how big of a deal is a lie on a resume from two years ago?

A reader writes:

I am a director of a local nonprofit. We’re not nationwide, but we have a very visible presence in our area.

Two years ago, my associate director, we’ll call her Pam, decided to stay home with her new baby, so we had a position to fill. Pam had been in that role for nearly eight years and was like my right hand; I knew we’d get someone in there, but I had doubts anyone could truly fill her shoes. We interviewed several qualified candidates, and ended up hiring the current replacement after her amazing interviews (there were two, one with just me and one with me and Pam) and strong references.

The replacement, who we’ll call Gina, has proven to be exceptional in her role. Eager, great sense of humor, very intelligent, poised, I could go on. She, like myself, is a single mother and I cleared a path through our company for her to return to school and get an MBA, which is something that she’s always wanted, but told me she never thought she could afford. Needless to say, within the past two years our company has really blossomed, and part of that is directly related to Gina’s hard work.

So this brings me to my current situation. A week ago, I was at a work conference. I ended up speaking to one of the event coordinators. We spoke for some time, and Gina’s name came up. He stated that he worked with her briefly at her previous job, and disclosed to me that she was fired. I was shocked. I distinctly remember from her interview that when I asked why she wanted to leave her current position, she stated that she wanted to return to the nonprofit field where she worked prior to that job. The man delivered this information to me in an “Oh, I’m glad she got something she likes, but I assume you knew she was fired” kind of way, so it wasn’t as though he was trying to toss her under the bus.

When I returned to work, I checked her personnel file, and her resume clearly listed her previous job as August 2010-present. We don’t have employees fill out “applications” so that wasn’t an issue, but I’m just stuck. I haven’t told anyone, and no one would know. Do I speak with her? Do I terminate her position? I thought for sure I’d never be able to replace Pam, and I did, so I guess I could do it again. But neither of these things feels right to me. She made a mistake, but there is nothing, nothing in her two-year performance that suggests anything other than a highly qualified and committed individual who has gone above and beyond in her role. I’m torn over this, and to be honest, I wish I never knew this information. I think you give such solid advice, and I’m truly in need of that now. What would you do in this case?

Well, wait, you don’t actually know that she lied on her resume. It’s very possible that when she submitted the resume, she was indeed still employed at her job — and that she didn’t get fired until some point after that. If that’s the case, there was nothing for her to disclose, as long as she didn’t deliberately mislead you by talking about her job in the present tense after she was no longer there. Really, unless this guy told you exactly when she was fired and it was before she submitted that resume — and you have reason to trust that he’s being precisely accurate two years later in an offhand comment — there’s just no smoking gun here.

Which means you should let it go.

But for the sake of argument, let’s say that you did find out that she had already been fired at the time that she submitted that resume to you, and that she had deliberately misrepresented her dates of employment on her resume, adding a month or two of extra work. Should that trump the two years of exceptional work she’s done for you? I’d argue no.

She wouldn’t be the first decent person to panic about unemployment and make a poor decision about her resume. She probably wouldn’t even be the first person you hired who fudged something on her resume. Believe me, I’m not arguing in favor of doing this — I’m on record here as calling it an integrity issue many times in the past. But if the firing was fairly recent when she applied (and so it was a matter of a couple of months, not like a year), I’m not willing to advocate firing an otherwise excellent employee over it. Certainly if I’d trusted her implicitly before, I wouldn’t now, but I wouldn’t fire someone stellar over it.

On the other hand, if we’re not just talking a month or two — if the firing was, say, a year before she submitted that resume — that’s a much bigger deal.

In either case, I’d say the next step would be to talk to her about it and see what she says. (Again, this is in our hypothetical where you actually know she lied on her resume, not for the real situation that you’ve described.) You might hear something that changes your assessment entirely (like that she continued to work for them as a contractor and just didn’t know to separate it out on her resume), or something that puts things in more context (she was desperate and has regretted it ever since and it’s made her vow to be scrupulously accurate going forward), or something that increases your concern (she’s shady about answering you or doesn’t see what the big deal is). But you’d want to talk to her before reaching any conclusions.

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

    Agreed – let it go but I’d ask her about it. It also might be worth knowing why she was fired – if it was something like theft or assault I’d want to know, although I imagine a serious issue like that would have come up in the last two years.

    1. LisaD*

      Sorry to hijack, but did Alison turn comment moderation on again or did I trip a spam filter? I commented and it disappeared…

        1. Professor Ronny*

          I have JavaScript turned off. The spam filter always objects if I forget to turn JavaScript on before posting. No idea why.

      1. Amber T*

        Half the time I comment, it pops up immediately, and half the time it takes a little time (which always makes me think, shoot… did I actually hit submit??). I just assume there might have been one or two words that trigger something, and then it approves it.

        Back on topic – I agree with Katie. If the she was fired because the job wasn’t the right fit… well, her job with you seems to be a great fit!

        And I agree with the other commentators who are saying the guy might not know or understand the full reason. Maybe she was let go, and the guy doesn’t know the difference between that and fired (lord knows we see it here often enough). Maybe she was going through a really tough time with something in her personal life but things have calmed down now. Maybe her old boss “required” her to submit for kidney transplant testing and fired her when she refused!

        I think when it seems we’ve been “betrayed,” we jump to conclusions quickly because we don’t want to seem like we’ve been taken advantage of or have been made to feel like a fool. But honestly, her work has been stellar and she’s been a great fit, I would let this go. I wouldn’t even bring it up with her now. Let her continue being a rock star employee.

        1. Annonymouse*

          I agree.
          Also American firing practices can be done for almost any reason, not just “you suck at your job”

          The CEOs kid who is your direct report doesn’t like you? Fired.

          You’re looking for another job where you your boss doesn’t make you cry every day and they found out? Fired.

          You were one second late getting back from lunch? Fired.

          I could go on naming examples but you get the idea.

          Also it is just this one guy who thinks she was fired. Unless he was her direct manager or did the HR paperwork he can’t be right for sure.

    2. McDinocone*

      Oh boy. I’m not Gina, but this one is almost me. I had a job that was a poor fit, and I had an phone interview scheduled on the day that my boss and I decided to part company. The phone interview went well, and I had a f2f interview a week later and got the job. I didn’t provide an updated resume at the f2f. Did I act unethically? Was I supposed to tell them?

      1. Amber T*

        Ditto. When you applied you were employed. I suppose during your face to face interview you could have mentioned you no longer worked there, but meh. If it didn’t come up naturally I think it’s fine.

      2. Happy Lurker*

        I had a very similar situation. I would say that I gave my notice and my boss said I could leave that day. My boss (because he was nasty) would say I was fired. I had gone on the interview for the new job the previous week and my new hire package came 3 weeks later. My new boss was horrified when I told her I had quit, but after 5 years together we were like peas and carrots.

  2. LisaD*

    Also, if this guy only worked with her briefly and wasn’t in her chain of command, he probably doesn’t know the details of her termination as well as he thinks he does. I was once laid off but explicitly told by the CEO that I was welcome to keep my email address for a while and continue to represent myself as currently employed by the company if it helped me to find a job, for up to a month or two after the fairly amicable layoff. She might have been encouraged by the company to continue to use them as her current employer in interviews to make it easier to get a job, and they might have told her they’d confirm that if contacted.

    Unless this guy WAS the manager who fired her, he probably heard through the grapevine that she was let go, and a friendly, sad-but-has-to-be-done layoff could have turned into a firing by the time the gossip chain got to him.

    1. Barney Barnaby*

      “Unless this guy WAS the manager who fired her, he probably heard through the grapevine that she was let go, and a friendly, sad-but-has-to-be-done layoff could have turned into a firing by the time the gossip chain got to him.”

      That was my thought as well.

      I have a friend who, a few weeks ago, asked me about that time I quit a job (and he made it sound like I just walked off). The job was part-time, no degree or special training required, and I gave a month’s notice before leaving for a job that was full-time and required my degree.

      What people think they know about why people change jobs and what they actually know… so not the same thing!

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        You guys are less cynical than me. Why even mention that a former colleague was fired unless you were intentionally trying to torpedo them?

        1. Koko*

          I have actually been the colleague in this situation. A young woman I had to let go for poor performance ended up, by pure coincidence, working for a good friend’s mom. She excelled at the job with my friend’s mom. When my friend mentioned it to me I said something like, “Oh, that’s great, I’m glad to hear she found something she was able to do well after we had to fire her. Isn’t it weird how someone can be great at one job after being horrible at another?”

            1. jeansandjacketrequired*

              I agree with you. Why bother saying, I fired her, but gee it’s nice she is working out for you.. Lame Koko. Very much passive, aggressive of you.

          1. Engineer Woman*

            So, Koko, are you saying it was a horrible thing you said (because it was in my opinion!) and it just slipped out and you regret it and maybe the same occurred in this situation? Or?….

          2. The Strand*

            I can see the comment if your good friend and you typically talk about issues at work, and she started the conversation — “You mentioned firing someone for cause, but she does great stuff at my mother’s business”.

            But I would avoid volunteering those kinds of comments, especially to someone close to me who is inclined to trust my opinion. There are people who do a really crappy job because they’re under personal issues, or in a bad fitting job etc, and then there are people who are subpar as human beings (e.g. sexual harassers, serial embezzlers). The latter, other employers deserve warning about. The former? Give them the second chance you would want to get after your mistake. Maybe they really turned over a new leaf?

            1. selena81*

              I think the point there was that the kid already had landed that other job, so it had nothing to do with ‘you asked for my advise and is to not hire her’, just honest surprise at the difference in job-performance.

              I completely agree that there is a huge difference between ‘bad people’ and ‘bad employees’.
              You shouldn’t lie on behalf of a bad employee, but you shouldn’t sabotage their second chance either (if someone asks how they performed you keep to the facts and don’t rub it in that they underperformed). Whereas in the case of a bad person you may have a moral obligation to warn future victims.

      2. Meg Murry*

        I know OP uses the word “fired” in her letter and we’ll take her at her word – but I also wonder if the event coordinator used some other kind of euphemism that she is interpreting to mean fired (like “didn’t work out” or “was let go”) but that either isn’t what he meant, or that he is using wrong. I think Alison has had letters before where people were using the terms “terminated” “laid off” and “let go” wrong, often because of a misunderstanding.

        As other people mentioned, at big companies, it doesn’t take long for the game of telephone to go from “Gina no longer works here” to “Gina didn’t work out” to “Gina got let go” to “Gina go escorted out” to “Gina got fired” rather than the truth, which could be “Gina gave notice” or anything in between there.

        1. the_scientist*

          Yes to this. I’m consistently surprised by how many people are either fundamentally unaware of or willingly ignoring the differences between a firing and a layoff, as reflected in their word choices. My partner even gets them wrong- he kept saying that his old boss “got canned”; he didn’t, it was a layoff- and got annoyed at me for correcting him until I explained why it was so important to be accurate about something like this :)

          Anyway, it would NOT surprise me if this person was a) reporting second or third-hand gossip b) mistaken/confused about firing vs. something else or c) talking about a different person entirely (unless it’s a really small field.)

          1. Anion*

            I had a similar thought: It’s possible Gina put in her resignation and was immediately “put on gardening leave,” which is a euphemism for “asked to leave immediately or before their stated last day.” Gardening leave is usually used when, say, the employee deals with confidential client information and/or is heading to a competing firm, or even just when a company wants to give a good employee a break (rare, but it can happen).

            So Gina might not even have been a case of “You quit? Well, you’re fired!” she might have just been told to go ahead and leave, for any number of reasons, not all of which are negative. But to other employees, it looks like Gina went into a meeting with her manager and started cleaning out her desk when she emerged; couple that with people asking what happened and being told only that “Gina no longer works here,” and it can look like a firing even if/when it was a totally amicable resignation.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Right. Or he may be thinking of another Gina entirely. I’ve had coworkers “definitely know” things about me that I myself had no idea about. (nothing related to being fired, but at my first job, apparently I’d slept with a coworker and everybody knew! I was the last to find out.)

      Besides, I cannot think of a professional way to say (and put into writing) a thing like “Despite your excellent performance, we need to terminate you, because of something someone said who briefly knew you in passing two years ago”.

    3. esra*

      People just really do get it wrong. My team got caught in a layoff in 2014, and one (ex)coworker kept saying we were fired. I was like, no. Those are two really different things.

    4. Imaginary Number*

      That was exactly my first thought. Let’s say she was underperforming at her previous job and then disappeared. Lots of people might assume she was fired, but she might have simply quit or been laid off.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I know someone who left a job she’d had for a long time to go back to grad school, in part because of her awful manager, and after she left her awful manager told people she’d been fired. The director of the organization heard about it and told him to stop it in case she decided to sue for defamation (she wouldn’t have). But of course the manager faced no consequences for it–which is a good illustration for why she left in the first place.

    5. SystemsLady*

      It’s also possible her leaving amicably became “she was fired” somewhere in the gossip chain, especially if the event coordinator didn’t even work for the same company Gina did (which also seems possible).

      1. I am not a lawyer but,*

        I have a better misunderstanding. A coworker gleefully told me all about “Zelda” who worked in our department and was fired 5 years ago for theft. I’m the only Zelda in the department, and not only have I never stolen anything or been fired, I have received major recognition for a job well done. Go figure.

  3. Pokebunny*

    Agree with Alison; please give Gina the benefit of the doubt! Her two years of exceptional service has earned her at least that.

    You even said so yourself:

    But neither of these things feels right to me. She made a mistake, but there is nothing, nothing in her two-year performance that suggests anything other than a highly qualified and committed individual who has gone above and beyond in her role.

    If you really want to put your mind at ease, I would casually ask her about it, not in a “we need to talk, come to my office, close the door” kind.

  4. Captain Radish*

    She COULD have been “fired” because she put in her notice. I have seen other companies do so as well.

    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      This! At a previous position I decided I needed to find a new position and was actively interviewing. Despite my best efforts at being discrete, it was quite obvious. I was called into a meeting, asked point blank if I was interviewing elsewhere. I answered honestly and I was told that day would be my last day. They had a minimal severance check prepped already.

      Mentally I classify it as “me resigning”. I was planning to resign at some point soon and they just required that my resignation date be moved up. That said, I’m sure that’s not how they classify it (never actually asked – I was obviously VERY upset about that situation).

      I’m very careful about this even now, and do ere on the side of disclosing (if asked if I’ve even been fired), but I also work in a field where in depth background checks are the norm. I’m just saying life is messy sometimes and there are any number of possibilities that could explain this aside from “Gina deliberately and outright lied”

      1. Amber T*

        Wow… that really sucks and I’m sorry :( But good riddance! Glad you got out of there, because that sounds like it was a wonderful (/sarcasm) place to work!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, there are businesses that do that, but would people who work there go out of their way to refer to these people are “fired?”

        1. Nunya*

          I work with a few people like that. And they’d whisper it knowingly while shedding crocodile tears about the ‘unfortunate business’.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          Yes they would if they didn’t know the former employee actually turned in a resignation letter that morning and all they saw was the employee being escorted out of the building by security day of and/or the employee’s desk being packed up by a manager, supervisor, or HR.

        3. SignalLost*

          Yes. I worked for an incredibly vindictive organization that fired a friend of mine for false reasons (ie, the reason they gave on her paperwork to the state when she filed for unemployment was literally not physically possible) and you bet your ass you toe the line, and then it becomes habit. I was also fired by them, probably because I knew my friend well and knew the various falsifications that went into her firing, because the reason they gave on my paperwork to the state was … well, the state came back and told them that IF what they’d said was true, the time to fire me was two weeks prior, and I should have been arrested. I’m quite sure I’m still referred to as having been fired, not let go, or didn’t work out, or any other vague euphemism.

      3. OldAdmin*

        Yes, this! Life truly is messy – right up to the point said person talking about Gina having been fired simply was lying. People do have agendas.

    2. sunny-dee*

      I was about to say this, too. I had a horrible, horrible director at my last job, and when he found out I was about to get an internal transfer, he put me on a PIP (to block the transfer; he already knew I was interviewing because I had to disclose it) and threatened to fire me. HR intervened, grudgingly, but if they hadn’t, I very well could have been “fired,” when it was really my manager throwing a fit because I was trying to leave on my own.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      Yep, this is what my first employer out of college does. You give two weeks’ notice and if they like you, they’ll let you work it out. If they don’t, you are immediately told to gather your things and get out (after the exit interview, of course!).

      1. Michaela T*

        The sales department at my old job was like that, supposedly they don’t let people stick around in case they try to poach people to come with them. As soon as you resign they pack up your desk and walk you out.

    4. Penelope Pitstop*

      This, this a million times this. As well as all the other benefit of the doubt potential explanations. Personally, I feel like this one is ripe for let it go altogether. After 2 years(!!) of stellar performance, she’s earned at least that.

      If I were in her shoes and you called me in even for a friendly discussion that turned out to be a misunderstanding, I wouldn’t start hunting for a new job immediately, but I’d absolutely be open to other opportunities and internally question our work relationship and my standing with you. The clear message to me would giving my best for two years counted for nothing with you.

      If you do decide to confront her, please make sure you stand more to gain than to lose.

      1. selena81*

        this very much: it would be one thing if this came up 2 years ago, but now that she’s worked her ass off you owe it to her to ‘be on her side’.
        (unless you discover something far worse than fudging dates a few weeks, like if she’d have lied about several years of employment or lacks important qualifications)

  5. Lily Rowan*

    What do you think about fudging that kind of thing out loud during an interview? I’m now several jobs past the job I got let go from, and I feel like interviewers hardly ever specifically say, “And why did you leave that job? And why did you leave that job?” so I just glide through my history without saying I was fired. Added to that, I believe the job’s records would say I was laid off. (That’s what HR told me at the time.)

    So do I have integrity or not?

    1. Captain Radish*

      I think if I had a dollar for everyone who completely told the truth during a job interview I’d still have nothing.

      1. OFeR*

        Long ago, the last time I was in a position to be interviewing anyone, I had a guy tell me he got fired from a customer-facing position for rudeness. He was trying to land a non-customer-facing position, and said that experience dealing with customers meant that if he got the job he wouldn’t be angling for promotion. As near as I can remember, his explanation was, “I don’t do well with stupid people. Boxes and shelves aren’t stupid people, so I think this is a good fit for me.” I must say, it was refreshing.

        1. Qmatilda*

          Hah! I once “threw” an interview in a similar manner many eons ago. As I was getting ready to graduate college I was looking for a summer job before grad school and I had gotten and accepted a better offer the day before but had a”back-up” position job interview that it was too close in time to cancel. So I went, and gave my favorite answer for “what are your weaknesses” my response: “Dealing with stupid/ignorant/irrational people” It was for a front desk positions at a hotel. I truly enjoyed being able to say that.

        2. Amber T*

          Hahahah wow. Too be fair, not the best wording but his logic is sound. Did he end up getting hired?

          1. selena81*

            while he could have worded it better it frustrates the hell out of me that ‘not good with people/children, and not particularly interested in getting better’ is often seen as a moral deficit (as in: you must be a violent psychopath).
            why is it so difficult to simply match up no-human-interaction jobs with people who don’t like human interaction? that only happens when you make a BIG deal out of ‘i am officially autistic’ (meaning you already placed yourself in the ‘totes crazy’ box)

        3. cataloger*

          Haha! As a teenager, I applied for a job at a video rental store around the time that Forrest Gump was coming out on video. The interviewer mentioned how everyone who came in was quoting it (“Life is like a box of chocolates…”) and I probably dramatically rolled my eyes to agree how annoying that must be. I didn’t get the job.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        You know what? Some of us do tell the truth and are marked down for it. The assumption in interviews is that you are enhancing your skill set. So if you say you have X skill the person assumes you have X-Y skill even though you really do have X skill.
        There’s also a matter of perspective, where two people look at the same situation and see two different things. That’s not lying.
        For example, women get told all the time that they are too aggressive. That’s a perspective issue. When you examine their actions they are the same as the men.
        So perspective may not line up with the facts.
        Or women are many times assumed to be less competent than they are. I can’t tell you the number of times a male interviewer has challenged me and assumed I was lying – not because of my answers but because in his own mind I couldn’t possibly have those accomplishments.
        But to assume everyone lies? That’s a real problem.

    2. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      I think you should own up to it. You can explain the circumstances, but it’s better to tell them yourself than have them find out.

    3. Scott*

      If you had to fill out an online application and you explicitly say you were never fired from a job, you would be lying. That said, I don’t think there’s ever a reason to bring it up several jobs down the line. We all make mistakes. One shouldn’t ruin your career. Think about how you would bring it up. Really awkward. At some point if they don’t ask, they probably don’t care enough.

      1. AW*

        I think they’re worried that it’s a lie by omission if they don’t mention it in the interview.

        But I agree with you, I don’t think you’re tricking someone into thinking you’ve never been fired if you don’t bring it up.

      2. Joseph*

        I think Lily may have been asking more along the lines of the various verbal gymnastics people use to avoid using the scarlet letter “Fired”. Couple examples:
        1.) The interviewer asks why her left her last job without actually asking “were you fired?”. So she says the reason she left her last job was due to Reasons (toxic work environment, lack of opportunity, whatever) without actually mentioning that she was asked to leave. So she doesn’t actually lie, but it’s not the whole truth of “she was fired” either.
        2.) She was fired, but the boss/HR agreed to call it a “layoff due to company financials” or some other softer term.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, that’s basically what I was asking — no one specifically asks why I left X job, and I don’t mention it, because why would I actively bring it up? (Sorry I posted this and then forgot I had!)

    4. Pwyll*

      Well, if we’re going solely based on the interview, I don’t think it’s lying at all to respond to “Why are you leaving your current job?” with “I’m looking to move back to the non-profit sector” even if you WERE fired. The “present” on the resume is more clearly a lie, but as Alison said I do think it’s possible it was submitted prior to the firing, or that she was fired when she offered her resignation.

      1. selena81*

        Especially given the good job she has done since: it seems likely that she really was re-examining her career and decided that non-profit suited her better. That this decision might have been prompted by a firing and not by a bout of soulsearching-in-india isn’t very relevant: you were lucky to pick her up at the right time.
        (even if it is a blow to your ego that she did not resign-just-for-you)

    5. anon for this*

      I was fired in 2011. It was a terrible workplace, I was fired for a ridiculous reason and none of my coworkers thought it was just. I had already decided that I was quitting when it happened. I absolutely gloss over it if it comes up in interviews (and it does, sometimes, as I went from full-time work in the field I currently work in to part-time work in a separate field for a while, and then returned to the first field), though if I was asked directly if I had been fired or not I would say so…I don’t know, it’s difficult, it brings up so many terrible things for me (it was a workplace where we were just constantly yelled at and shamed and had to walk on eggshells 100% of the time, I used to cry every morning before work and when I was fired my boss basically screamed at me for 45 minutes), but I’m also aware that it’s probably not the most ethical on my part. I also know that if a potential workplace ever called that office they would say terrible things about me and I probably wouldn’t get the job, which sucks.

      1. Anonhippopotamus*

        I’ve been through a similar experience. I was also in the process and gathering evidence of harassment when I think that my boss figured he better push me out before I can throw him under the bus.

        After being fired, when my prospective employers asked why I left, I phrased it in a way that after a certain point I was no longer learning and that I wasn’t happy so they decided to let me go (I elaborated a bit more than that). Saying I was let go is not a lie. I think that a good employer can read between the lines and figure out that something was amiss with the company, especially if you have a good employment history.

  6. The Other Dawn*

    If it were me, I’d let my two years of experience with this employee speak for itself and not even bring it up. Unless OP has found something during these two years of direct experience with her that might call into question her past employment history, why bother bringing it up at this point?

    1. Scottish Onion*

      I’m with you. She’s doing a great job so far and her past employment experience has nothing to do with the results you are getting from her now.

    2. Evan*

      She’s been a big reason for the company growing in the past 2 years and there are no complaints about her work at all? Why pry? As someone else said, unless it was for theft or assault (and that kind of gossip would be juicy enough that I feel like her former coworker would have phrased it that way instead if that was the case), there’s nothing that would wipe out 2 years of being a top performer. Even if she was fired for poor performance, while that may have stopped her from getting hired in the first place, it certainly shouldn’t be a factor now.

      Asking her about it feels more like a need to satisfy your own curiosity more than anything productive for the company.

      1. Jen S 2.0*

        Agree that OP really just wants to satisfy her curiosity, which to me is not a good enough reason to bring this up. Your curiosity is not an emergency.

        Not only that, but being fired shouldn’t mean that you never get employed again. When most sane people / companies fire you, they usually don’t want to keep you from ever being employed again, and want you destitute, miserable, and indigent forever. They just don’t want you working THERE any more. Of course you should be honest, but being honest means that everything you do say is true, not that you tell every last bitter part of the true story. If fired, I absolutely would downplay it as much as possible in interviews, find the best possible way to phrase it, and avoid using the actual word fired. It’s not dishonest to say that you left the job because you wanted to switch industries or because the company was making changes that were compatible with your lifestyle, even if indeed you were fired for poor performance. Gina is a prime example of that — if she was fired for being a poor fit in her previous company, she certainly solved that problem this time around, and shouldn’t be penalized for having made a bad choice five years ago.

    3. SignalLost*

      Yeah. I get what Alison is saying about it’s a statement of her integrity, but then again, it’s also a statement of OP’s hiring process that they didn’t find out she’d been fired, and to me it’s a minor issue given what the OP says about her work for the non-profit, and that there are SO MANY reasons people get fired in the corporate world that are not actual issues – being fired because someone didn’t like you, rather than being fired because you mugged little old ladies. I guess I can’t say that this one omission is the most significant integrity violation ever, and if OP’s org is concerned about that, they need to have sterner hiring processes. The time to deal with this is not two years after the lie was tendered, IF the lie was ever tendered.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I agree. This is one of those situations where the question is “Do you believe what you have seen right along and know to be true, or do you believe a brief conversation with some random person who happens along?”

      It’s amazing how little it takes to plant a seed of doubt/concern sometimes. I would be very surprised to find out that there were people reading here who could say none of their ex-cohorts would do this to them. And it could be an honest mistake on the storyteller’s part- he was thinking of someone else, he had the story wrong to begin with, and any other number of explanations.

      My good boss would probably say, “Yep. I have people in my life that would be chomping at the bit to tell you how I screw up this or that, eh, some of it might actually be true. This is life.” Clearly, this employee has moved on from what ever that incident (or non-incident) was because you are seeing nothing but an exemplary employee.

      I am kind of chuckling. I know that I have people in my work life past that know how to weave a story. Something like this is a nightmare come true for me. I had one boss who made up a whole set of out right lies and I did not bother fighting it. Too tired, I guess. I gave notice and quit. She did a happy dance. Oh well. Other people could see right through that and hire me.

    1. Charlotte, not NC*

      This is my first thought. This happens frequently in fields that involve sensitive/confidential info.

    2. KarenD*

      Or what if she wasn’t fired at all?

      That’s weird information to volunteer, to be honest, especially since the “source” was clear that he only worked with Gina for a short time and it doesn’t indicate that he was a supervisor. He could be wrong; he could be lacking some crucial part of the story or he could be lying.

      1. SystemsLady*

        I agree. I could see “I thought they’d let her go” or something but the phrasing “I assume you know she was fired” seems kind of…odd to me. I’ll trust the OP he didn’t seem like he was trying to throw her under the bus, but it’s weird nonetheless.

  7. Moonsaults*

    Now that you know her and have created a working relationship, you could also ask her about it to see what comes of it.

    My first reaction was to think she was fired because she put in her notice or worse, the prior job found out she was looking around and kicked her out the door. Also that company could be toxic and gross, you don’t know why she was fired it sounds like…

    If they said “oh I assume you knew she was fired for embezzlement and trying to buy hookers on the company AMX.” then I’d be more shocked in this situation.

    I’m with Alison on this one in the terms of “was it a couple months or a year”? sort of thing.

    I just had a resume submitted to me through a staffing agency and it said the person had worked at XYZ “to present”. I thought it was someone looking for another job because that place wouldn’t be somewhere I’d want to stay too long either, a very stressful industry, I’ll put it that way. When interviewing, it turns out that no, that job was indeed ended and she’s been temping for a few months now. I don’t think the person ever actually thought to update that information and the staffing agency sucks for not catching it for her IMO >_< I didn't think it was malicious at all though, just an oversight.

    1. animaniactoo*

      “oh I assume you knew she was fired for embezzlement and trying to buy hookers on the company AMX.”

      That guy used to work here. He was very briefly my boss. Somebody forgot to tell him that taking clients/networking peeps to strip clubs isn’t a good idea when the owners of the company are Orthodox Jewish and actively running the company. I don’t know if putting your cocaine purchases on the company credit card counts as embezzlement or misuse of funds…

        1. Moonsaults*

          Well you can buy one of those square payment doodads that you put on your phones at department stores I’ve learned O.O

          1. Shazbot*

            Seems the appropriate evolution considering the customer is already going to have their card handy to chop it and line it up. Progress! Convenience! :)

        2. animaniactoo*

          If they’re setup with a business, you get charged for a round of drinks or some such and that’s what appears on the bill.

      1. Moonsaults*

        My favorite part of my former job was flinching reading the credit card statements where my boss’ kid would buy take out and liquor store runs on the weekends. “I accidentally used that card, whoops.”

        Yet they didn’t want to get me a company card as the operations manager LOL okay

    2. fishy*

      I had the same issue recently of an outdated resume of mine being submitted through a staffing agency. I started working with the agency a few months ago and they’re still submitting me to clients with the resume I first gave to them even though I’ve worked another temp job (through them!) since then. I’ve updated my personal resume, but I forgot to send the agency an updated copy and they never asked. I only realized because an interviewer asked me about a job that had ended a couple months ago but was listed as “to present” in the copy of my resume that they had been given.

  8. TeacherNerd*

    And for what it’s worth, although I suppose one could argue that this might be splitting hairs, Gina saying she wanted to return to the non-profit field may still be true; she just didn’t necessarily elaborate under the circumstances that she left. (“I realized after getting fired that I wanted to return to the non-profit field.” Would that be something you’d have wanted to hear?)

    1. AD*

      That’s an excellent point.

      And I just have to ask the OP: does this information benefit you in any way? It doesn’t feel like it does. So whether Gina submitted an application before she was let go, or whatever, she has 2 years of outstanding work at your company. This info has literally nothing to with your business needs and Gina’s track record or performance at your organization. Let it go.

      1. TeacherNerd*

        Yes, indeed; why does the OP want to know? If it’s curiosity, I get that. If her opinion changes because someone was fired, which it sounds like it is, that can be a slippery slope. (Kind of like, “I had such a good opinion of you until I found out you smoked weed in college 15 years ago!”)

    2. ILoveMyCat*


      For example, I was fired from a fast food job in my teens (I honestly think I was too slow when making burgers, but I don’t really know). I’m in a professional office job these days and that fast food job isn’t (never was) on my resume but if by any way, somebody asked: “Why did you leave fast food?” in an interview, I would say “It was a poor fit. I wasn’t able to excel at that job, whereas I am very good at making teapots because that’s about solving puzzles…., blah, blah.”

      Nowhere in that answer does it say I was fired. The statement is not technically untrue, though it may be a lie by omission. But in general – does that really question my integrity? I’m just a clumsy person who can’t make burgers very quickly and is too proud to explicitly say they suck at something in a job interview. But if I’ve excelled at that non-burger job for two years… where’s the issue?

      The only issue would be that the person is a liar. But that’s not black-and-white from OP’s letter, and I’d prefer to give “Gina” the benefit of the doubt.

  9. sam*

    also, was she fired for actual cause or laid off? I got laid off from my job for “mysterious reasons” and was basically given six months “notice” during which I was paid and allowed to continue to represent myself as employed by my employer in order to specifically assist with my job search. Since it was the middle of the great recession it didn’t particularly help.

    The mysterious reasons, as many people on this board know, are that my firm was undergoing the beginnings of its own financial collapse, but didn’t want the world to know, so it just started laying off all of its senior associates for “no particular reason” other than that we made too much money.

    During the three years between when I got laid off for “no reason” and when the firm finally, horrifically, very publicly collapsed in the pages of the NY Times, the New Yorker and the American Lawyer, trying to explain “why” I got laid off was…interesting.

    1. Not Karen*

      If she was fired, she was fired. If she was laid off, she was laid off. They are two completely different things.

      1. Terra*

        They should be and legally they are but a lot of people who don’t know better or just aren’t thinking use the terms interchangeably. I have a friend who was told, by her manager, that she was being “fired” because the company had been purchased and the new owners decided they had too many employees. Most people would have the sense to realize that this was actually a layoff but she had to threaten the manager with a cease and desist letter before he stopped telling reference checkers that she was “fired”. Some people either don’t know or are just jerks for whatever reason.

      2. sam*

        But how do we know that this guy who “worked with her briefly” is in any position to know what her official termination paperwork says?

        I have, amongst various people who I was not job-interviewing with(!), casually referred to my layoff as being “fired”, “shitcanned”, “kicked out the door”, “axed”, “kicked to the curb”, “dumped”, and other fairly harsh metaphors (and worse after a glass of wine), even though none of them are the technically correct term.

        1. J-nonymous*

          Right! The ways we refer to our own separation from a job can vary depending on how much we liked our last employer + how much booze is in the equation (which, hopefully, is zero in a job interview).

      3. BPT*

        The direct cause-and-effect can be fudged between the employer and employee, though. I’ve heard of an employee not working out in a particular role, and after talking with management, either being allowed to resign, or the employer will “lay them off,” citing changes in company structure or something. The point being, the employee would have likely been fired otherwise, but this is a nicer way of letting someone go without harming their chances for future employment, just because they weren’t right in this role. So yes, technically there is a difference, but that can be negotiated between the employer and employee.

        I could see the OP’s employee’s situation going something like:
        Old Management: Employee, you just aren’t working out in the role. You seem to be a better fit for the nonprofit field. How about we start to transition you out while you look for new work?
        Employee: Yes, I’ve been wanting to get back into the nonprofit world anyway, so this seems like a good transition time.
        Other random employee hears that she’s transitioning out: Oh, she must have been fired. *Two years later mentions that to OP.*

        1. Joseph*

          “I’ve heard of an employee not working out in a particular role, and after talking with management, either being allowed to resign, or the employer will “lay them off,” citing changes in company structure or something. ”
          In fact, if you’re ever fired for a performance-related reason, you should explicitly ask for this. Most reasonable managers already feel guilty about firing people and will jump at the chance to call it something softer and help you out a little.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s a good point, though, that a lot of people use the terms interchangeably. I’ve had to tell a lot of people to stop saying they were fired when in fact they’d been laid off.

        1. Bwmn*

          I completely agree with this. To be frank, the last person I knew who was telling me about this – I don’t honestly know if he was fired or laid off. I knew that his job was being terminated since the project they hired him to do they opted not to do. When he got the news, he still had a month and a half or still still there to wrap some things up and look for new work (ergo, his CV would have said Date-Present).

          Whether he was let go or fired, I don’t know – but definitely when he was talking to me about the scenario, it was still emotionally stressful of losing his job and his language was far more “I got fired”. So it’s also very possible that this coworker had a similar moment – where the language was very “I’ve been fired” when technically it was a lay off.

      5. General Ginger*

        I think the point Sam is trying to make is that the “legal” term may be different from “what actually happened”.

        1. sam*

          Yes, and on that point, I’ll give another example. I know a person who was literally escorted off the property, not even allowed to gather their belongings and someone else had to pack up their office.

          But they were fairly senior – lawyers got involved, negotiations occurred and when it came time to communicate what happened, “by mutual agreement” this person “decided to take early retirement”.

      6. M-C*

        Quite right. The person who the OP talked to might be one of the many who don’t grasp the distinction very well, the person may have been simply laid off.

        However she might also have been fired for cause. And if that cause was say talking back to a VP, or scaring a supervisor with a mention of her period :-) (get to that thread if you missed it!), that’d be irrelevant to the OP, her great performance for the past 2 years should warrant firmly closing your eyes to past sins. But what if she was fired for siphoning off funds from client accounts of something? Bringing a gun to work, deliberately sabotaging a system, as some of my previous un-lamented coworkers? Sometimes firing is for a -good- reason.

        What’s curious is that apparently no check was made with the previous company’s HR before hiring this person. It’s not too late to call them and ask for clarification. They may not want to cough up any real information because of lawyers, but it’d be an important way to check on what’s so far a rumor, before even bringing up the subject with her.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ooooh, no, I wouldn’t call them up and ask now. If that got back to Pam, that would be really weird — I would be appalled if my employer of two years was calling someone I worked for before them to ask about me.

    2. sam*

      and just to clarify slightly – when I got laid off, *I* was actually lied to as to the reason because my firm was hiding a giant ball of financial trouble. Many law firms historically have what is known as an “up or out” culture, meaning that if you don’t make partner by year X, you’re gently pushed out. My firm didn’t have that, until suddenly, in 2009, they did, across the board, for almost every senior associate, who got 3 (or 6 in my case) months notice.

      So they dumped us all into the worst financial crisis since the great depression, in a saturated legal job market, where there were no jobs available, and with a patently ridiculous explanation as to why they would get rid of otherwise productive/money-making/highly reviewed associates.

      Three years later we all learned that it was actually because they were cooking the books and needed to dump a bunch of expenses (payroll) in order to meet their debt covenants. I’m not exaggerating – the Manhattan DA’s office is still trying to prosecute some of the leaders of the firm for fraud and there are emails from the controller that literally say “I’d like to stop cooking the books now”.

    3. Qmatilda*

      Similar story here but with the added fun of everyone in my small legal field knowing only a little of the story. So, I ended up having to give this long explanation that I’m sure sounded like BS, but was actually the “nice to former employer” version of events.

  10. Newlywed*

    Ok…I never really thought about this until now, but I thought it was pretty standard not to disclose that you were just fired if you are in the process of interviewing because it’s a big red flag…is that super unethical? I haven’t been in this position myself, but I would certainly not want to volunteer in an interview “hey I’m here because I just got fired.” Really asking out of curiosity, as I haven’t run into this yet. What’s the best way to handle it if you are being truthful in the interview “I just got fired and here’s why you should now hire me”…?

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t think it’s unethical to not proactively disclose things that are negative to your candidacy. If the interviewer think it’s critical to know that, they should ask.

      1. Terra*

        Agreed, the onus is on the interviewer to decide if the issue is pertinent. If they ask, in person or on an application, you have to disclose or it’s shady. If they don’t ask, you’re not obligated to disclose something negative about your candidacy.

    2. Jenbug*

      I was completely honest when I interviewed for my current position. The company I used to work for has a fairly negative reputation anyway, so I didn’t feel like I was badmouthing them. I basically explained that I was terminated for failing to return a phone call in a timely manner, however, my workload tripled in less than a year and I was given no support despite asking for it numerous times. I was also able to cite specific numbers (i.e. “in November, our department was managing the relationships with 150 teapot consultants and by the following October, we were responsible for 700 and they didn’t increase the staff). I was also essentially performing two full time jobs and once I laid out exactly what I was responsible for, my new boss was very understanding.

      Now, if you were fired for doing something unethical or making some huge mistake, I imagine you would need to handle that situation differently.

      1. DoDah*

        Right. I was fired after 14 years at ToxicJob with crazy management and shitty reputation. When I was looking I was very honest about why. It hasn’t been an issue.

    3. Karo*

      It’s sort of like the difference between lying and avoiding the question. If you are asked explicitly if you’ve ever been fired then yeah, you have to own up to it. If you’re asked, though, why you want to work for Company ABC, it’s fine to say whatever you would if you were gainfully employed (and I think even preferable – companies don’t want to hear that you want to work for them because you want a paycheck, they want to hear that you like doing the job, think you could excel, whatever).

    4. ThatGirl*

      I got fired from a job ~9 years ago for a really stupid mistake that I not only learned my lesson from but would have no cause to repeat, as I am no longer in journalism.

      While looking for a new job, if anyone asked me flat out “have you ever been terminated from a job” then I had to say yes — but if I was asked why I left, I could finesse the truth a bit and say things that were true without saying “I was fired.”

      I have a friend who is an employment lawyer, and she told me I could say anything I wanted as long as I didn’t lie.

    5. BRR*

      Well there’s lying about it, which you shouldn’t do, and just not proactively bringing it up. I was fired two jobs ago and there is a gap in my resume. My current employer didn’t ask and I didn’t bring it up. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      When I was job hunting for my last job it was obvious. I had been fired with no warning and my resume showed I wasn’t presently employed. My response was that that position had me doing A and B and I wasn’t a great fit for A but did really well at B (I was only applying to jobs that did B) and that my manager for the B part of my position was one of my references. There are other posts on here about how to talk about firings.

  11. Anon for this*

    I suppose you would say I got “fired” from my last job. However, everyone involved knew it was a bad fit, and my work was excellent (which is a weird thing to hear when discussing separation with your boss). Additionally, they paid my salary for two months after I left, so while I was job searching, my resume said “-present”. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either technically true or technically a lie. I certainly didn’t tell my current job that was sort of technically fired during the interview, because there is no way to do that without trashing my last boss, which we all know is a Giant No-No.

    All that is to say that I wouldn’t let a casual remark distract from what you know to be true about Gina.

    1. SystemsLady*

      I have a client who ended up the same way you did, awful boss and everything. (Now we have to deal with that guy instead…both companies worse off for it, to be frank.)

      She was job searching anyway, and I think she got around it by already having interviewed at the place where she eventually accepted an offer.

  12. SJT*

    Frankly, if she’s as stellar as you say she is, I’d move on. You never know what old wounds you might open for her by bringing it up. I was once in a position where I was ‘asked to leave’ by a certain date or else I would be fired. My resignation was recorded as just that – a resignation – but I’m sure my former boss would frame it as a firing. Let it go.

  13. K*

    It sounds like you’re missing some huge details. That guy said he “worked with her briefly”. Unless he was her direct supervisor he likely doesn’t even know the full story of her time there. For example, it’s possible it was a situation where the job was a bad fit and there was talk of letting her go, but she was looking for another job anyways so they didn’t have to officially fire here. That happened in an office I worked in once. People assumed that person got fired because they had heard rumors of it, but really they had put in there notice and left on mutual terms.

    tldr; There is no reason to assume the worst over some two year old off handed comment that probably isn’t even completely accurate.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      I came here to say this. What this guy told you could be total rumor, with no substance to it. You are weighing your known-to-be golden worker against the word of someone you don’t know, who may or may not have complete or accurate info, or who may or may not be a shit-disturber with a grudge. If she were a difficult or marginal employee I’d suggest pursuing it with her, but based on what you’ve shared, why stir the pot for no reason? I vote let it go.

    2. KR*

      This is what I’m thinking. We don’t know that she got fired. It could have been that she made an error or had been on a PIP and it was more like a “Resign now so we don’t have to fire you.”

  14. Natalie*

    At least one person I know was offered a month or two extra on the employee roll of a company that fired her. As far as I can tell, they offered this because their management recognized that she was being fired for largely dumb reasons and it was part of a severance package. But I would imagine if someone asked her boss when she left the company, he would remember her last day working rather than her last day on their roster.

    1. Job Hopper Extraordinaire*

      Yeah, this would be me. I was offered the chance to take redundancy (I think this is laid off?) at LastJob, mainly because I had taken several months off for depression, come back, and then realized I had come back too soon, so went off again. I left the office at the end of July, but although my department was awful, the company as a whole were actually very good to me. They paid me 3 months Gardening Leave, and another 3 months severance, in exchange for me not potentially suing them for not accommodating my disability (I wouldn’t have anyway, I don’t consider that I have a disability). It all worked out superbly (I really lucked out, I thought, at the time) – I ended up getting CurrentJob almost immediately, so there’s no gaps in my employment, plus the bonus of 3 months fully paid holiday over the summer, and another 3 months where I was effectively paid for 2 jobs. Unfortunately, CurrentJob is not a good fit (that’ll teach me not to just take the first thing offered!), but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I’m starting NewJob next week.

  15. Sunflower*

    I would let this go bc there are just toooo many things that could come up and the info is not reliable.

    1. This wasn’t the HR director reading from employee’s file. This was a coworker. Coworker could have been repeating gossip. This person just isn’t a reliable enough source.
    2. We fired someone in March. She was nice, didn’t do anything wrong- just a bad fit. Conditions of her termination were that she stay on payroll aka ‘stay employed’ for 6 months after she technically stopped working. Of course, if someone asked me off hand in a non official capacity(bc I have no official capacity to be commenting on her job), she hasn’t been here since March.
    3. A lot of people in my office were not aware that she has stayed on payroll and not familiar with the situation.
    4. Even if people are fired, often times they work out arrangements with HR

    1. De Minimis*

      Yep…I was given a few extra days on payroll at the job I was fired from in order to help meet licensing requirements. They also wanted to avoid bad publicity with college recruits, who might have shied away if it got out that the company was in the habit of letting people go during their first year [again, due to the licensing requirements.]

  16. Manders*

    If this person only worked briefly with Gina, are you 100% certain that he wasn’t mistaken about why she left? In an org where people don’t announce that they’re leaving or layoffs aren’t handled gracefully, it’s possible that if she disappeared suddenly a person who didn’t work closely with her would assume she was fired.

    1. Kyrielle*

      And, are you absolutely certain he spoke about Gina enough that you know he was talking about Gina and not mistakenly talking about Jean? Because I dealt fairly regularly with people mistaking me for a coworker and vice versa, who didn’t interact with us often, especially if not in person. Or if the names are similar.

      But even if it was definitely Gina, there are so many circumstances where someone who had just worked with her a little while could believe (rightly or wrongly) that she had been fired, but it could still be true that when she sent in her resume and even interviewed with you, she hadn’t been fired.

      1. Kyrielle*

        (I’m lucky; former coworker was good and being mistaken for her was only a problem because people expected me to be up-to-date on the details of the issue she’d been working on, which nope, I wasn’t!)

      2. Whats In A Name*

        Oh this happens to me and another ex-co-worker all the time, STILL. We worked in similar capacities but different roles (one in charge training new hires and one in charge of managing current employee schedules). We share a first name. Similarities end there….blond v. brunette, tall vs. short, different office buildings, different managers, etc.)

        She got engaged 2 years ago and left the company 18 months ago; just last week someone congratulated me on my engagement and asked me how the wedding went in September (which was the month my ex-colleague got married)

        1. Kyrielle*

          Oh dear! Yes, exactly. Except – let’s call her Kyriel – had the same hair color and length I did and also wore glasses. If you met us in person you would tell us apart instantly, but if you described us, the person hearing it might have a hard time getting a clear idea who you meant.

          And we both worked in the same general role, with only differing levels – think White Chocolate Teapot Specialist vs. Senior White Chocolate Teapot Specialist…. Same building, same manager, same sub-team. In fact, when they rearranged seating, they put us next to each other. (It was helpful: we could quickly signal ‘hey, I have one of yours on the phone’ or confirm if we were not sure if we did.)

      3. Wheezy Weasel*

        Ditto on this: my wife and I suspect that she was accidentally fired instead of a person who shared the same name in the same department. There was general confusion on her colleagues and other managers as to why she was let go, the company owner who would have authorized the firing even called her the next day to offer themselves as a reference. (my wife declined). It’s all conjecture and she could have been fired for a reason the company did not disclose, but there had been several cases of mistaken identity for the same-name person in the weeks leading up to the event.

  17. AndersonDarling*

    On the opposite side, if Gina divulged at the first interview that she was fired, would the OP still have considered Gina a candidate? If it would have tarnished the OP’s opinion, then telling the truth would have deprived the OP of the perfect employee.
    It may not have been honest, but the alternative may have been terrible.

  18. Emmie*

    We do not know for sure whether she was actually fired, and whether this guy’s information is reliable. Take a look at the company processes. Did the company verify her prior employment? What information did that company provide about her separation? I would not address this with the employee if her current employer verified her prior employment, and information about her prior company’s separation status. If the company did not make employment verification calls, I’d take this as a sign that it’s time to start doing that. Please don’t take this as a sign about Gina’s employment or integrity yet. It feels like “what-if’fing” a negative hypothetical.

    1. Pari*

      Why not? If this person is a key employee it definitely would raise some concerns. i would want to eliminate worries about trust and eliminate integrity issues that might have come up as part of the firing.

      For example if she was fired for fraud or stealing or some other moral issue I’d have real problems keeping her. If she explained that she was fired for something like attendance because of personal issues i wouldn’t worry so much.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        Because there is no reliable information that she was in fact fired. It’s hearsay, gossip. And the OP has tons of first-hand info that the employee is consistently a rock star.

        1. Pari*

          That’s the part we don’t know- how reliable this info is. It’s hard to say without asking the source how they know she was fired.

          I guess that’s the real question- would new really bad gossip/info about a rock star cause you to question them? I’d say possibly but I’d definitely want to find out the facts.

        2. CanadianKat*

          I would start with the question: if Gina behaves inappropriately down the road, and someone discovers that you had this information and didn’t follow up on it, would that reflect on you badly?

          If he’d said she was fired for theft, fraud, assaulting a customer, or something similar that would be a serious red flag, – you may want to look into it. Otherwise, if she does something similar here … “Hey, you actually heard that he was stealing from XYZ Inc. and didn’t follow up, and now she stole from us!”

          In this case, just because she may not have been fully truthful about how/why/when she left XYZ Inc., it doesn’t make it reasonably forseeable that she’ll do something awful in the future. “She embezzled millions from Teapot Inc. You should have known she might do that, – after all, she said in February 2013 that she was still working for XYZ Inc. when they fired her in January 2013 for being slow to respond to customers.”

          1. Emmie*

            That’s a good point. A company would be protected, IMO, if there was an employment verification done at her time of hire. If there wasn’t one completed, perhaps they could do one now.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            If someone quizzed me on the whole incident, I would just say the person I was speaking with did not cause me enough concern that I felt I needed to move forward and investigate. I would go on to explain that at that point in the story Super Star was still being a super star.

            Of course, if any employee is doing wrong to the company I would not turn a blind eye. So if I was confronted later, I would also be able to say, that a new current problem caused concern and I was part of the lead on investigating the new concern.

            People tell you negative stuff about others all the time. And the higher up you go the more of it you seem to hear. Just my opinion from what I have seen. It is just not possible to investigate everyone, every day. You have to think each situation through and decide what points to pursue. It’s a part of being a good leader to bring a level head into each thing that comes up.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      You know, you bring up a good point about the date verification of her old employer and the date on her resume (if OP checked, sometimes you don’t on current employer).

  19. animaniactoo*

    Sometimes, people only know one piece of a much bigger story – Gina might have been allowed to resign rather than being fired after stepping on a political landmine*, and so she was technically not “fired” while everybody inside the company understands it to be a firing.

    *This happened to somebody I know, but he was fired over a different trumped up charge rather than addressing any of it – either with him or what the landmine fallout would have been if it had been pursued.

  20. KayDay*

    It’s also not clear from the letter exactly how this guy knew she was fired. In many situations when people are separated under less than ideal circumstances, there could have been an agreement that it wouldn’t be referred to as a firing (i.e. she was asked to resign or something like that). But, if this guy wasn’t privy to those details, he might only know that she left the job and it wasn’t entirely voluntary, and thus assume that she was fired while at the same time HR would say she resigned. And it’s also very possible that she was given enough notice that she was, at lest technically, employed at the time she applied.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Annnd, it could be that Gina got a promotion that was “supposed” to be his or some similar idea and he still has an axe to grind.

  21. Pari*

    This is what I’d say- you’ve been a great employee so far, but I got some information recently about you that worries me. It worries me because up to this point I have complete faith and trust in you and I need to maintain that faith and trust going forward. In passing someone told me you were fired from your last job which is not the what you portrayed in your interview with me. [remain silent and observe for candidness and credibility]

        1. Adonday Veeah*

          No, it really doesn’t. All it means is he was in the vicinity of the speculation that was being tossed around at the time. It doesn’t mean he knows anything or was even in a position to know.

        2. Cookie*

          It doesn’t make it reliable at all. I used to work for an agency with extremely high turnover. There were people who left suddenly and I couldn’t tell you if they quit or were fired.

        3. Engineer Girl*

          No, it doesn’t. I worked with an unethical person that spread all sorts of stories about me. He wanted to be the only game in town so used whisper campaigns against others. And yes, when I transferred to a less dysfunctional program he let everyone know that I’d been “let go”. The truth was that I transferred to a program with huge growth opportunities and that transfer was facilitated by a high level manager that loved my work.
          In short, what he spread about me and the truth were vastly different.

          This coworker did not work closely with Gina. He could not know the full details because of that separation. I find it odd that he volunteered that information to Gina’s new boss.

          Personally, I would talk to Gina about it to let her know about it.

    1. General Ginger*

      But it’s not really information. It’s just “some guy said” — a guy who worked with Gina briefly, sure, but it sounds more in the realm of gossip than information to me.

    2. AD*

      Whoa. This is absolutely not the approach to take, based on hearsay that may or may not have been gossip (and we have absolutely no information on the credibility of the source who told the OP).

      1. Pari*

        The problem with not looking into it becomes more evident the more trust is placed in her. If she’s responsible for the books or is trusted with clients that are vital to the business you have a greater responsibility to check this info out. I’m not sugggesting it should be taken as fact. Rather it should be taken as an allegation that needs further investigation to determine the facts. Maybe it’s nothing. But if she’s in a position to cause real harm then I think it’s wrong to ignore it completely.

        1. AD*

          That has nothing to do with the confrontational text you provided! That’s certainly not how a good manager would approach a situation like this, especially not regarding a stellar employee. And especially as this is unverified “information” from a source who may be completely mistaken. Don’t you understand that? It’s not even an “allegation”.

          I see you’re all over this thread with a rather hard line regarding Gina, but I suggest you step back a bit and actually absorb the points people are making.

            1. AD*

              I’m not really interested in prolonging this as I don’t think you’re getting it, but I’m stealing the words of “jm” who commented down below with I think the best response I’ve seen yet:

              “I’m concerned that OP may let the event coordinator’s words damage an excellent relationship with a great employee.

              The event coordinator, who was essentially a stranger to OP, said he only knew the former co-worker for a short period of time. What if he misunderstood, and she was never actually fired? What if the info he relayed to OP was a rumor or a lie told to the event coordinator by another co-worker? Especially in a large organization, how often do other employees really know the truth behind the circumstances of an employee’s departure?

              To me, it’s a bit scary that the OP would give so much credence to a perfect stranger, when she has two years of strong evidence that the associate director is doing a great job. OP, before you proceed with questioning the associate director, know that you could easily damage this professional relationship – and to what end? What is best for your organization — employing an excellent associate director who is an asset, though she may have been fired from a job 2+ years ago, or going down this rabbit trail to risk possibly losing another great employee?

              1. Pari*

                This is a fine response if you worry that your employee won’t understand or you feel like there’s zero chance you’ll ever regret it later. But if you’re the type who usually proceeds with caution and likes to gather as much info as possible before making decisions then this won’t work.

                1. Anion*

                  Pari, a friend of mine read these comments and says she thinks she might know you, and that you’re a notorious drug dealer who might have killed someone. I’m obviously concerned about this, and I’d like you to explain to me now why someone would say that about you, and prove to me that it’s not true.

                  These allegations have made me seriously doubt your integrity, as I’m sure you understand, so failure to do either of the above could mean you lose your job.

                  That’s fair, isn’t it?

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I agree with you, AD. I think we have all seen managers who are easily swayed by something like this- a brief interaction with a random person.

                Part of leadership requires strength. It requires that the manager knows that she knows. I had a boss who was swayed by almost anything that anyone said and working for that boss was like walking on eggs day after day. Because you never knew who would say something and get you into a lot of hot water and it did not matter if the story was true or not.

                I would never recommend that leaders double check every rumor/innuendo/gossip bit they hear. For one thing there are not enough hours in the day. For another thing it means that the leader has no confidence in their crew. If you don’t believe in your crew, then move on, your crew deserves to have a boss who believes in them. That is my general thought.

                More specific to this situation, OP has no other reason to investigate this person. The likelihood that OP will harm the company’s relationship with this good worker is very high. And the likelihood that OP will find something nefarious seems at this point to be very low. The most I would do is put the info in the back of my head. If something else came up later on then I might see a caution flag go up. I do not see anything of substance here so far.

                1. Searching*

                  This: Part of leadership requires strength. It requires that the manager knows that she knows.

                  The best manager I worked for were the ones that had these traits. It’s not that they were not open to input, but they had the ability to assign the right value to that input.

    3. KK*

      This is horrible verbiage IMO….you’re setting up a crucifix for someone, waiting for them to explain their way out. It was 2nd hand information handed over by someone far removed enough from the situation that you are putting more faith in gossip than your proven employee.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        And to me the “proven employee” piece is critical. The whole reason you interview people is to try to predict what their performance would be like 2 years down the road. You now have that information to compare to what happened in their interview. Here, the employee’s performance has been great; you’re holding what you absolutely know is true against some pretty weak evidence…and not even evidence that anything is wrong. It’s not a crime to be fired. Good people get fired all the time; terrible people keep jobs all the time. You have a good person.

    4. animaniactoo*

      Um. No. If you want to ask about it, it should be MUCH MUCH simpler and without the heavily laden assumption that is creeping through your script that Gina has in fact lied.

      Something like. “I ran into someone who mentioned that he’d worked with you for a little bit at your old company. He was glad that you’re doing well here, but seemed to be under the impression you had been fired and hadn’t been working there for awhile before you applied with us. Do you know why he would think that?”

    5. LawCat*

      That kind of confrontation would fluster me regardless of whether I had been fired or not been fired. For me, it would cause me to have significant trust and faith issues with my manager. Are they gossiping about me? Setting me up for something?

      “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And if I were the employee here, I’d think about whether I want to keep working for that manager. She does have two years’ worth of demonstrable high achievements she can take take to market after all.

      1. AD*

        Exactly. It’s not the tone of a conversation a skilled manager would want to subject their direct report to.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I’d be thinking about moving on, too. “I have worked my butt off for you for two years and some one comes along who tells you a half-baked story and you want to investigate me???”

      3. Mookie*

        Yes. This isn’t the language or behavior of someone trustworthy and genuinely invested in forging ahead with a professional relationship; it’s the language and psychological inexpertise of a poor parent trying to manipulate a child into telling “the truth” about something, with a bonus guilt-trip on the side (clearly, the employee would be regarded with suspicion from now on, irrespective of how truthful this gossip was). I’d make the right noises, update my resumé, and start carefully searching for another position. And if it hadn’t been two years, I’d remove this position from my resumé altogether, because I wouldn’t trust an employer like this–who personalizes matters of business with mafia-like references to “faith”–to give an honest reference.

  22. ZSD*

    Ordinarily, I’d submit this to the typo issues page, but in this case, I’m not sure if this is a typo or if I’m just misunderstanding.
    “Really, unless this guy told you exactly when she was fired and it was after she submitted that resume — and you have reason to trust that he’s being precisely accurate two years later in an offhand comment — there’s just no smoking gun here.”
    Wouldn’t it be a bigger deal if she was fired *before* she submitted the resume, not *after*? Or am I misunderstanding?

  23. Previously Fired*

    OK, I’ve been fired. I have never admitted to it in a job interview, and wouldn’t unless I was asked point blank. Even then, I’d call it a layoff. (Which is what the company agreed to refer to it as, but come on, let’s not split hairs, I was let go.)

    I was fired for political reasons, not because I stole or lost a client or took my shirt off at the holiday party. My manager didn’t like me, and told our boss it was me or him, and he won. The boss flat out told me this. I’d received a raise, a promotion, a positive review, and an out of guidelines bonus in the months previous to my dismissal. My clients loved me. But I was still fired.

    It certainly changed the way I viewed people that have been let go. There are two sides to every story. If I had a rockstar employee that was two years into the job, and heard she’d been fired from a previous job? Either she learned her lesson and changed the ways that had led to her previous dismissal, or she wasn’t fired for faulty work. My reaction certainly wouldn’t be to fire her, that’s kind of nuts.

    Maybe that’s my skewed perspective. But what, just because somebody is fired once they become some kind of untouchable, and are now permanently unemployable?

    1. Pari*

      No that’s not the case and being fired doesn’t totally blacklist you. But as an interviewer I’d want to make my own determination based on the information you provide. For example I’d ask what it was she didn’t like about you or why you felt she didn’t like you or how you came to that conclusion. Obviously things like raises and promotions are good but those don’t always speak to how you interact with your boss if your deliverables are based on client outcomes only. I’d want to make my own determination about whether I should anticipate similar issues.

      1. Qmatilda*

        Yes, but to get that far, you have to get to the interview. Many many employers have you check a box and bingo-bango into the trash you go.

          1. Natalie*

            What is there to uncover? If Previously Fired’s company has classified it as a layoff, than that’s what it is in the record.

            1. Pari*

              There are clues sometimes layoffs are code for something more questionable. Being laid off when the company is actively hiring for similar positions, layoffs from jobs that are essential for no apparent business reason, not being eligible for rehire, when you are the only one laid off.

              1. Anion*

                Except a lay-off in any of those situations could still be perfectly legitimate. Assuming they’re not is kind of a scummy thing to do; you’re penalizing someone based on some wild idea in your head. It’s like assuming an applicant must be stupid because they have a GED, or assuming something is wrong with them because they’re looking for work to begin with.

                1. Pari*

                  That’s true but most hiring managers quickly learn it’s common to see people use job separation terms incorrectly. layoffs usually target functions not specific people so you can ask questions about those things. And maybe I’m a bit cynical but it’s also quite common to see people stretch the truth in interviews so I also reserve judgement until I hear enough specifics to allow me to make a conclusion on the accuracy of what’s being said.

          2. Previously Fired*

            Thing is, I’m not worried or praying about somebody finding out I got fired. It happened, I dealt with it, and I moved on.

            But I’m pragmatic — I wouldn’t reveal that info *voluntarily* at an interview. If they don’t ask, I’m absolutely not going to offer it up.

            And I don’t feel like I “owe” it to an interviewer or to a future employer to tell them, so that they can pin a scarlet F on me.

    2. Moonsaults*

      I have seen so many people fired for reasons I didn’t agree with, while others were left to cling on doing worse things, that’s what changed my POV drastically on the whole “have you ever been fired” kind of thing. I guess that’s also why as an interviewer, I don’t really care why you left your other jobs, I assume the other jobs weren’t a good fit one way or another and you’re moving on. I think that’s partly due to my experience working in places that have went bankrupt or were sold after they were so far below water it was a miracle that they were seemingly salvaged. I really don’t care why you changed jobs in the end, as long as you have the skills to do what I’m hiring for and show up.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. There is some nasty, nasty stuff going on out there and some people get royally screwed.
        If a person wants to snow me about something in the past, they might actually get away with it. I might miss cues.

        But one thing I won’t miss is how the person is doing with their job today. What is their track record in their current position? If an employee is truly a bad apple that will bubble to the surface eventually. It usually does. For this reason, I very seldom worry about people putting one over on me.

  24. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    I would definitely talk to her.

    Less so because of the supposed “lie” by omission (it really sounds to me, worst case, she was let go and then hired by you in the span of a very short amount of time, and 2 years of good performance really should trump that by now), but because, if I was Gina, I would want to know that people at my old company were saying these sorts of things to effective strangers. And, if you value Gina that much as an employee, you owe it to her to clue her into this.

    1. General Ginger*

      Oh, that’s a good point. If I were in Gina’s shoes, I’d definitely want to know this!

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I agree that if Gina’s been such a good employee she should know these rumors are out there (whether true or not). I would talk to her about it more in the general “Hey, you’ve been great and I’ve been really happy with you working here, but apparently at least one person from [Gina’s previous company] is under the impression that you were fired. Any idea how that rumor started?” or something similar.

        I agree that if I were Gina I’d want to know, and OP may be better off knowing as well so she can deal with it if it ever comes up again.

        I also agree with lots of the other posters that it’s distinctly possible the event coordinator was mistaken, and is thinking of Gina from Department A not Department B, or that he had heard that she was escorted out and assumed that it was because she was fired and not because that’s the policy whenever someone leaves to go to someone in the same field, etc.

        But if I was OP, this would probably nag at me, and I’d be afraid it would color my interactions with Gina until I addressed it.

        1. fposte*

          I might also add something like “Your work here speaks for itself, so I doubt this is a problem, but I wanted to run it by you.”

          1. Jean*

            fposte, your suggestion has both kindness and integrity: kindness, because it reassures Gina that her current manager likes her present work and also isn’t fishing for information to use to undermine her; integrity, because not only is the current manager _not_ trafficking in gossip but she also respects Gina enough to alert her that someone is out there making puzzling/dubious/unhelpful/possibly uninformed, mean-spirited and/or totally inaccurate comments about Gina.

  25. Anon 2*

    I’d let it go.

    You talked to an event coordinator? How closely did they work together? Would that person know the details of Gina’s departure? I’ve worked at more than one organization where the rumor mill was working overtime any time anyone left the organization. And in one of the least healthy organizations I’ve worked there were some people who claimed they had fired people when really it was a forced resignation or a more traditional layoff. Not to mention there are too many toxic work places that retaliate against employees by firing them.

  26. Cochrane*

    If she really was unemployed while she was interviewing with the LW, I don’t blame her for fudging the ending date in the near term. If you job search while employed, you come from a position of relative strength. There isn’t much negotiation when an employer knows you have no job and will be pretty much forced to take any lowball that they dish out.

    1. SystemsLady*

      It may not even have been a fudge when the resume was submitted (or when the interview happened).

  27. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    This seems like a really small detail to get hung up on, IMO. It wasn’t her experience or education – it was an end date and form of separation. If it is really going to bug you, then have a casual convo about it with her, but I don’t think you should be considering termination.

    1. Pari*

      Lying from the get go seems like a small detail? What if she was fired for embezzling or going batshit on her boss? Wouldn’t you want peace of mind that it was something understandable.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        There is no evidence whatsoever that she was fired or that she lied, and 3 years of evidence that she is a skilled, talented, reliable employee.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        As Alison pointed out, there is no evidence yet that she did in fact lie. When I was applying for jobs earlier this year, my resume said present and for some of those jobs it was no longer present by the time they called me because I had been laid off. I didn’t lie on my resume – it was just out of date by the time they contacted me.

        The things you mention could have been discovered if OP had done thorough reference checks – if no one at the company Gina was allegedly fired from mentioned her being fired, mentioned criminal activity, or mentioned insane behavior, then it is even more weird to get hung up on this detail. Though it is possible OP didn’t talk to anyone from that company for some reason.

        At any rate, OP has two years of evidence that it wasn’t something crazy like that, so jumping to extremes is a little rash

        1. Pari*

          Well there’s certainly an allegation that she lied from someone who worked with her. All I’m suggesting is being inquisitive about it, not telling her i have evidence that she lied.

          1. Doe-eyed*

            You’re leaving a lot of comments like this, and I have to say that if I were in Gina’s position and a manager approached me like this, my rockstar self would get my resume updated with this company’s information and hit the trails. I really don’t need the stress of my manager trying to verify gossip with me like I’m on the FBI’s Most Wanted list especially after I’ve busted ass for her for years.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              +100 it’s a very adversarial position to take with someone who, up til now, you had no issues with. And again – the coordinator could have been misinformed.

            2. Jen S. 2.0*

              Agreed. I might feel somewhat differently if in 2 years — well long enough for problems to surface — she had shown signs of lack of integrity or otherwise was a problem employee; or if she’d been around for a week instead of 2 years. But for a longtime top performer? I don’t see the need to make waves with information that may well be unreliable, and where there are just too many outs for her to have been perfectly in the right (she may have been laid off or let go and not fired; she may have agreed with HR what everyone was going to say and Gossip Boy wasn’t privy to it; the resume may have been old; she may not have been directly asked during the interview; she may have been fired, but for a reason that would make perfect sense; etc etc etc).

              I also might feel somewhat differently if he’d had some specific about why she was fired and it made a difference (stealing, fraud, etc). But being fired is not a crime in itself.

              There’s just not a lot of reason to get aggressive with the person you value and know well because of vague information from someone you don’t know well.

          2. Lora*

            No, there’s a random accusation from some stranger on the street. Why give it more credence than the dude in a tinfoil hat ranting about chemtrails on the streetcorner with a sign that says THE END IS NIGH? It could be a bitter ex-boyfriend trying to start trouble for her. It could be some guy who didn’t work there but his cousin’s girlfriend’s neighbor’s brother said she wouldn’t buy girl scout cookies from his kid. Until you do a complete background check on this dude, you have no idea who the heck he is. Maybe he is that Nigerian prince who is going to send everyone $2million just as soon as they give him the details of their bank account numbers.

            The absolute most I think you can say without damaging the relationship is, “hey, do you know (random dude)? I bumped into him at Event, he said he worked with you”. Otherwise you’re telling your star employee, “I don’t trust you one bit and I will take Alien Elvis Presley’s Love Child’s word over yours in a heartbeat, tinfoil hat and all.” Which is not a thing you say to someone you intend to continue having a good working relationship with.

          3. JB (not in Houston)*

            No. There is no allegation that she lied because the person who said she was fired did not also say “I know when she submitted her resume and what it said and the time she applied with your org, she’d already been fired.” He said that she was fired, he didn’t say when. We don’t know if it was before or after she’d applied for her current job.

          4. Natalie*

            No, there is no allegation. The OP doesn’t say anywhere that Gina’s former colleague accused her of lying, only that he disclosed that Gina had been fired.

            1. fposte*

              And I’m not sure that the OP’s use of “disclosed” is even the right word, since there’s no indication he’d be privy to the details. “Believed” might be more accurate.

              I think it looks different when you’re talking about two people, Gina and nameless guy, who are both just characters on a screen to is so they seem to have a pretty equal footing. But think about somebody you’ve worked with for two years, who has excelled in her job, saved your ass a time or two, is widely liked and known to be responsible; then imagine the guy in the Starbucks line in front of you telling you she was fired from her last job. It’s random guy vs. somebody who I value. I’m thinking of it with my staff, and my response is basically “If she didn’t break any laws, then I don’t care.”

          5. AD*

            Pari, you are parroting the same things all over this page. You seem to equate “being a good manager and gathering relevant information” with “putting your star employee on the spot due to questionable information of equally questionable provenance”. NOT THE SAME THING. You will lose good employees with that unnuanced, confrontational approach to unsubstantiated gossip.

            1. Pari*

              That comment doesn’t surprise me. I use discussions here occasionally to check myself with my staff. At first when I started reading this blog all of the comments here made me doubt many things we and I do. But time and time again my staff disagree with the Aam herd. Here are some conclusions they’ve come to: they won’t ever work for a non profit(I keep telling them there’s probably just more non profit traffic here), they like gift exchanges, potlucks, staff retreats, the option of hanging out with co workers away from work. they think this notion of soft, read between the lines problems are many times partly self inflicted. Which all makes me wonder if there’s a demographic that dominates this site or if I just don’t hire it.

              1. whippers*

                I don’t actually think Allison has a problem with gift exchanges or pot lucks, as long as everyone is happy enough to get involved and certain guidelines are followed. And I also don’t think she has a problem with people hanging out with coworkers away from work as long as it’s not an obligation by the company; I think it’s more managers hanging out with employees that’s a problem. But maybe I’ve picked this up wrongly?

                1. Pari*

                  I was suggesting more the commenters as a whole here don’t like those things. Sorry if I bungled that

                2. AD*

                  Pari, your comprehension of what commenters like or dislike is somewhat faulty (and shows lack of nuance in interpreting widely varying opinions shared on AAM on a host of different things)

                3. Jen S. 2.0*

                  I think it’s less that people on the whole don’t like those things, and more that people who don’t like those things, AND often don’t feel heard, tend to speak up a lot more around here. That’s very different from “everyone feels this way except the people I know.” Liking those things may well be a majority opinion, but the minority should not be made uncomfortable for being in the minority.

                  That is, in places where 95 people enjoy office potlucks, the 5 people that don’t feel very run over when they get a lot of cheerful pressure to participate, and that gets discussed at length here. Those 5 people aren’t the majority, but why should they have to participate in a potluck if that’s not their thing? The fact that someone else doesn’t get why something’s not their thing, and the fact that it IS someone else’s thing shouldn’t be a reason why they have to do something they don’t enjoy.

                  Almost by definition, people aren’t writing in for advice here because they are part of the happy majority.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                But I don’t think these things you mention here are on the same level as what could be just character assassination.

                I would be very surprised if your employees believe that if you heard some random story with no evidence, from an unproven source, about any one of them that you should investigate that person immediately. I would also be surprised if a few did not express sadness over this, also.

                And I am saying this as a person who goes to my boss’ house for holidays and we exchange gifts. Eh, it works for us. We truly enjoy each other’s friendship and we actively manage our professional work life together. We could not do this in other work places, but we can do it where we are. So I don’t “go by the AAM book” entirely myself. [But I do think you have the best thing going on here, Alison!;) ]

              3. AD*

                “The AAM herd”?

                I was going to gently ignore your comment, but that bit made me sit up. You must clearly not read this blog if your takeaway is that we always have a singular opinion on everything. And another takeaway for you is that non-profits are all bad? I don’t think that deserves a response, frankly.

              4. MommaTRex*

                “Which all makes me wonder if there’s a demographic that dominates this site or if I just don’t hire it.”
                Or maybe your employees are telling you what you want to hear?

      3. Engineer Girl*

        Excuse me, but there is absolutely no evidence she was lying.
        The other person could have lied. Or been mistaken. Who knows?
        There isn’t enough information to make a decision.
        And frankly, the fact that you’ve already taken a position based on hearsay is quite scary. I’d hate to have you in my chain of command.

  28. RS*

    I was “fired” by a state agency for “poor cultural fit” 2 months before my tenure at the agency would have made me much more difficult to get rid of, per union contract. Six months earlier I’d had a glowing performance review, but about 3 months before the firing I started to get some bizarre feedback from my immediate supervisor about “problematic” behavior like – I’m not kidding – nodding too much in meetings to show my agreement when others were speaking.

    I was allowed/encouraged to submit a letter of “resignation” which, if submitted, would go in my file instead of termination documentation (?) and offered 2 weeks’ severance and health insurance coverage extended 1 month, contingent upon my signing a statement that I had no cause to pursue legal action against the agency for my termination. Although I’d technically “resigned” the agency supported my application for unemployment payment.

    My immediate supervisor (who was a managerial nightmare but a good person) was apparently so uncomfortable about the circumstances that she took that day off – I was fired by an HR underling with the head of my department in attendance.

    The agency has a standing policy that its employees cannot give professional references, and its HR department will only confirm employment dates. Several of the people I worked with – peers and people senior to me, but neither my immediate supervisor nor the department head – reached out to offer to serve as references.

    Since I wasn’t technically “fired” I could “honestly” describe my parting with the agency as a resignation, which I ascribed to changed priorities and management structure. Fortunately there was a less-than 3-month gap between the end of my time there and the start of my new job. To this day I don’t know the real reason I was let go, although everyone viewed the agency’s HR team with loathing, as apparently they were on a ceaseless mission to pare down payroll by getting rid of “unnecessary” staff. The person they hired a few months later into the same role that I’d had had fewer academic qualifications, less experience, and almost certainly came in at a lower payscale than I had – so my best guess is that it was an economically driven termination.

    1. RS*

      Quick follow up: if a colleague at the agency who didn’t know me well noticed that I was no longer there, they’d have had no way of finding out what had happened because of rigidly enforced policies prohibiting discussion of conditions surrounding an employee’s termination. It would have been clear that my departure was unplanned, because I hadn’t announced that I was leaving, but neither HR nor my supervisors would have discussed anything about it. So a curious colleague wouldn’t have known that I technically resigned, was given a severance, etc.

  29. Brownie Queen*

    I am in the “Let it go” camp. If she is a rockstar performer at her current job and there has never been any issues, what bearing does it have on her current position to find out why she was let go from a past job?

    1. Pari*

      Same reason creditors give you higher interest rates when you have bad credit-more risk. Maybe you wouldn’t have offered her as much if you knew you were taking a chance on her. Maybe you wait a bit longer to trust her than you normally would. Maybe you keep tabs on her a little more for a little longer.

      1. General Ginger*

        Yeah, except by all accounts, Gina is a stellar employee, so none of these hypotheticals apply here.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        If you have one small bad item on your credit and the rest is stellar, you still have a good credit rating. She’s been there for 2 years and done great work.

        You are making this into a bigger deal than we have evidence of. Maybe the OP will come back and give us more information, but for now you’re just assuming the worst with no reason to, like Gina’s probably secretly embezzling from the organization.

          1. Anion*

            Your “caution” is basically you admitting that your own judgment about this employee up to now is not to be trusted, and that you’re not capable of deciding if the employee is good–and a good person–or not on your own.

            It’s also saying that one mistake in the past (which there’s no proof anyone even made, save the offhand comment of someone who could very well be mistaken) should follow someone around for the rest of their lives, and that there is, and should not be, any such thing as redemption or a second chance even if a person has completely turned their attitude/work ethic/life around.

      3. Elsajeni*

        Those are things you might have done differently if you’d known this back when you hired her, though — what difference would it make now, after she’s been working for the OP for two years and apparently been a fantastic and reliable employee that whole time? You can’t go back in time and offer her a lower salary, and surely the “wait longer to trust her” time period has already passed.

  30. Stellaaaaa*

    I was once fired after asking the business owner to follow certain employment laws. Women are fired all the time for standing up to harassment or pointing out discrimination. You really never know why any given dingbat manager might have decided that a decent employee should be fired.

  31. Green Tea Pot*

    Let it go. Bottom line is that she is good at what she does.

    I’ve been in your place, ED at a highly visible non-profit. It’s are to find good help. Old on to her.

  32. De Minimis*

    Let it go if her work quality is good and if there aren’t any other cases where you’ve seen her be untruthful.

    Usually when you hire a “bad apple” there are multiple red flags and falsehoods. This doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here.

    I’ve been fired and I did tend to fudge the truth about it in interviews, at least for the first few years until I found another job [this was in the worst of the recession, so employers were already looking for ways to quickly reject applicants.] I don’t know that I would hold this against someone since I did it myself. [for what it’s worth, if job applications or background check forms asked the question I responded truthfully to it.]

  33. Murphy*

    Speaking as someone who has been fired in the past, it doesn’t always mean that said job candidate is a horrible worker who is undeserving of another opportunity. It could have been a bad fit, her old boss could have been a jerk, and yes, she could have made a mistake that her superiors found to be a fireable offense, but it doesn’t forever tarnish her as an employee. It sounds like Gina has proved to you that she is worth it and does deserve her current position. You said “She made a mistake, but there is nothing, nothing in her two-year performance that suggests anything other than a highly qualified and committed individual who has gone above and beyond in her role.” and there I think you have your answer.

    1. Anion*


      I was fired from a waitressing job at a hotel once, when a bride who’d been married at the hotel that afternoon apparently felt that I didn’t kiss her behind and make a big enough fuss over her in general and was especially infuriated that I unthinkingly handed her the check for her drinks when I “should have known the bride doesn’t pay for drinks,” and complained to my manager and the hotel manager about my “rudeness.” I had ten days left in my probationary period, so that was it for me. Every other waitressing or service job I’ve ever had, all I’ve gotten have been compliments, but I was fired once, so apparently that makes me damaged goods.

      My husband was fired from his job at a major banking institution for attendance issues (in the wake of 9/11, when companies were looking for reasons for layoffs). He had attendance issues because we had a new baby and I was suffering PPD and having a hard time, so some days he just couldn’t bear to leave me home alone, crying, not able to sleep, with our daughter.

      At his next job he took one emergency half-day off in four years, when my grandmother died. (He took a week when our second daughter was born, but that was planned in advance with the heartfelt approval of his boss, who also visited me in the hospital, and gave Hubs a larger-than-usual bonus that year, because he was such a great guy.

      At his next job (his current job), in his first position there he took one week (in five years) because of Norovirus, and in his current, higher position one day (out of five years) because of a different stomach virus.

      If someone looked at his firing for “attendance issues” fifteen years ago and counted that as a mark against him, they’d be losing someone so dedicated that as long as he isn’t actually vomiting everywhere, he drags himself to work.

      Issues at one job do not mean issues at every job. Sometimes circumstances change. Sometimes a firing is what makes a person realize they need to change, and they become stellar employees. The idea that two years of excellent and faithful work should be thrown away, and suspicion cast on said stellar employee because some rando said “Oh, I heard she got fired,” is ridiculous.

  34. Biff*

    Some other possibilities that haven’t been mentioned:

    1. She may have been fired without her knowledge. In truly dysfunctional organizations, it can happen!
    2. Typo on the resume. It happens, especially if you are copying/pasting from an older resume and forget to update dates. I’ve done it.
    3. She wasn’t fired, but her boss went around saying she was to avoid looking like his staff was ‘allowed’ to go and get different jobs.

  35. Whats In A Name*

    Didn’t we just have a topic come up earlier this week or late last where someone leaving often gets lost in translation and often the rumor mill gets started. Like, “I noticed Gina doesn’t work here anymore, do you know what happened?” “No, but after last week I bet she got fired” “Wait, Gina got fired?! No way!”

    If she has been otherwise the stellar employee you say she is I’d let it go. I get that you replaced Pam after thinking you couldn’t but why fire someone over hearsay that you think would be hard to replace? Unless he gave you specifics as Alison mentioned I would let it go. I know it’s hard to “un-know” something, but in this case do you really know anything at all?

    Other than her ex-co-worker likes to gossip about things in the past?

  36. Language Lover*

    Did you do a background check on Gina when you hired her? You mention she had great references but did you ever contact anyone from her former employer?

    Otherwise, all you have here is one employee’s interpretation of what happened. Was this something he knows or did he get it from the rumor mill? Did he suspect she was fired because she and her boss clashed? Did he know it wasn’t a good fit so when she left, he just assumed it was a firing? Perhaps her former supervisor let her know it wasn’t working out and gave her the option to resign instead. Is he mistaking Gina M for Gina G and not realizing it because he only worked with her for a short while two years ago?

    You could talk with her. Or try to find out some employment information from her old employer. But I would just go with what you’ve seen of her work so far. Learning a potential employee was fired often brings up questions because you can’t really know if it was just a fit issue, or if they were a terrible employee or if they had a terrible boss. But here you actually have the benefit so far of knowing what kind of employee she is.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This kind of slays me also. Everything else is great, references were great, current work is great, but this one little thing becomes more important than all that.

  37. Sfigato*

    I say let it go. Her end date could have been after she submitted her resume. She could have forgotten to change the end date. She could have been employed when she submitted and then left the org by the time she interviewed.

    She’s doing good work. You have no problems with her. When you are interviewing, it is awkward to bring up that you are being laid off or fired. It’s not something you want to call attention to. I was laid off this spring and my resume said I was employed to present until after my last day of work, when I changed it to my end date. People do get laid off or fired because of politics rather than performance issues. If her references were good and she is a good employee, don’t worry about it.

  38. Marisol*

    Am I mistaken, or isn’t it rather poor form to casually bring up the subject of someone’s termination? The OP didn’t ask; the guy just volunteered it. Why bring that up? It just seems sort of tacky.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I also thought it was weird. And if someone is fired, you usually follow it up with the why. “Oh yeah, Gina. She was fired for punching a guy in the face!”

    2. SystemsLady*

      I agree. I think it’s most likely he had worked in a contractor-client position with Gina in the past and was digging for the reason he was told she’d left (which would be none of his business the vast majority of the time).

    3. Grunpy*

      Hmm… I wonder if Brief Coworker had an unrequited crush on Gina, was a friend of her ex, or similar reason to be bitter. Creep happens.

    4. Stellaaaaa*

      In a certain context, I don’t think it’s completely out of line to say something like, “Hmm, I’m surprised she managed to find something new after how she ended things at her last job.” In niche industries with overlapping networks it’s super common for people’s reputations to follow them around and for there to be half-open conversations about why anyone would risk hiring so-and-so. It’s trashy gossip but I also don’t care to protect people from their own deservedly bad reputations.

      I don’t think that’s exactly what happened here, but I can think of a few scenarios where someone’s termination might come up.

      1. Marisol*

        Well it would depend on the context, and I’m not gonna say I’ve never gossiped about a colleague or associate before, but I get the impression that this time it was out of the blue and clumsy. And that Gina didn’t deserve a bad reputation.

  39. Anonymous Educator*

    Yeah, as Alison said, the lying about timing it much more worrisome than the lying about being fired. You can’t say that you worked some place for a year when you didn’t. Putting “to present” for something that ended a month ago is sketchy for sure, but it’s not nearly as bad as putting a job from 9 months ago or 12 months ago as “present” when you’ve been long gone from that job.

  40. jm*

    I’m concerned that OP may let the event coordinator’s words damage an excellent relationship with a great employee.

    The event coordinator, who was essentially a stranger to OP, said he only knew the former co-worker for a short period of time. What if he misunderstood, and she was never actually fired? What if the info he relayed to OP was a rumor or a lie told to the event coordinator by another co-worker? Especially in a large organization, how often do other employees really know the truth behind the circumstances of an employee’s departure?

    To me, it’s a bit scary that the OP would give so much credence to a perfect stranger, when she has two years of strong evidence that the associate director is doing a great job. OP, before you proceed with questioning the associate director, know that you could easily damage this professional relationship – and to what end? What is best for your organization — employing an excellent associate director who is an asset, though she may have been fired from a job 2+ years ago, or going down this rabbit trail to risk possibly losing another great employee?

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Yep Yep Yep to all of this. Too many “what ifs” to let this ruin what appears to be an excellent workers reputation.

  41. It's all too personal*

    In an eighteen month period where: one of my son’s childhood best friends committed suicide, my boss of 22 years succumbed to cancer, my place of work was sold and I was laid off, a casual friend committed suicide, I found a new job at an institution I love, when I was fired…oh excuse me, “when I didn’t make it past the probationary period”, that was the thing that gutted me for two years.

    People get let go from jobs for all sorts of reasons, some righteous, and some out of the blue. Who your employee is now, after two years of stellar work is the important thing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      omg. I am so sorry.

      Our jobs can provide us with a sense of continuity, a sense of sameness when everything else around us is moving so fast and changing chaotically. I have seen widows and widowers leverage the stability of their jobs to help build their new normal after a loss. It can be done.

      Some employers “get it” too, they see the employee is going through a rough time and the employer knows that keeping that employee working is so very helpful to the employee. You deserve a good, rock solid job and you don’t deserve to be treated like that by an employer. Again, very sorry this happened to you.

  42. Kristine*

    Story time: One Saturday I was out in town and ran into a coworker. We worked on different floors in different departments, but we occasionally shared email chains when I needed some information about his clients. He asked how I was doing after getting fired and if I had any good leads. I immediately went white; when I left the office on Friday I was under the impression I still had a job! After talking with him, it turned out that Kristine M. had been fired a week previously, and for some pretty large mistakes. I’m Kristine A.

    Point: Always verify your sources. OP has no idea whether this past co-worker had any idea what he was talking about, and shouldn’t be making decisions about Gina’s job based on random third party comments.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I had a similar example above. Thought not firing thankfully! I am Name A.; Name B. left the company 18 months ago when she got engaged and s/o got transferred. Just last week I got a huge congrats on my wedding from an employee I hadn’t seen in awhile! It’s fun for me to get congratulated but I am def not married, let alone engaged!

  43. Trout 'Waver*

    A few more potential explanation that wouldn’t reflect poorly on Gina:

    *If this was through a recruiter, the recruiter may have fudged it without her knowledge. Not too uncommon.
    *Gina may have mistakenly sent an older version of her resume. Not great, but no malice.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      And if the interview process took months, it’s not unreasonable for someone to be fired along the way. Heck, she may have known the new job was hers and she walked off her current job.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      Or if it came from a recruiter, they had a version that was accurate when they got it and didn’t bother to update it. Somewhere out there is a copy of my resume from 10 years ago with “1996-present: Java cupmaker” and while I’ve been doing chocolate teapots ever since, I’ll still get LinkedIn requests that think I’m up to date on Java.

  44. Coffee and Mountains*

    I agree with Alison’s advice here.
    Another key point is that the guy spoke at least neutrally if not positively of her. If she was someone awful, he probably would have said something about that if he was willing to say something about her being fired.

  45. Jesmlet*

    I think her 2 years of great work should carry much more weight than the possibility that she was fired and didn’t disclose it. Since you don’t require applications, there was nothing legally binding there where she agreed that all info provided was true so even if you did want to fire her, your HR department would probably push back a little and for good reason – so she fudged some dates a bit, she didn’t outright lie in person, and seriously who hasn’t twisted a reason for leaving a bit? Plus this guy might be one of those people who doesn’t distinguish a lay off from firing and didn’t provide any info as to why. Absolutely zero reason to act on this as far as I’m concerned. If you want to bring it up to her, do it in a nonjudgmental way just to satisfy curiosity.

  46. Shazbot*

    What I don’t really get is why an apparently context-free comment…from some guy the LW met once briefly…who only worked with Gina a short time…carries so much weight with the LW that the LW is questioning TWO YEARS WORTH OF HER OWN EXPERIENCE WITH GINA.

    I’m wondering if the LW is prone to second-guessing her own decisions or experiences. And that’s serious if it affects her working relationships with good employees.

    1. whippers*

      Yeah, I wondered about that too. For the LW to immediately jump to considering firing Gina on the basis of this seems a bit….misjudged.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It takes strength to lead people. I don’t mean that as snark, this is a classic example of why I say that. People do not mind taking pot shots at other people any chance they get. You have to KNOW your people and KNOW their work, or these pot shots WILL catch you.

  47. A. Sakundiak*

    Also…sometimes former employers lie about why an employee left. I remember quitting a job once to start with a new company. Former employer seemed to be sour about me leaving, and told someone I was fired (which was a lie) – I think just to cause me trouble.

  48. Not me*

    If I were you, I’d let it go based on 2 years of exceptional work.

    Maybe she was fired. I’ve been fired and guess what? I’m a competent, hard-working, gainfully and happily employed person who had been in a rough situation that there was really no getting out of.

    She might have also fudged some days. Honorable? No, but if the last 2 years mean anything, it was probably a poor decision made by a person in a pretty tough spot.

  49. Important Moi*

    All of the comments seem to be going my way, so I’ll just add, the OP should tell the stellar employee how OP got this information so the stellar employee can know and evaluate how much OP values the opinions of strangers.

    OP just sounds improperly curious.

  50. The RO-Cat*

    I guess it’s a judgement call for OP to make. On one hand, we have a stellar employee that contributed 2 years to company’s flourishing and (I tend to think) left no shadow of doubt about her proffesionalism (or OP would have mentioned it). On the other, we have a stranger saying something about her being fired. OP, what carries more weight for you?

    I, personally, would let it go. Maybe, maybe, for a less trusting person the lack of clarity of this situation might get nagging; in that case, a simply curious, friendly inquiry could shed some light (and there are very good wording suggestions here). But I’m not sure satisfying my curiosity is worth the risk of alienating Gina.

  51. whippers*

    Allison, you say here that lying or blurring the truth on your resume is an integrity issue. However, you also advocate leaving off a job of a few months from your resume as you say there is nothing it can add. Do you not think that is in the same ballpark with regard to truthfulness on your resume?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Two totally different things. A resume isn’t required to list everything you’ve ever done in your professional life. It’s a marketing document designed to show the ways in which you’re a match for the position.

    2. Kyrielle*

      It’s a marketing document – that is omitting data you don’t want to share.

      If I applied somewhere and said “(start date)-present” for a job that ended two months ago, that’s lying. But if I say “(start date)-(end date)” and then flatly omit to list a job I got and then left in less than 30 days, I have not put a lie on my resume. If asked about what I’ve been doing since (end date) I should of course mention it, or if I’m required to submit an application with all previous jobs, same thing.

  52. Teapot project manager*

    I can’t figure out why on earth he felt the need to share that she was fired two years ago if not to sabatage her. And for OP to consider firing her when she has demonstrated two years of excellent work based on the guy’s comment I find perplexing.

    1. Grunpy*

      Agreed. Especially since so many “resignations” aren’t exactly voluntary.
      Be grateful for the stellar employee.

  53. slackr*

    So what’s the statute of limitations? I was fired in 2000 from a job. The division of that company no longer exists and I don’t keep in touch with anyone who worked there. It was 2 career changes ago and I was a lot younger (less political) then. It wasn’t justified and I got a lawyer and ended up with 5 months severance and a year of paid tuition and books and paid health insurance. Am I really going to answer yes to “Have you ever been fired”?

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Well if you’re straight out asked “have you ever been fired” then yeah, you should say yes. But any reasonable employer/application will allow for follow-up and wouldn’t hold a situation like yours against you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        From the looks of it here, if anyone of us got asked if we have ever been fired we would have to say yes. I never realized how many people have been fired, I guess I never though about it much.

  54. Audiophile*

    My staffing company had me transferred after four years with one of their clients. My manager at that job told everyone she could, that she had me fired for insubordination. The staffing company explicitly said they were not firing me and were just transferring me, in their eyes they were switching me out with a guy who wasn’t working out at this new client they were sending me to. If I’d listened to the gossip or ever been forced to use this manager as a reference, she might have really hurt my career prospects.
    Karma being what it is, she was fired two weeks after I was transferred.

  55. neverjaunty*

    The fact that she is now a stellar employee shouldn’t deter you from quietly looking into it, as AAM suggests, and – if there IS something odd – of asking Gina in a way that gives her the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to explain.

    Being a stellar employee is no guarantee of honesty or a lack of problems in another job – think of every time you’ve read or heard about an employee embezzling or cheating an employer, and hearing “We never thought she’d do something like this. She was a great employee and we trusted her completely.” No, this doesn’t mean Gina is a crook – chances are that at worst, it is exactly what you think and there is nothing to this – but dismissing a real concern with She Couldn’t Possibly is dangerous thinking.

    1. ChocolatePorridge*

      I agree, I’m shocked at how many people are advocating against saying something to Gina, because she’s such a great employee, even more shocked at people saying ‘if I were Gina, you bringing this up to me would cause me to immediately look for a new job/question our working relationship’ etc.

      If I were Gina and I’d done nothing wrong, a) I’d WANT to know what kinds of rumours were being spread about me, and b) I would expect any decent manager to conduct due diligence and at least raise the rumour with me. Lying about having not been fired is a serious thing, if (big if) that is what happened, I wouldn’t question for a second why my manager brought it up with me, even if I had been a great employee for two years.

      1. AD*

        I think both of you are missing the point that many here are making, which is that this is taking at face value a comment made by a stranger to the OP, in passing.
        I guess each has their own management style and preferences, but using this to open a potentially very awkward conversation with Gina is something many might not want to do (for good reason). And as several people have said, firings/terminations/layoffs/what-have-you can be widely misunderstood or misinterpreted by external folks (including staff). Gina was not accused of child molestation or extortion, or something that WOULD certainly raise an eyebrow and necessitate further inquiry. This situation does not deserve that kind of scrutiny. OP should move on.

        1. AD*

          And for the record, Alison’s exact advice was “let it go” (the rest of her response was “for argument’s sake”)

        2. ChocolatePorridge*

          I’m not so sure. I think ‘taking at face value’ would be presuming that the comment was accurate, calling her in for a formal chat to investigate her background etc. Presuming guilt rather than approaching with an ‘it’s probably nothing, but’.

          I can certainly see why a manager would choose to let it go, and it’s absolutely their right to make that decision. But I don’t think all of the distaste at the idea of someone looking further into it is warranted.

          1. AD*

            That’s certainly true in terms of it’s anyone’s choice to decide how to approach this. The distaste, I think, comes from the fact that following up on this would, effectively, be giving credence to gossip. And I do find that distasteful.

  56. Retail escapee*

    What if you honestly have no idea if a termination may have counted as being “fired” or not? I got my first job when I was 17 or 18, at a major retail chain. I was there for maybe a month when I was told that it “just wasn’t working out” (the reason: one of my coworkers had lied about me to the manager to get rid of me, but that’s a whole other story). I’m in my 30’s now, and to this day, I have no idea if I was “fired,” if I was technically in a probation period and let go under a different definition, or what. I always dread applying for jobs because I have no idea if this is something that needs to be disclosed if the topic comes up. I was new to working and struggled a lot with depression back then, so it was hard enough for me to collect my final paycheck, let alone try to figure this out.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If you absolutely have to say something then just say a shorter version of what you have here. “I can’t be certain. I think I was fired at my first job. I had some life stuff going on and the manager said it wasn’t working out. I have since cleared up the life stuff and I have not been fired since [or similar truth].”

      I was fired from my first job also… I think. The boss laid me off at the end of the season but I was the first one she let go. It felt like a firing to me because I wanted to work a couple more weeks. You are in your 30s so that makes it less of a deal, it was your first job that, too, makes it less of a deal. Breathe, it’s okay. Other people have hired you and you can show that others have hired you. Sometimes we forget how much time has passed, remind yourself that a lot of time has passed here.

    2. ROUGE*

      I dont think this is something that will ever come up or should. You were only there a month. It’s not even resume worthy, for one. So I think you should do yourself a service and let it and the icky feelings behind it, go. There are jobs that I had in my past that I never put on my resume or even on the application of job history. There is no magic database that tells people every single job you’ve ever had (there are some ways to see your pay history, but you have to give explicit permission for that, and that’s more for gov services and such I think)

      You’re in your 30’s. A retail job from high school is something you can release.

      1. Retail escapee*

        I think my worry about stuff like this is that some online applications do have a checkbox for whether you’ve ever been fired. I don’t think most of those jobs are honestly thinking about a one-month job from someone’s teen years that they were let go from for vague reasons, but there’s no way to add context and explain that. So the choices are to maybe lie or give an answer that may be technically truthful but is in no way what the employer is actually asking about.

  57. Pot Meeting Kettle*

    For all you know, maybe yes, she screwed up something bad and was fired from her previous job. People screw up all the time. But she learned from this mistake, improved herself and didn’t screw up in this new job! Why let a (unconfirmed) mistake from 2 years ago screw up her career?

  58. Chaordic One*

    I’d certainly let this go. She certainly seems capable and has proved herself to be up to the challenges of the job. It’s not like she’s claimed a certification that she doesn’t actually possess that could put your organization in danger.

    Several years ago I accidentally discovered that an underling I had hired for a combination retail/clerical position had lied about graduating from high school. She was very bright and her work was impeccable. After I found out about it, I called her to my office and told her that I was not going to fire her, because her work was great, but I wanted to know why she misrepresented herself.

    She told me that when she moved to town she lived in a not-so-great neighborhood and went to a not-so-great high school and that the other girls in her school were physically beating her up, so she dropped out and got a job. (Yeah, she should have gotten a GED.)

    Anyway, after not being considered for a number of low-level position because she didn’t have the high school diploma, she got desperate and lied. She said she knew she might get caught and be fired at any time and she offered to resign. But I kept her in her position. A couple of years later the organization had a major layoff and we were all cut and I’ve lost track of her.

  59. ROUGE*

    Not really understanding why we are believing some stranger you just met at a conference over a stellar employee you’ve had the chance to get to know and work with for 2 years.

    Why would you suddenly take his word as gold? How do you know he didn’t have a personal issue with her, or that he’d heard rumors and didn’t know exactly what happened?

    I don’t question your employee here, I kind of question why you’re not questioning him or his reason for saying such things?

    Why would 2 years of proven ability and stellar performance not be good enough regardless of her reason for separation from her last position?

    if you didn’t directly ask her if she was fired, then she didn’t lie either. her answer probably was very honest in wanting to switch back into a particular field or whatnot.

    if someone were so quick to believe offhanded gossip from a stranger over my proven track record or relationship that we’ve built over several years, I would have to wonder about their decision making skills to be honest.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yes, exactly. It’s one thing if the employee has told what seemed like a few small likes here and there to make herself look better or keep herself out of trouble. That would make what this guy said in line with what the OP already knows and therefore possibly credible. But the OP didn’t say anything like that. She said that she’s been a stellar employee. The OP doesn’t know anything about this guy she met, who admittedly didn’t work with the employee for very long, and the OP didn’t say anything about why he’d be someone who even really knew what happened.

      I’m not saying that the OP should ignore anything anyone tells her about someone who seems a good employee. I just understand why she’s giving so much weight to this person given the circumstances instead of weighing what she already knows about her employee. This isn’t someone applying for a job who she has very little information on.

  60. Illa*

    This entire situation feels overly dramatic, like when someone in a drama finds a misplaced hanky and assumes an affair must be happening.
    Unless she was fired for something truly heinous, which I doubt since the guy definitely would have mentioned the reason if it was shocking, why on earth do you care enough to dig out some piece of paper from two years ago? Especially when the answer she gave as to why she was leaving her previous work place is a standard interview answer and is so general that it isn’t a lie and the info is coming from a secondary source who doesn’t know all of the details?
    Her credentials and abilities are all true, she didn’t lie about her degree or past positions held, and any number of insignificant reasons can explain away a date error.
    Have a little faith.

  61. Cat steals keyboard*

    On reflection I think you do need to talk to her. Not because of her standing with you but because she deserves to know what is being said about her – it could affect personal reputation and that of your organisation. I mean, who else is he saying it to?

    I’d tell her simply and quietly that this comment was made and that you thought she should know (it’s not like it was in a formal reference check with an expectation of confidentiality). Tell her using the same language this guy did, whatever he said, so things don’t get muddled. Tell her you’re very happy with her work, that her job isn’t in jeopardy and if it was you, you’d want to know that this was said. You could even add that she doesn’t need to explain what happened at that job. If she wants to tell you about the situation after that, she will.

  62. MW*

    Surely if there were a big issue her references would have revealed it. I have never hired, only been on the other end of the process, but I assumed that the company would follow up on my references and confirm stuff like employment dates with my previous employer. If Gina passed when you employed her it seems fine to me.

    Other people mention that there’s a blurred line with some people between being “fired” and being “laid off”. Here in the UK I have always found it very very clear. Almost no-one is ever fired; either your role is eliminated or the company strongly urges you to resign. It’s often in both parties’ best interests; the employer doesn’t want to prolong the process and introduce a risk of legal action, the employee (if they’re not considering legal action) would rather part amicably and not have to mention being fired to a new employer. Actually being ‘fired’ is rare and a huge black mark.

  63. boop the first*

    Is this a serious question? Did no one call references? Because if you did, wouldn’t they have verified this at the time? Also, isn’t the point of that is to help you make a decision on whether or not to give someone a chance, because you don’t know someone well enough to know how well they work? Why would you act on this information now? Would anyone seriously fire an established excellent worker because a piece of gossip from years past hinted that she was not actually (?) an excellent worker? I’m so confused.

    1. Bellatrix*

      You don’t call for references at the job the person is currently working at (or claiming to be), because it might put their current job in jeopardy.

  64. Corporate Drone*

    Worry about Things That Matter. She’s been an exceptional performer for the past two years. Who cares why she left her previous role? Mercy.

  65. Monica*

    Or, he could have heard wrong or been lying! I worked at an advertising agency from Hell several years ago for nine miserable months. It was a family owned company and the husband & wife owners were insane. Think screaming at the top of their lungs, sobbing uncontrollably, etc… They were unbearable. I got another job offer and accepted it and gave my two weeks (to which they told me to leave immediately and seriously treated it like a bad relationship breakup. It was unbelievably bizarre). So I started my new job two weeks earlier than expected and later heard that they were telling everyone they had fired me. Um… nope! I even put it in writing that I was leaving. So… this guy might just be terrible or misinformed. (Although, he’s still terrible, either way… who would do that?)

    1. MommaTRex*

      You just gave me a flashback to leaving a job 20+ years ago. I’m sure that guy still thinks he “encouraged” me to leave. Ugh. I could not leave that place fast enough. Thank goodness I never have to use him as a reference, because I’ll bet “encouraged to leave” has even grown to “fired” by now.

  66. MommaTRex*

    I would be enraged if my supervisor assumed some dude was speaking the TRUTH instead of me. Especially if my past performance and good work was enough to dismiss whatever this guy said. I don’t know if I could ever really trust my supervisor again.

  67. cofepwnded*

    My thoughts on this are that sometimes there are extremely crappy people in the world who turn against you despite your best and most honest and earnest intentions to work with them. The way this manager scoffed “you do know she was fired, don’t you?” seems a bit jerky, possibly a little sadistic, and may hint at her former workplace.

    As other commenters have mentioned, work in the USA isn’t fair, it’s free market. ANYTHING can and will be used to fire you.

  68. MadHere*

    I was once fired and given 6 weeks’ notice. SIX WEEKS. During that time my resume absolutely said I was employed by the company who had terminated me. I was. Had I not joined a company that I started interviewing with while I was still drawing a paycheck from my former employer, I would have updated my resume, But as long as I was employed there, my resume reflected that. It would have been utterly ridiculous to update my employment dates as “April 2012 – 6 weeks from now” (especially when viewing a resume as a marketing document and not a deposition).

    It is possible that both truths can coexist and be 100% accurate and truthful.

  69. Westfield*

    There was a rumor going around old department that I was fired. After I got a major internal promotion. Like two pay grades major. Don’t put much stock in an offhand comment from a stranger at a conference.

  70. Hollywood*

    Heck, I can relate to this. At one of my old jobs I started getting that “feeling” that my company was strategically eliminating my position (it was during a period of downturn for the company, which folded two years later). You know…less projects/tasks being assigned, superiors who were acting like I was terminally ill and about to kick the bucket, being brushed off when I asked if there’s more I could do…that sort of feeling. Naturally, I started scrambling to find something else. I submitted my resume to a dozen companies, and of course my resume positioned me as currently employed, because I was.

    After about a week I was granted an interview by one of the companies. The interview went great and I was promptly asked if I could come back the following week for a second interview. The day after the first interview, my boss sat me down in his office and gave me the news I suspected was inevitable: “due to a reduction in force, we are eliminating your position effective immediately.”

    Right or wrong – and I’m still conflicted about the decision – I never brought it up during the second interview that I had been laid off 72 hours prior. I was worried (perhaps irrationally) that it would jeopardize my chances at getting the new job, and when you’re unexpectedly unemployed, the desperation level is 1000x higher. I discussed my responsibilities and accomplishments in the present tense as if I was still employed – a mere 72 hours just didn’t seem to make enough of a difference to me at the time to be considered deceiving.

    I got the job and eventually spent nearly 3 years with the company. About a year into my tenure there, I had grown comfortable enough with my boss – the same one who interviewed and hired me – to confess (while enjoying some happy hour drinks) that I had been laid off in the middle of the hiring process and was too worried about it at the time to tell him.

    His response? He chuckled and said: “Hell, I knew that, it came up during the employment verification process after we made you the offer. For what its worth, you could have told me during the interview and it wouldn’t have made any difference. You’re damn good at what you do and that’s what matters.”

    Point being, the OP is probably reading in to it too much and whatever the reason is, it’s probably innocuous. You’ve got a darn good employee that hasn’t let you down. Let it go.

    1. Chaordic One*

      I’m glad that your new boss was able to recognize your value during the employment verification process and went ahead and brought you on board anyway. Unfortunately, a surprisingly large number of bosses would have stopped the process at that point. Even better, I’m glad things seem to be working out in your current job.

  71. MyBossSaidWhat*

    So… she got fired but immediately after got a job at your company? Great timing! In the mid-00s, a LOT of my colleagues were “fired” one day, then the next I’d see them at Starbucks wearing a badge from a competitor firm. Then said competitor firm offered me a ton more money and I was told to keep it quiet that I’d given notice…

Comments are closed.