will sue. I’m not sure why they’d do it here since the firing was so clear-cut, unless it’s their standard practice when they fire anyone.

                1. Joey*

                  Sounds like it may be their first time firing someone under the policy and the wanted to set the bar.

                  And sorry, but in a competitive field it would be easy to move on to other candidates. Although if he took another job, any job and was doing fine it wouldn’t be as big a deal for me.

        3. Colette*

          At one of the previous companies I worked for, people who were fired got severance – but nothing near as generous as people who were laid off. I don’t think it’s required, though.

            1. OP*

              The only reason I called it “severance” (and you can clearly tell from the verbiage it’s not technically) is because the amount given to me equaled to that which is given as severance.

    4. Omne*

      If I were considering hiring you I would most definitely call the previous employer as a reference. If I even got the idea that you lied to me you would be toast as far as hiring at my organization, now and for years to come.

      It comes down to a simple matter of integrity, either you’re honest or you’re dishonest. It’s easy to be honest when not much is riding on it, it’s tougher when there are consequences. Sorry but being a grown up isn’t always easy.

    5. Hari*

      I think you will be fine in the long run. I would take Ellie H.’s great advice on how to phrase it (see comments above). I would also suggest that you could mention to the interviewer if they still have reservations on the matter to contact your former supervisor. Not saying they wouldn’t contact them anyway (I would) but you bringing it up does show you have nothing to hide which counts for honesty points. If you do use this method I would call your former supervisor and get them to be honest with you about how they would discuss with to a potential employer. Don’t try to sway them the situation sound better just approach it as you want to make sure what you tell prospective employers matches with what your supervisor would say.

    6. incognito*

      I’ve been fired for being stupid. (My brand of stupidity was attendance issues and misunderstanding that a meeting was mandatory.)

      I don’t remember what I said at the interview for my first job after that, but I got it. It’s become less of an issue, except that I was fired from a job that is very related to my career path. Then again, now it was 5 years ago, so I can easily say it was a wake up call and I’ve refined my professionalism a lot.

      In short, yes, finding your next job could be a challenge, but it can – and will – happen. Then you can move on from there.

      Good luck!

  12. HR Gorilla*

    I’ll chime in and agree with much of the posters, above. It would be a negative, but not one that couldn’t be overcome if the rest of your skills and experience were really solid. I know that I’ve hired some folks whose criminal background checks were ‘borderline,’ simply based on how they handled the explanation of their background. (Caveat: I’m talking about things like 1 DUI that the applicant *did* disclose on their application; or 1 charge of bad/NSF checks; etc.)

    Best of luck in your job search!

  13. CatB (Europe)*

    Now, culture playing a huge role here, I don’t suspect a non-American experience is of much use, but I once hired someone who did time in jail for theft / mugging. He was still young and very convincing that the foolish teenager was long gone. He didn’t dissapoint me one second for as long as he worked with me,

    To the OP: hiring, beyond social roles, is a game between human beings. And communicating, really conveying the inner belief that you own up your mistake and proving you learned your lesson can go a long way. But you need to sincerely have this attitude inside, in order for the other human being to be truly, deeply convinced you’re no risk for the organization.

  14. Vicki*

    >To me, “why did you leave/why were you let go” is one of the most important questions in an interview, whether you were fired or resigned.

    This one has been fairly easy for me in my current period of unemployment, I respond with “Well I worked for [Recognizable Web Company that has been doing a lot of layoffs in the past few years]” and the interviewers nod sympathetically, say “ah. yes.” and move on the the next question.

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