my manager told me I can’t list this job on my resume

A reader writes:

I recently resigned from my first job, which was a seasonal sales position. Upon quitting, my manager told me I cannot put this work experience down on my resume, nor can she be my reference since I did not work for 3 months (seasonal positions are for 2 months). I was also forbidden from asking my coworkers for references as well. The real reason I quit was because she was would verbally abuse me even when I was excelling in my role (I told her it was because I had to start school so I couldn’t continue working, which was half true at the time). It was pretty clear she hates me but she still acted “friendly” during my time there so others wouldn’t suspect anything.

I understand I don’t have to list every job on my resume, but what concerns me is the job application employers gives out during interview sessions (where they have the part about write down X years of work history or every job you ever had). To my understanding, you have to write down all your past jobs on the form or else if the company finds out you can get terminated. But I worry that if I leave out this job on my resume and write on the application form, then the hiring manager would still contact my previous manager (and she will most likely say something to sabotage my chance). If I don’t write this job on the application form, can the company still find out about this? I’m planning on applying to an airline company as a flight attendant (and they check background, security clearance..etc).

This woman has zero control over what you put down on your resume. Zero. She doesn’t get to see or approve your resume. You can absolutely list this position if you want to, as long as you list it accurately (dates, title, accomplishments, etc.), and it would be reasonable to do that.

The only way she could possibly intervene in this is if an employer called her for a reference or to verify your employment, and she refused to verify that you worked there. It’s possible that she could do that — no federal law requires employers to provide references or verify employment. However, she couldn’t actually lie and say you never worked there (because she’s not allowed to give factually false information); she could only say that she won’t provide verification.

I’d make sure to save pay stubs and/or your W2s since you can use those to confirm your employment there. Then, if questioned, you can explain to prospective future employers that it’s this company’s policy not to provide employment verifications for anyone who worked less than three months (and that your position was a seasonal, two-month job), but that you can offer this other documentation.

If you think she will give out actually false information about you in an attempt to sabotage your chances, you should contact the company’s HR department if it has one. Explain that you believe your boss is likely to give an inaccurate reference for you and that you are concerned she’ll stand in the way of you obtaining employment. HR people will be familiar with the potential for legal problems and will probably speak to your old boss and put a stop to it. (If it’s a small company and there’s no HR department, consider having a lawyer write a letter to them addressing the situation on your behalf.)

Also, your old boss has no way of prohibiting you from asking coworkers for references. She can prohibit her current employees from giving you those references, but she can’t stop you from asking — you don’t work for her anymore and she has no control over what you do! She also can’t stop former employees from giving you references either (assuming they don’t sign an agreement promising not to, and that kind of agreement would be highly unusual in sales, so I doubt you have to worry about it).

Congratulations on getting out, and may your second job be for someone more reasonable than this person.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. NickelandDime*

    This is a retail job? I predict this woman will get herself fired before anyone has a chance to call and verify the OP’s employment.

    I’m sorry this happened to you – not all managers are like this.

        1. Steve G*

          Maybe the owner wasn’t paying taxes? I had a retail job back in the day where they took out an estimate for taxes but I never got a w2 or whatever for the job. I’m wondering if they actually ever paid taxes (it was a small business) and I left because the owner was crazy so I never followed up.

          1. Steve G*

            In case my comment doesn’t make sense, I meant, maybe the employer doesn’t want to have to confirm that someone worked there because they weren’t paying taxes and don’t want to be put in a position where they get caught not doing so.

            1. SevenSixOne*

              This was my thought too– maybe the employer is covering her own ass because her business isn’t completely on the right side of the law.

          2. Bertie*

            That is the impression I got from reading this letter. Sounds as though the OP is new to the workforce and the former boss is trying to scare them into keeping quiet about boss’s bad behavior.

        2. Anna*

          Agreed. My reaction was “Gaaahhhh! Why are people so crazy?!” Your reaction was much nicer.

          I just don’t understand how these people make it. It baffles me how you can be so horrible at what you do and to the people you work with and exist in a professional setting.

    1. LBK*

      I’m curious why you say that? In my experience firing managers is no more common or straightforward in retail than elsewhere. There’s still usually bureaucratic BS involved and depending how high up she is in the store, there may not be anyone over her at that location (ie if she’s the general manager, her boss might be the district manager that’s never in the store to witness bad behavior).

      1. NickelandDime*

        Because I’ve personally seen entire stores cleared out and new managers put in place. It happens. I’m not saying you or Alison aren’t correct. If there’s no one above her or she owns the store, the buck stops with her. But there is an equally good chance that the next time the OP is looking for a job this woman may not be there.

        1. LBK*

          Huh. I guess I just don’t know how to reconcile that with my experience. In 4 years of service industry work I saw 2 managers get fired, one of which was political BS and the other was for fairly egregious conduct (drinking in the store during work).

          1. Paige Turner*

            I’ve seen managers fired or otherwise pushed out a lot, but this was when I worked at *$…I think it’s easier when the company knows that they have someone else that they can bring in as a replacement right away, and when you have relatively small locations but lots of employees, that’s pretty easy.

      2. ZuKeeper*

        Yeah, at my old retail job, it seemed like you could do just about anything and not get fired. One location’s GM was dragging the store down for years, her AM was sleeping with a part time employee and ended up pregnant, he then dumped her and started seeing another employee. Everyone in the district knew what was going on (Because retail is its own community and gossip runs rampant, and this specific store was like As the Big Box Store Turns, something new and crazy happened constantly!) but upper management didn’t do anything for ages.

        I think that was the final straw and they ended up firing the GM and moving the AM to another store. When she finally got canned, I remember the phone lines burning up as the other GMs in the district were amazed that it had actually happened, and the company grapevine exploded, haha.

        So glad I am out of retail!

    2. Liane*

      I am also sorry this happened to you, OP.

      But, NickelandDime, you’d be surprised just how long sucky managers can stick around in retail. I had one at OldJob: Ill-tempered (to customers and staff). Neglected to keep on top of scheduling unless Store Manager got onto her. Disrespected reports she didn’t like but was blatantly buddy-buddy with those she did. (Among other things AAM tells managers to never do.)

  2. Adam*

    My response to the post title:

    “Or what?”

    It’s true that she can do all sorts of conniving underhanded things to undermine you, but you obviously won’t be listing her as a reference and anyone you would ask in the office to help you I’m sure you would trust to keep your interests in mind and leave this manager out of it.

    Man, senseless power grabs annoy the bejesus out of me…

    1. Chocolate lover*

      Then maybe I should share some stories about the admin in our office, who’s big on trying to claim authority and power over things she has no right to :) for the open thread!

        1. OfficePrincess*

          Ugh. Don’t get me started on the supply cabinet. Some days it’s the most frustrating part of my job.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            My biggest problem with the supply closet at Exjob was trying to convince my coworkers that we actually had one, and that it was NOT my desk!

            I had a sticker on my stapler with a picture of Milton Waddams on it that said, “MINE!”

  3. Not So Sunny*

    Seriously, what’s wrong with people?

    (This is a rhetorical question for which there is no logical answer.)

  4. some1*

    “The real reason I quit was because she was would verbally abuse me even when I was excelling in my role (I told her it was because I had to start school so I couldn’t continue working, which was half true at the time).”

    Just as an FYI, you have to give a reason to resign, and I’m not sure why so many people think they need to invent fake reasons they are resigning.

    At a former company, the Accounting Dept was notoriously underpaid and had really bad turnover. One of the AP employees resigned because she said she didn’t want to work downtown anymore. Then we ran into her….working downtown. Now she is cemented in my mind as the person who made up a story for no reason, and I can’t remember anything about her work.

      1. annonymouse*

        I’ve lied (partially) about why I was leaving an employer.

        They ask and me saying “I don’t have to/owe you an answer” is just going to make things awkward. They’ll assume the worst.

        I can’t say the real reason “You’re a complete @ss hat who treats people badly and severely under pays me. Can you still be my reference?” (Small business and he’s the owner. Can’t ask other people for references – don’t work in my admin area or are casual employees.)

        So what can you say? I told him that that I could no longer do the coaching part of my job (due to an injury I got at work I might add!) and I needed to move to a purely administration role which I wasn’t able to do at teapot sports.

        Nice, matter of fact and technically true.
        Also because it was something he couldn’t fix (like the down town thing) it put an end to all further talks about it or offers to make me stay.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      My ex-boss told me that although I was an excellent employee, there was literally no money in the budget for raises.  This was the second year in a row.  We were government employees so this sounded totally plausible.

      Until I found out she gave my male coworker at $10K raise that same month, and he didn’t even ask for it.

      People, people, when rejecting someone as an employer, a date or a friend, you don’t need to be brutally honest but you DO need to have a justification that isn’t easily verifiable — like on a website that lists employee salaries for the past zillion years.

      Like you, I remember little else about that boss except that moment.  I have zero qualms telling anyone and everyone that story too.

      To this day, I can’t decide whether my ex-boss thought I didn’t know how to read and add or I was so naive that I wouldn’t check.  Maybe both.

      1. T3k*

        Yeah, I was in a similar situation. Got laid off because they were supposedly having financial difficulties, then 2 months later they promote the last hire to full time status (the manger knew I was friends with the last hire, but I don’t think the owner knew this). Now I’m left with mixed feelings of “they said they’d give me great references, but can I really trust them on that when they lied about laying me off?”

      2. Jeanne*

        I was promised a raise when I completed Project X. When I went to my boss, he said he gave the raise to my coworker instead. No reason. But they were the same foreign culture and he favored that.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Yes! I’ve been told for years that I couldn’t get a raise because I was at the top of my salary range. My new boss here told me that someone must have lied to me because I am really $7K below the top of it (she gave me a nice raise and I am so happy I moved to her department). My guess is that your former boss thought you wouldn’t check.

      4. Former Usher*

        At OldJob I asked to attend a conference and was told they didn’t have money to send anyone to that conference. I later found out that someone else attended that conference. Did they think I wouldn’t notice? Why lie?

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          I think they just don’t care. Like…it doesn’t even enter their thought process that you would notice something was up.

          That’s much worse than deliberate exclusion.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Well, first of all, she clearly didn’t make up a story for “no reason”. She had a reason, which is that she didn’t want to say she was quitting because of the crummy pay or bad work environment, or whatever else might have been going on that you’re not privy to. She didn’t owe you or her company the unvarnished truth (and as has been pointed out in prior AAM columns, the unvarnished truth is not necessarily your go-to friend in the workplace).

      Also, you don’t actually know that she “made up a story”. Maybe she still doesn’t want to work downtown, but a period of unemployment and/or a really, really overwhelmingly great new job offset the negatives of working downtown. Maybe she moved in with a significant other who lives downtown and so working downtown is easier.

      1. some1*

        1) I am not saying the LW owed her boss the truth about why she resigned, she could have just said, “I got a new opportunity” (even if the only opportunity is not having to work there anymore).

        2) In the case of my ex-coworker, I saw her within a few weeks of her leaving, and she had told us she was going to the new job because they weren’t downtown. Although, you’re correct, it’s possible the non-downtown place fell through or the downtown place made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

        1. neverjaunty*

          But that’s still ‘inventing a fake reason’. Maybe she really didn’t want to work downtown anymore, but would have put up with it if not for all of the other stuff going on. Who knows? She didn’t owe anybody the complete and radical truth, and the fact that you saw her at a downtown job later really doesn’t mean she’s a horrible liar forever.

          I don’t think this is at all the same as a boss lying that low pay/not getting a raise is the result of ‘financial difficulties’ rather than ‘we don’t give women raises because they don’t need the money obvs’ or ‘I like your co-worker better because we’re from the same country’.

          1. some1*

            When did I say my ex-coworker’s lie was the same thing as a boss lying about not getting a raise??

            1. neverjaunty*

              You didn’t. I’m noting that some other folks have commented how annoying it is to be told “we’re not doing right by you because of X” and then finding out X is a lie. If that were the situation I could see why you would have a low opinion of her, but she’s not; it’s just a co-worker who gave a reason for leaving that may or may not have been true, and it’s honestly a little puzzling that you’re annoyed she didn’t give you the exact reason she was leaving.

              1. some1*

                I’m not annoyed at her, but I do think less of her because in all likelihood she was dishonest about something really trivial – I’m allowed to feel that way even though I wasn’t personally injured.

                1. Anna*

                  Or…it’s really none of your business why she left and thinking less of her for whatever she told you is weird.

                2. some1*

                  Anna, she volunteered why she was leaving. If it wasn’t my business, she didn’t have to say anything.

                3. Today's Satan*

                  So would you think less of someone if, when asked by a cashier, “How’s your day going?” they replied, “Oh, fine,” when really it was kind of a crappy day? I mean, if they’re going to lie about something so trivial, then they can’t be trusted ever, at all, and that’s really the only data point you need to know about them.

          2. M*

            After 9/11 one of the reasons I wanted to leave a particular job was it’s location in a high target building ( there were many other reasons but at that time the negatives of the job made the location that more intolerable. I interviewed for a long time, was finally offered a new position at organization in a low probability for ever being targeted building. Two days after I’ve signed all the papers I was told to wear jeans because they were preparing to pack and move. The new office was right back to the high profile building I’d just escaped from. Not once during the entire interview process did they mention they were moving. Not even when I mentioned benefit for new job was commute to office I was interviewed at that was close to a more reliable train line. Not once. Had I known I wouldn’t have taken position. Was first of many white lies now former employer told to get what he wanted.

            Employee may not have lied about location at all. It fruitless to assume ill will over a nonsense reason.

            1. Kyrielle*

              This! Or for that matter, the former employee may have accepted a job at a non-downtown location but got sent to the main (downtown) office for meetings occasionally, or for training.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        ia. “I don’t want to work downtown” is about as benign as a made up reason could be. It’s not like she made up some dramatic lie about a dying family member or something.

          1. M*

            It’s a bean dip answer. Benign enough for a stranger not to question without employee looking bad. Do you really want to hear I’m leaving because supervisor is a narcissistic undercover duck lover that shouldn’t be in charge of feeding fish? That answer requires more details that beyond being salacious still ends up making speaker look bad even if true.

            1. Revolver Rani*

              “It was time for a change” is a usefully bland answer that doesn’t implicate anyone and doesn’t require statements that someone might later think were lies.

              1. Readwitch*

                It was time for a change isn’t really a great thing to tell people though. For potential employers especially it can make you seem flighty.

          2. Kara*

            I once left a job because of the commute. And yes, it really truly was because of the commute. On bad traffic days I often wouldn’t get home until after 8 p.m.

            A year later I took a job within a mile of the original office, but I was allowed to flex time, and work from home 2 days a week, and the pay was much better, and I had a new car which made the commute a little easier to bear.

            Sometimes something that is a valid reason for a decision gets overridden by other factors.

          3. ToxicNudibranch*

            Because, at the heart of it, it’s no one’s damn business, but that doesn’t stop anyone from asking. Sometimes “excuses” (or “lies” if you choose to frame it that way ) like this are just social lubrication. Her answer felt comfortable to her, and it has literally zero impact on anyone else, so why judge?

          4. neverjaunty*

            Because the real reason is deeply personal. Because stating a reason like “I hate my co-workers” or “I’m sick of being underpaid” creates bad blood. Because it’s not really anybody’s business but people keep badgering her to give a reason. Because admitting the real reason might get them walked out the door immediately instead of having two weeks’ notice.

            All kinds of reasons somebody might not want to firmly and clearly state the precise, 100% true reasons they are leaving a job. I’m not sure why this is puzzling?

            1. some1*

              Well, I never “badgered her to give a reason”. She actually volunteered it if memeory serves – she told me she was resigning, I said I was sorry to see her go, and she said, “Yeah…I’m sick of working downtown so I got a job in [name of suburb]”.

              1. some1*

                I can understand making something up if I had asked (to be polite or deflect the question), but I actually didn’t. Could be someone else had come right out and asked & she figured she should stick with the story.

              2. neverjaunty*

                I didn’t say *you* badgered her. If she told Wakeen ‘I just don’t like working downtown’ because Wakeen was the one bugging her for a reason, or if she had told that story to an obnoxious boss, maybe she figured that she’d better stick to that story, and not risk having Wakeen hearing a different one?

                You also don’t know if the co-worker was telling the truth – that the suburb job quickly didn’t pan out, or that the company pulled a switcheroo and transferred her to the downtown office (we’ve seen many AAM posts about this sort of thing), or that she happened to be at the downtown offices for a presentation that day, or….

                Of course you’re entitled to feel however you like, there are no Feelings Police on the way to arrest you. People are just pointing out you’re making some odd assumptions about the morality of the co-worker’s actions and on the conclusions you’re drawing.

    3. Cube Farmer*

      I was once asked “Why?” when I submitted my two-week notice. I told the truth, “Because you (my manager) are verbally abusive, have anger control issues, and I have witnessed you defrauding our insurance company. I have discussed these issues with you in the past and do not see a change in your behavior.” I was fired and escorted from the building. It all worked out for me in the end; but I can see why people may want to not go there.

      1. Jeanne*

        It can be hard to tell that you’re quitting because the boss treated you horribly. Many would prefer to be vague. The thing is that your telling the truth probably made no difference to the remaining employees. But if it made you feel better it was worth it.

    4. T3k*

      To be fair, I can see one being uncomfortable telling the boss the main reason they’re resigning is because they’re being underpaid unless it’s so well known, the boss hears this reason a lot.

      1. some1*

        For me, I guess “they offered me a salary I couldn’t turn down” would be a much more comfortable conversation making something up.

  5. TheExchequer*

    How could anyone possibly prevent someone from putting a job they actually had on their resume? Unless you’re working for the CIA or something, the mind boggles as to how anyone would enforce that.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      You can’t. This boss is hoping the OP is stupid and/or naive enough to not know any better. It’s like telling someone no one else will ever love her except for you.

      It’s borderline abusive and very controlling.

      1. OriginalYup*

        Bullies and egomaniacs often do believe, quite sincerely, that they can forbid stuff like this. Hence their rage when you don’t comply.

      2. OhNo*

        Bingo. I’m not remotely surprised that this behavior came out of a manager who thinks verbal abuse of employees is somehow acceptable behavior.

        Thank goodness the OP got out quickly, because that sounds like the kind of workplace that would mess you up if your stayed too long.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        I once quit a job because I wasn’t being paid, and my boss tried to get me to stay by telling me I wasn’t smart enough or hardworking enough to get a job anywhere else, so he was doing me a favor. “No one else will ever love you” is exactly what I compared it to.

        1. Blamange*

          Happened to me to at my last job.

          Handed in my notice and she said as she laughed to herself, ‘Are you sure you’ll survive the 3 months probation period? You might not have a job at the end of it. Do you think you can cope? Only thinking of you, love’.

        2. Letter Writer*

          Did your boss pay you in the end? :0

          My manager actually used the same tactics on me, since it was my first job she repeatedly told me “you won’t be able to find work elsewhere” or “nobody hires people without experiences” it was a nightmare. I agree, it felt like she was doing me a favor as well. :/

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Off-topic, but I always wondered how CIA people list it on their resume. And would you really believe someone who had CIA, Covert Specialist on their resume?

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I think it’s “defense contractor” for at least some of them :-)

      2. Stephanie*

        Unsure if this is the case anymore, but a memoir by a former field agent mentioned that the field agents had a vague-sounding corporation they would say was their place of employment.

        That being said, I wonder if it’s not that different from working on security clearance type stuff for a Boeing or Lockheed. You could say you were Procurement Specialist II there, you couldn’t just really divulge all the nuts and bolts.

        1. Technical Editor*

          It’s funny that you say that, because my grandmother was literally a “Procurement Specialist” at Tinker AFB and her job really WAS to buy the nuts and bolts!

          1. Anna*

            I know. For every field agent, there are probably two or three people sending emails, scheduling meetings, and ordering office supplies. Pretty sure those folk can put CIA on their resumes because it sure would be weird if they couldn’t.

        2. NONAME*

          I realize I work across the hall in my building from a satellite office of people in procurement for a similar organization. I think this explains some things. I am being paid to watch and observe people in my building but not in a security role, just as business development. Maybe I’m a spy or part of an espionage ring and didn’t even know! That explains why they keep giving me high praise for the most basic of admin work.

        3. Mike C.*

          That sounds about right to me. Also, some of that security stuff is more along the lines of “Only US Nationals” or “restricted import” so that helps as well.

        4. manybellsdown*

          My dad’s resume just said “Lead Engineer at TRW” but he had all kinds of security clearances. In fact, he missed my wedding – at the time, he said he was too sick to make the trip. It wasn’t until just this year that I discovered he actually had a satellite launch that day that he wasn’t supposed to talk about. According to my sister who told me the story, the launch was delayed because the engineers ended up all watching my wedding on the internet. :D

          1. Sigrid*

            Yeah, my dad was a mathematician at TRW during the Cold War, working on [we have no idea, but it involved nuclear war]. His security clearance was through the roof. He went on a lot of business trips to “Albuquerque” when I was growing up. It’s only as an adult that I realized he must have been going to Los Alamos. He won’t say a word about anything he did while he worked there, though, because he doesn’t know what’s been declassified and what hasn’t.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        I never worked for the CIA, but I worked for a defense contractor where we all had clearances, which had to do a mass layoff. We were told to work with the FSO (Facility Security Officer, the person in charge of making sure the place conforms to all the laws about clearances and classified work) on how to phrase the work we did and the fact that we held whatever level of clearance on our resumes.

          1. BabyAttorney*

            I don’t that, having certain clearance levels is a HIGHLY sought after trait, especially if it’s active at time of departure.

            1. Chinook*

              “I don’t that, having certain clearance levels is a HIGHLY sought after trait, especially if it’s active at time of departure.”

              In the US, does that mean the clearance moved with you from job to job? DH had to reapply for his when he joined the police even though he had high level clearance at the time and only needed one 3 or 4 steps below it. The explanation was that it should take less time (literally open the old file and just update it vs. starting from scratch) but clearance levels had to be reexamined with each new position.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            They said we should only list it for jobs that require clearances, and gave us exact verbiage to describe it.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Anyway, point being, if our employer could find a way for us to list our jobs on our resumes when the work we did was literally Top Secret, nobody has an excuse to forbid their employees to put their current job on their resume.

      4. 42*

        …or if you’re in a Witness Protection program. I’m serious. How do you create a whole new identity and go through an interview process – listing ‘past employers’ and all that. How can you possibly get a job?

        1. manybellsdown*

          I always assumed part of that program included setting you up with both a job and a fake-but-confirmed-by-the-program job history. Like, you’d say you worked at McDonald’s in Poughkeepsie, but when an employer called the number he’d get an agent with the program pretending to be a McDonald’s manager.

      5. Liane*

        Back in the late ’80s, a Sociology prof, and my College Bowl* coach, had to retire a couple years after I graduated, because the college wanted proof of his degrees. Prof. X said he couldn’t provide them because he had gotten them while working for the CIA and so they were under other identities.

        *An academic quiz game, played by 4-person college teams

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Your explanation of College Bowl made me flash on The Young Ones “Bambi” episode:

          “Stop it, Rick! It’s only University Challenge, Rick; it’s only University Challenge!”

        2. Chinook*

          “Prof. X said he couldn’t provide them because he had gotten them while working for the CIA and so they were under other identities.”

          Part of my wants to believe that is possible but part of me also wants to call BS because I am pretty sure that, if the CIA can set up false identities for covert activities, they should have no problem coming up with updated version of academic credentials under the new name. Or at least a phone number to verify to new boss that you aren’t lying.

          Or was he implying that getting a copy of your degree in your new name is harder than getting a new identity?

      6. cardiganed librarian*

        A friend works for a similar organization, and what she’s told to do is give the same job title but at a different, but related, government ministry. People with her job title are employed at most ministries, however – not quite comparable to being a field agent.

      7. Chinook*

        Dh and I learned the answer to this when it came to the secret jobs in the military – cook. It is boring enough that no one is going to ask for details of your life (or help with paperwork like they do if you say you were a clerk) but everybody thinks at least neutrally of your past position. And every place requires a cook, so no one questions weird posting histories.

    3. pony tailed wonder*

      An old boyfriend’s mother had one of those kind of jobs. She worked for a famous celebrity in the 50’s and had to sign a lot of documents stating that she would never tell anyone what she did for a living. She was allowed to say that she worked for X celebrity a certain number of years afterwards but she was never to give interviews or even say if she enjoyed her job or not. I do know that she most likely wasn’t a cook or chef for the celebrity and that is only because I had been invited to dinner a lot.

  6. The Strand*

    The good news is that your next boss will very likely be better, even light years better. And, you didn’t let this abusive bully con you into months or years of crap under her, despite your newness in the job markets. This augurs well for you. Many of us have first job experiences where we got hosed or exploited for a while (I know from reading AAM I wasn’t the only kid forced to clock out and then keep working) and wish we had AAM back then.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I couldn’t agree more, this whole issue has been on my nerve for a long time and I’m so glad we have AAM to help us! I have my finger-crossed for a better boss next time, but thank you for your very encouraging comment :)

  7. Bertie*

    OP – were you being paid under the table? Perhaps the boss is attempting some CYA…

  8. Mike*

    If you are worried or wonder what an old employer will say about you; hire somone from to act as an employer and call them to see what they will say. It could save you some heartache latter.

      1. Liane*

        Just make sure it is friend who can come across as very professional over the phone, and is also good at picking up nuances in tone and word choice.

  9. Alli525*

    I think it’s worth noting that no one has to list EVERY single job they have ever had in their life on an application or resume, unless – as the OP noted – they are applying for a job that requires security clearance. If you were in another sales position, or an office job even, and one day you mentioned something funny that one of your former coworkers at Chili’s said (and you hadn’t mentioned Chili’s on your resume/application or during the interview/references process), you wouldn’t have to be worried that someone would fire or reprimanding you for not disclosing it earlier.

  10. K*

    “…you have to write down all your past jobs on the form or else if the company finds out you can get terminated.”

    99% sure this form is intended to check that you don’t list a job you didn’t have, not that you do list every job you did have.

    I had three jobs in college, but I don’t bother listing them on my resume anymore. They still show up on my background check. Hasn’t been a problem.

    1. OriginalYup*

      It depends on the form. I had one that was, literally, asking for a list every job I’d ever had. (Presumably for references, background checks, etc.) I’ve been working in full-time professional jobs for 20 years, so I was sure they couldn’t possibly mean *every* job, down to part-time waiting tables in school…? Yep, they did.

      1. lowercase holly*

        i can’t do this. i don’t have the information anymore for most of of my PT and seasonal jobs in high school and college. half the places aren’t even in business anymore. i just shrug and move on. i can provide employment back to 1997 and that should be enough.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I couldn’t do this. I worked a couple of jobs, including a 1-day stint as a temp in a call center, where I no longer have the names or locations of the businesses. I never expected to need them again. It’s not “they’re out of business” (because I could happily list a place that’s out of business, if I’d worked there), it’s “I don’t even remember who they were”. I mean, I know one was a learning center and I _think_ I know the chain, but I don’t remember which city in PainfulDrivingDistance of my rural house it was. And I think I remember where the 1-day call center job was physically located, but I don’t remember what year, nor do I know the company name….

        Hopefully I never apply to some place that requires that!

    2. Anx*

      I’m not sure. Sometimes I think it’s intended to cover your full job history, but it’s often worded in a way that says to list every job you’ve had in the past 10 years in reverse chronological order.

      It’s actually something I worry a lot about because I’m often tempted to take temporary survival jobs that in a different time I’d just leave off my resume in the future, but now I think it’s more and more common to have to disclose everything. At the end of the application you ‘sign’ that you filled out your application to the best of your knowledge and you can be terminated if they find out you weren’t forthcoming.

      I doubt they mean to trap applicants, but I can also see a company that is looking for a reason to fire you to go back into your application later on down the line.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The only time I have EVER had to put every job I’d had for the last ten years was when I applied for a jail guard job in California, and when I put in an application at the police department where I live now. For law enforcement, they want to know everything. And the second one wasn’t even a line position–it was an internship working in the fingerprint area and the teeny tiny crime lab. (I didn’t get it, darn it; I was told it was very close between me and someone else and they got it. I was so disappointed.)

        As Alison has said many times, your resume is a marketing document. It’s not your permanent record.

        1. Anx*

          Yes, but a resume and an application are completely different things. There are jobs that I’d never include on a resume from a job, but that I feel compelled to disclose on the application (and some jobs don’t accept resumes at all, just the application).

          Sometimes I’m envious of people who lived through their 20s before ATS became ubiquitous and had the opportunity to try on different positions and take more employment risks without it becoming part of some sort of official job history.

          I have applied for jobs in local government, retail, fast food, and large life science tech companies that have worded it something like “include the last 10 years of employment starting from the most recent.” Another one I’ve seen often is “list your past 3 jobs.”

          I’ve had a few jobs where there was a bit of an audition or trial run. While most worked out, two of them didn’t. And I suppose it’s good for employers to know about those failures. It does mean I won’t be able to shake those experiences and they’ll mar my application until they expire from the 10 year time period.

          I think this disproportionately affects those that have to apply to jobs they know they might not be good at because they need a paycheck. Believe me, I hate working a job I’m not good at. There are some jobs I’ve felt I’ve had no business applying to as a worker, but as a citizen it’s a completely other story.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Pshaw. On “list your last three jobs,” I totally left out HellJob where I worked with EvilCoworker and the Sex Offender because I was only there for two months. It’s not on my resume and never will be. Nobody ever asked. I just put the stuff that was on my resume on my application. That is how I’ve gotten every job I’ve ever had!

            You do not have to put them on there. Believe me, nobody cares about your failures–they want to know what you’re good at. If you want to talk about those, mention them in the interview when they say, “Tell me about a time when you messed up and how you dealt with it,” or something. Then you can say, “At one job, I put the square red spout on the round teapot by mistake. Then it ruined the machine. I ended up leaving that job, but I made a point to pay greater attention to detail, and now I list steps so I don’t miss anything.”

            1. Anx*

              I want to believe this so badly, and I do think that the people who are actually going to be doing the hiring would prefer a more topical application and/or resume and wouldn’t care. But they are using a more universal application system, either from corporate or just a standard ATS. I also agree that employers want to know what you do well and not want you don’t, but as an unskilled/lowskilled worker I’m applying to a good number of jobs where I think the hiring team prioritizes whittling down the number of applicants. Unsurprisingly, I try my hardest not to apply to these positions anymore.

              I worry that if if comes up, I’ll look like I was withholding (or not paying attention to instructions). If I’m about to be laid off, I worry that they could look at my application for a reason to terminate to save on unemployment insurance.

  11. 2 Cents*

    After I left my first office job (lovingly referred to as Hell Job), I was fortunate that my former boss and coworkers agreed to give me references, since that office’s policy (written) was to only confirm employment and (unwritten) to flat out lie that someone had worked there previously. All of us have since left, but that’s only the beginning of the crazy, unethical things the powers that be did there.

  12. D*

    I once left a job with only one week notice due to a toxic environment. When I gave my manager my notice she went a bit insane. Saying I could never come back and could not use a could not use anyone as a reference, she got very personal saying I would be a failure.
    I went and reported her to HR, she almost lost her job.
    Despite what she said I have used my old colleagues for years as refrences and have not failed yet.

  13. Marcus*

    While I’m not sure on the type clearances issued for airline personnel, clearances investigated and issued by the government require every job for a particular time period, regardless of length of time. You even have to list times of unemployment along with someone who can verify how you were getting by during that time.

    1. Rater Z*

      I am very late to the conversation but I ran into this as well.

      I applied for a job as an investment adviser (even though I had no experience doing it but my adviser actually recommended that I do it because the company was trying to expand). They required me to show all my periods of employment and unemployment (with explanation) all the way back to high school. I was 53 years old at the time and had been thru 20 years of closures/mergers/bankruptcies in the trucking industry. Keith had warned me, at the time he was pushing me to apply, that only 17% of applicants made it past the first glance. I was thankful that they did let me know I didn’t make it.

      The company is a well-known investment firm which was looking to expand by opening several thousand more offices at that time. 18 years later, I saw an ad for them during a baseball game yesterday.

      To add a personal note to this, I would suggest that all people actually set up a file along this line (for both jobs and addresses) while they are young and keep it current as they go thru life. It would help so much later in life if they should need the information for any reason. And, if nothing else, it helps make for an interesting trip down memory lane.

  14. Robin Gottlieb*

    I once had a boss who said we weren’t allowed to give out references; so when our summer intern contacted me for a reference (she deserved one) I told her to have them contact me at home, after hours. I never signed any type of agreement at work – let them sue me~!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I’m wondering how this boss can *effectively* prevent the OP’s coworkers/colleagues from giving references.

      She can tell them not to; she can fire them if they do (probably can fire them even if they give that reference after hours on their home phone or personal email, since a body can be fired for any reason). But can she prevent them? Only through fear.
      And definitely, once they’ve left that job, she won’t have as much leverage, but she could still retaliate by refusing to give a reference for THEM.

      I’d go ahead and ask a colleague if they’d serve as a reference, and give personal contact info.

  15. Letter Writer*

    Hi Alison, thank you so much for answering my question. Also thanks to everyone who took the time out to reply and gave me some great suggestions. :)

    For anyone who are curious, the company I worked at was actually a world-wide brand (they have their own stocks and everything) so I was actually very surprised when I experienced all this (just my luck maybe?) I’ll take all these advice to heart and hopefully pass the interview! :)

  16. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    Decades ago I left a WONDERFUL job in Cleveland because my husband was transferred home to Pittsburgh. Nine months later I’m embroiled in a nasty divorce and my new employer temporarily transfers me to … Cleveland! Sometimes stuff happens but I had a few awkward conversations at the mall.

  17. annonymouse*

    To Gus Mueller
    Legally you DON’T have to give a reason about leaving. You can say “I don’t have to.”

    However reasons you would are:
    You still need your boss as a (good) reference.
    You don’t want to burn bridges within that company/the industry.
    You still have to work with these people until the end of your notice period. Not answering when they repeatedly ask you might lead to the above.

    And if you really must give a reason because of the above pressure then say something like:
    I’ve got a new opportunity to further my skills/career in a different role.

    Nice and easy.

    Also by your previous comment you are showing that you have not had much experience in changing jobs in a smaller industry or needing your boss for a reference.

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