I lied to my interviewer about being employed

A reader writes:

I got a job offer last week that I’m really excited about, especially because I was let go in mid-January and it’s been stressful to job hunt. I was recruited to apply for a few different positions, and one ended up with an offer. I told the recruiter I wasn’t currently employed, and he said I shouldn’t tell the company I was interviewing with. Everything online said the mostly same thing — don’t tell anyone you’re unemployed when interviewing.

I’ll admit I didn’t have my resume updated with an end date of my employment with my previous employer, because I was always told it looks better to be currently employed, and I figured the difference between January and February wasn’t that big of a deal. I also work in an industry where it’s standard to be locked out the second you give notice, so telling potential employers that I’m available to start immediately isn’t a red flag for anyone.

However, I was trying to avoid actually lying and saying I was currently employed when I wasn’t. In the interview that lead to my job offer, they directly asked if I was currently working at my last company, and I said panicked and said yes. (My after-the-fact justification is that I am working a bunch of side gigs to make ends meet while I look for something permanent and full time. But, still. I lied. And I feel terrible about it.)

I’ve never been laid off before, and my savings are dwindling rapidly. I’ve never lied to an employer before either. My previous company doesn’t provide references, only confirms dates of employment when asked, which is also industry standard. I don’t think this new company will check with my previous employer, since they believe I’m currently employed.

Should I come clean to my possible new employer? I have an offer letter, but the job offer is contingent on references and background check, so it’s not set in stone. Should I tell them after I start? Take this to the grave? Is this something everyone does (which is what my friends have told me) or is it actually a big deal to lie about this?

It can be a big deal. If they find out about it, it’s the sort of thing that’s very likely to be a deal-breaker, because if you lied about something as concrete as whether or not you’re still employed somewhere, they have to wonder what else you might have lied about in the interview or what you might lie about on the job.

And even if they don’t call your old employer for a reference, there are other ways they can find out — like they’re talking to one of your other references who says, “I was so surprised when Jane was laid off in January” or otherwise mentions it.

It sounds like people really steered you wrong with their advice to consider your layoff a dirty secret that needed to be hid at all costs! It’s really, really not.

It’s true that employers sometimes are biased toward people who are employed … but that’s usually a case of more extremes, like they’d prefer to hire the employed person over the candidate who hasn’t worked for the last three years. Someone who’s been unemployed for a month? That’s barely likely to register.

The advice not to say you’re unemployed when interviewing generally means: don’t go out of your way to mention it, but don’t outright lie. In other words, you don’t need to proactively announce it, but if you’re directly asked, “Are you still at your last job?” you need to tell the truth. I don’t know if people were telling you to outright lie (if they were, don’t take advice from them anymore) or if they just were saying you didn’t need to advertise it and you took that to mean “lie.”

As for what to do, what’s done is done. Coming clean about it now is likely to make it into a bigger deal, when it otherwise could fly under the radar. Hope it doesn’t come back to bite you this time, and just don’t do it next time.

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. Sloanicota*

    I’m sorry OP, this really sucks. I want to acknowledge that the job market is really unfair to job seekers, and the stakes of being employed or not are really high. It seems brutally unfair to stereotype against people who are unemployed who are trying to get jobs. I realize it was wrong to lie and you obviously do too, but it’s also true that the system is really sick.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Totally agree. You should be able to answer the absolute truth, but reality is that it will be held against you, and that puts you in a horrible position.

      Hopefully, the stress and worry from this will be enough of a “punishment,” and there won’t be other consequences, and now you have better advice for the future. Best of luck to you!

    2. goofBall*

      Does anyone know why this is exactly?

      Like Alison writes, “they’d prefer to hire the employed person over the candidate who hasn’t worked for the last three years.” But is there a huge disadvantage for someone who’s been out of work for a few months?

      1. Sloanicota*

        I was just reflecting that it’s not something universal; I’ve never heard people in the dating field, for example, say, “oh, I wouldn’t want to pursue someone single, because they’re probably a lower-quality candidate; I only pursue people who are already in relationships but might be looking to leave.”

        1. CTT*

          But it’s the length of being single/being unemployed that’s the issue. Even if it is a bad market (for jobs or dating), the “wow, it’s been a while, maybe it’s a Them issue?” thoughts start to creep in.

        2. Chirpy*

          Yeah, it’s the idea of “other people like/want/trust this person, therefore they must be likeable/desireable/trustworthy” versus “this person is single/unemployed, therefore there must be something wrong with them”.

        3. Chirpy*

          (It’s terrible, but I have heard people refuse to date a single person because they were single before. One would think that a person willing to break up/cheat to move onto someone new would be more of a problem in the long run, but there are those types out there.)

          1. Golden*

            There certainly are, I’ve even seen going after married people vs singles packaged as dating advice (for straight women, although I’ve never researched dating tips for other demographics so it could be universal) for the exact reason Sloanicota mentions.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            I’ve absolutely heard people say that they regard never having been in a serious relationship as a red flag for dating after about age 30, so a similar sentiment.

            1. allathian*

              Maybe, but that would be like saying employers consider it an issue if someone has never had a job when they’re 30.

              In the right circumstances, being unemployed or underemployed can be less of an issue. When I got my current job, I was employed on a 0-hour contract as a translator and working the evening shift at a call center and living paycheck to paycheck. I told my hiring manager that if they hired me, I could start as soon as they wanted. We have employment contracts, and generally have to give at least a month’s notice when we quit. The job description at my employer’s a bit niche, and the position had been open for nearly 6 months when they hired me. They called and offered me the job on a Thursday and sent me the written offer by email within minutes after the call. I sent them a confirmation by email that I accepted their offer on Friday morning, and I started the following Monday. The first item on the agenda after shaking hands with my boss was signing the employment contract.

              Sure, most employers will happily wait a month or a couple weeks while the right candidate works out their notice period, and I doubt the fact that I could start right away was the clincher in my case, either, but it certainly didn’t hurt my chances that time.

            2. Chirpy*

              And just like the job examples, someone over 30 might have really good reasons for not dating before then – caretaking/ job responsibilities made it impossible, stuck in a repressive culture, asexual, or just completely surrounded by bad options.

      2. Nemo*

        I’ve known (and in one case worked for) organizations with something of an inferiority complex towards their wider industry, and it doesn’t seem uncommon for them to go, “Well, they were fired/laid off for a reason, we just don’t know it, so better not take the risk.” It offloads the decision through something very black-and-white, and they can tell themselves that they’re conforming with industry trends and best practices (even if just by shadow-boxing with them).

      3. Knope Knope Knope*

        As a hiring manager here is my thought. It’s not that I actively have a bias towards someone who is employed, but when stacking up resumes competitively against one another that bias enters. Someone who is employed has more recent, relevant experience and there’s no question about why they haven’t been working, so it puts them towards the top of the competitive set. That said, as layoffs have been more common in my industry I have noticed myself noticing that less and seeing someone who is unemployed as a neutral fact or even an opportunity to hire a strong candidate who might not have otherwise applied. I hope this bias changes.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Not from my perspective (have been hiring for well over a decade) – a few months could be anything – toxic work situation so bad they left without anything lined up, layoffs, medical/family situation, tried a new/unrelated industry, hated it, and figured it wasn’t long enough/relevant enough for a resume. If they got fired for something wild, that generally comes up in reference/background. Not a red flag.

        My issues with people out of work for years is more about how current their skills are. I hired one of my best folks after they took a five-year hiatus from our line of work to try something else, but they had done a lot of homework before they decided to wade back in and start interviewing. They had some catching up to do, but they had the framework for the work and the drive to it. Not a total deal-breaker, but the candidate has to demonstrate they’re doing something to bring themselves back up to speed.

      5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I remember a friend moving from Europe to New York when he retired. He didn’t want to admit that he was retired because it made him feel old, so he told everyone he was unemployed. He was surprised to see people actually recoiling from him, as if it were an infectious disease.

        Basically I think being unemployed means you’re unemployable, you don’t know what it is to get up in the morning and you have no staying power. But as Alison says, this would apply for someone who’s been unemployed for a while. Just one month is nothing, you can make something up about taking a few weeks to have a “well-deserved holiday”, get some stuff done that you never have time for and gear up in style for your next job.

    3. tree frog*

      It’s really gross when you think about it. The people who need work the most are at a disadvantage when trying to find work. Another entry in the saga of employers pretending we all go to work as a fun hobby rather than because we need money to live.

      1. Chirpy*

        Exactly. There’s so many factors that can affect someone’s job search that have nothing to do with the quality of their own work. Previous business closed suddenly, job market is scarce, can’t move due to personal reasons, etc.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Currently unemployed here. Was told my business area was a priority in 2022 and 2023. Received a raise in June 2023! Then laid off in Nov. 2023 along with 200 other people in my (admittedly huge) company. They’re not rehiring my position, so I don’t think it’s a me thing. And others they laid off, they are rehiring the positions, but for $30k-$50k less than the people they laid off. So yeah, really fair all around to hear that I’ll be judged for some number cruncher’s mismanagement.

          1. Chirpy*

            Yup, I’m working retail because the field I used to be in has so few jobs I had the only one in my city…until it got cut.

    4. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Thank you for saying this I was out of work almost half of 2023 and the last quarter of 2022. Brutal is the perfect word for the jungle out there.

    5. Wha……?*

      This is such a great comment, and it’s so true.

      I also don’t understand flak that workers cop: they have no power in this situation, and need to work or they’ll end up homeless and starving. Employers and managers are allowed to lie as much as they want, because apparently that’s just business? The whole game is rigged. And I say that as a manager who hires people.

  2. Nebula*

    Recruiters can be very weird about that stuff in a way that employers aren’t, in my experience – or at least any decent employer. My first job after university was a temp job for six months that I got through a recruitment agency, before I moved to another city. I finished the job in December, and was moving in February. I ended up having a job lined up and ready to go for when I got there, and the person I’d been working with from the recruitment agency made a big deal about the fact that I was so lucky I’d accrued holiday which meant that my official employment dates from the temp job were June-January, so there was no obvious gap in employment which would otherwise have ramifications for my future career. I thought this was overkill, and having spoken to people involved in hiring in the years since, all have confirmed that they would not consider it an issue at all if a candidate had a one month gap in employment, especially when that gap involved moving halfway across the country.

    All to say, this seems to be a thing with people working for recruitment agencies which does not really apply in the real world. I guess maybe it’s because they deal with such a volume of people that they must have seen it have that impact on multiple occasions, but as Alison says, outright lying is much much worse than a minor gap in employment. Or even a major one.

    1. Anonys*

      Its absurd to even think that something like:

      Old A, Miami: June 2020 to December 2020
      New job B, Boston: February 2021 – now

      Would register to anyone as a “gap in employment”.

      Maybe sometimes recruiters (especially less experienced ones) suffer from a similar issue as high school and college career center, where they have worked in a certain “bubble” their whole career and have had things like “gaps in employment are bad for a candidate” drilled into them in order to optimize their suggested candidates and don’t (yet) have the nuance to evaluate why hiring managers find (certain kind of) gaps offputting?

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Heck, I have an November-January gap on my resume, and no one has so much as asked about it. At this point I just list the one job as 2012-2013 and the other job as 2014-2018, and no one’s ever said anything about it. I could have fit a whole year of unemployment in there, but no one has even raised the question.

        I also think that millenials are starting to be hiring managers more often now, and enough of us have a stint of unemployment somewhere that I think it’s starting to be less of a thing, as long as it’s not a multi-year gap.

        1. Audiophile*

          I have a friend who only lists the date ranges on her resume. I was surprised when she told me because I always heard that was a red flag from the employer’s perspective, but she’s had no issue getting interviews or offers. Of course, financial roles like payroll or accounting are more in demand than marketing, so it probably has more to do with that.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I have a 6 month gap, and no-one has ever asked about it (and it’s completely clear from my C.V.). Even at the job interviews directly following the gap, no-one asked…

          (Possibly because this gap directly followed my PhD, and people may rightly have assumed I spent that time recovering).

      2. Pierrot*

        I applied for a $20/hour temp remote for a large e-commerce company named after a river (I did not realize it was this specific company until the interview). The application went through a third party recruiter. They were specifically looking for someone with retail experience, and I was working in retail at the time.
        The recruiter: So I see a gap from March 2020 through November 2020. Can you explain that?
        Me: Well, the pandemic happened, and most retailers weren’t hiring.

        At the end of the interview, he lectured me about job tenure and gaps. Bullet dodged for multiple reasons, but I can’t get over the audacity of shaming an applicant for “short job tenure”/gaps when you are hiring for a fixed term temp position. Ugh.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            I remember about 10 years ago when there was that expose about Amazon’s corporate working conditions being no picnic either, which included a tidbit about employees reporting in large numbers that they had cried at their desk.

            The Onion did a brilliantly scathing takedown a couple short months later when Amazon was opening a new office or moving their headquarters or something along those lines, which included a fake quote from Bezos that he “believes every Amazon employee should have a desk to cry at, no matter what city you work in.”

  3. AnonInCanada*

    I don’t know where that recruiter, or any of these so-called internet “experts” are thinking when they think it’s okay to lie about employment history, especially your last job/position. That’s going to come out one way or another, and could easily mean you’re out the door when they find out.

    It’s never a good idea to lie about things like this. Especially when the gap between being laid off and now is so short. It’s not going to look bad on you. You were recently laid off. No interviewer’s going to hold that against you, unless they also took advice from those so-called “experts.”

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m going back and forth about it, but if it were me, I do think I might follow up to “clarify” the situation now, because I don’t think I could stand the uncertainty of feeling like I could be caught any second. Maybe something like, “I was reflecting on our final conversation and I realized I may have been misconstrued. I meant to say that I’m currently employed as a freelancer, not at my prior role at XCorp. That job ended in February.” The reason I might do this is: 1) I think the bias against unemployed people would be less at this stage, after they’ve already decided they want to hire you and 2) people are often pretty fuzzy on the exact wording of verbal conversations after the fact.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        I get what you’re saying, but I find that’s akin to picking an old wound to discover it’s still keeping blood from flowing out. Like you said, verbal conversations can be fuzzy post-facto. What’s done is done. If it does come up, then I’d go with your suggestion about getting confused about the question about “being employed” vs. “still employed with the last company on your resumé.”

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        meh, I think I’d just hold that verbiage in reserve if they come back and ask, and say it as ‘oh, I’m sorry, I misunderstood the question’ not ‘my reaction was misconstrued’. Better to take at least partial responsibility, not to push it onto the interviewer. Then “At the time of the interview, I was working, but as a freelancer not at my prior role at XCorp. That job ended in January.”

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah I think you’re right … although I’m troubled that the resume wasn’t updated with an end date either. If it actually says “date =- to present” that’s a harder case.

          1. Starbuck*

            I don’t think so; especially if it’s plausible they made the resume and started using it before getting laid off. I know everyone here expects people will update their resumes immediately, but not everyone does that. Going from being let go mid-Jan to hired in Feb – that’s such a short amount of time!

          2. LW*

            For what it’s worth, 1. I was already applying to jobs with my current resume prior to my layoff, including for some positions I heard back from after my layoff, so it’s been a weird transitional thing and 2. I didn’t actually have “present” just the start date listed. (I’m absolutely splitting hairs to make myself feel less dishonest.)

        2. Smithy*

          This is what I’d say. And if the resume issue was asked about, again apologizing for accidentally sharing an older resume.

          I do think it being caught is a time for just being apologetic and relying on excuses of mistakes/accidents. I would not recommend blaming the recruiter, but say an old resume has accidentally been said and you misheard the question. As AAM said, this will either come out and the OP will most likely lose the opportunity or it won’t, and the OP just needs to find other ways to move past it.

          1. Budgie Buddy*

            On the other hand, proactively correcting the lie can look better to some people. Otherwise they can think “Oh so you only came clean when you got caught.”

            1. Antilles*

              The flip side of that is that there’s a good chance the interviewer wouldn’t do a reference check on OP’s *current* company anyways; not contacting your current employer is fairly standard practice if you’re hiring an already-employed candidate. In which case, proactively correcting the misspeak could be just creating an issue out of nothing.

        3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          This is the only way I can think of to mitigate the damage if anyone at the new company finds out.

      3. Smithy*

        I believe if you did that, it would only be harmful unfortunately.

        The sad reality in what the recruiter proposed is that provided what the OP said is true – that they won’t check with their last employer due to being actively employed, and the reference check is more pro forma – that lying will benefit the OP and being honest now won’t. In this case, unfortunately it enhances feeling of being at a power disadvantage and therefore deception or dishonesty is excused given the context. A version of “is theft of food by a starving person ethically wrong” sits a lot more comfortably with some people than others mentally.

        I once told a small lie during an interview that plagued me so much that I withdrew from the process. I was clearly stressed, I wanted to be as impressive as possible and in reflection it was truly so small the chance of it being caught was .5%. But at the time it sat so badly on my heart/mind, I couldn’t go through with it. I’m not saying the OP should drop out, but having gone through this – there really isn’t a great way to admit these lies in a job interview process without being dropped by the process entirely.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I hope you’re right! I was trying to recall in which past letter, the point was raised that finding out about a lie like these even many years down the road of successful employment (!), could be an issue of immediate dismissal – but I hope that’s not realistic. I’m not sure I’d be able to keep on without coming clean, personally, for worry about it. In that case it might have been about the exact specifics of an obtained degree or something? There are definitely people who would feel any evidence of past dishonesty is worth firing someone over. It’s a good reminder for all of us to try and be compassionate.

          1. Smithy*

            In this case it’s more a fudging of employment dates – not faking degrees, jobs never had, or significant misleading of how a job ended (I.e. let go vs arrested for fraud/assault).

            100% lying about some of this stuff caught later absolutely can result in firing. But I think in this case it’s both subtle and not uncommon. Where a recruiter you’ve been working with shares an old resume that you sent before the lay offs happened. Or if you were on a PIP and working with a recruiter and they sent that first resume vs the one after someone is fired for cause.

            Big picture is that this is the kind of lie that is harder to prove as a deliberate intent to mislead as time goes on. When cases of mistake or accident become increasingly plausible.

            The harder reality with this is how this sits on people’s hearts and minds as time goes on. Because it’s not really possible to come clean in the workplace.

          2. Hlao-roo*

            I found a few past letters about lies on resumes:

            “my new employee lied on his resume, are ponytails professional, and more” from April 13, 2015 (short version of the answer: company can fire the employee if they want to)

            “I lied on my resume, coworker won’t stop an endless flood of words, and more” from September 6, 2016 (short version of the answer: withdraw from the interview process because you could be fired if/when the lie comes out–I think this might be the letter you’re remembering)

            “how big of a deal is a lie on a resume from two years ago?” from November 1, 2016 (short version of the answer: not clear that the discrepancy is a lie, let it go)

            “my coworker lied about her entire resume — should I tell anyone?” from September 10, 2019 (short version of the answer: tell your boss about this)

            There’s variation among the answers based on the details of how big the lies were (and in one case, maybe not even a lie). But immediate dismissal is a possibility, so it’s good to keep that in mind if you’re tempted to lie on your resume.

          3. Starbuck*

            I can’t imagine a discrepancy of what – a month tops? – is going to feel like a big deal years later after someone’s built up a solid track record at the company.

          4. Esti*

            If we’re thinking about the same older letter, it was about having lied that the LW’s mother had a terminal illness so that they could get out of a non-compete clause when leaving a job, and then potentially going back to work for the same supervisor years later. That’s a different situation in both size of lie and potential for it to be discovered even years later, I think.

          5. Emmy Noether*

            I think the chances of that in this case are slim, because:
            1) the dates are so close – people are unlikely to remember the exact timing of interviews years later. It could plausibly have overlapped.
            2) The outright lie was verbal, and presumably not recorded. Even if someone finds out years later that LW was let go instead of resigning, they’re most likely to think they misremembered the interview (if they remember at all!).
            3) The resume, which will be on file, is easily explained away as being an old version, since, again, the dates are close. Oops! If anyone even thinks to check it, which they’re probably not particularly motivated to do.

            People most probably won’t really remember that LW claimed this years later, unlike claiming having some degree or entire job, which people will remember.

      4. Bitte Meddler*

        I would say something, but I would phrase it slightly differently: “When you ask if I was still employed at my current company, my brain shorted out after ‘still employed.’ I am doing freelancing work right now but my last day with Old Company was X. Sorry! I get so nervous during interviews.”

        Or something like that. I’d blame it on nerves and my brain hearing one question in the moment but realizing it was a completely different question afterwards.

        I, personally, would want to get out in front of this. I’d want to know if my potential future employer can handle me making minor (or even major!) mistakes if I catch them and own up to them.

    2. Pizza Rat*

      I agree wholeheartedly it’s never a good idea to lie about things like this. Unfortunately, there is a subset of recruiters that think nothing of lying and do it as a matter of course. It may be that the recruiter told the hiring manager that LW is employed and now wants the LW to support their statement.

      Even though it is illegal in some places to discriminate with regards to employment status, the culture change hasn’t caught up with it yet. The recruiter quite possibly understands this and doesn’t want their candidate eliminated because of it.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    I agree with the observation that this is often a recruiter obsession. I know someone who followed the advice to backdate some “consulting” work so it would look like there were no gaps, at which point the unemployment office sat up and asked “So apparently you had a job, while collecting benefits from us and saying you didn’t have a job?”

  5. Hiring Mgr*

    Agree that being laid off isn’t something that needs to be hidden, though I think most of us understand why you would use a white lie like this especially in an in-the-moment response.

    I would 100% take the advice and not say anything at this point, but also this isn’t an immediately fireable offense, for me at least. Unemployment is scary and I can have some lenience there

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, I really like Alison’s advice on this. Obviously OP should have never done this to begin with, but now that it’s done, the best thing is to try to let sleeping dogs lie. OP could still get bit by it, so if it does come up, OP needs to stick to the truth.

  6. bamcheeks*

    It’s true that employers sometimes are biased toward people who are employed

    I think there’s also a corollary to this, which is that it’s easier to get a job when you’re employed than when you’re not employed. However, this often isn’t the result of employers directly preferring people who are in employment, but the fact that most people who are employed only apply for things they’re genuinely interested in and consequently write better applications and perform better in interviews. I think that and the social shame we feel about being unemployed (which we shouldn’t! but that doesn’t mean we don’t!) means that the “employers prefer employed people” is perceived as a much bigger and truer statement than it actually it.

    I think it’s really hard to say how big a deal this is in the GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS without a lot more detail, like whether this was part of the casual conversation around the interview or something where someone was clearly taking notes and writing down what you were saying, and whether it’s possible you thought they were asking about the side-projects. What matters way more is that it’s clearly a big deal to you, and definitely something you have learned for the future!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Unfortunately, I’ve definitely heard hiring managers express that the best people won’t be unemployed – after all, they’re such rock stars they’ll have big networks of people eager to pick them up, etc. In my experience this is pretty unrealistic. I hope I’ve just had bad luck overhearing such things expressed and it’s not as common as it seems to me.

      1. BottleBlonde*

        I’ve heard this exact sentiment too. It’s really unfortunate because the real world often doesn’t work out like that. There are so many situations where a great employee may find themselves, unemployed, sometimes for a significant amount of time.

      2. new old friend*

        Yeah, I had a job hunt of about 6 months last year and I got several questions about why it had been that long– I was able to explain that I’d done it on purpose, due to some summer travel arrangements made before I lost my job, but it definitely got some raised eyebrows.

      3. Coffee Protein Drink*

        I’ve heard it too, with people assuming that the candidate isn’t hirable for some reason or they’d be employed.

        There’s a lot of bias against people who don’t have jobs, even though there are many reasons why this could be the case. The job market is awful right now, there are busy seasons and slow seasons, multiple interviews that take quite a bit of time. I could go on.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just that I think it is often over-emphasised by job seekers. There are inevitably some bad hirers with unrealistic expectations or biases (remembering the guy who told a roomful of jobseekers “Always include your hobbies on your CV! The last guy I hired, it was because I thought it was cool that he did MMA!”), and it’s certainly true that you have to play it cautious around certain things just in case one of them is reading your CV. But I think that quite easily gets turned into “All employers prefer…”, which just isn’t true.

        1. Coffee Protein Drink*

          Having experienced it about 90% of interviews when I have gaps (I’ve been working consultant or grant-funded gigs for the last decade), I can comfortably say it’s pretty easy to tell when a hiring manager isn’t going to worry about your employment gap. They don’t ask why it’s there and they won’t ask what you did during it.

          I ignore it when I’m hiring people. It’s none of my business. Others find it as an excuse to judge people negatively even though the reasons someone is not working are myriad and varied.

          1. Wha……?*

            This is the way. And I ignore any supposed “gaps” for the same reason. Who cares? It’s literally none of my business, and it’s also irrelevant.

  7. Johanna Cabal*

    Yeah, a month or so gap isn’t an issue.

    I will say my SO applied for a job where one of the interviewers made a big deal about his “gaps in employment.” Said “gaps” were periods when he was in school (college) and only working in the summers. It was very odd, especially for that position. I knew that employer and (unsurprisingly) they kept wondering why recent college graduates were avoiding the company. Of course, through the grapevine I heard their solution involved more pizza parties for staff.

  8. Budgie Buddy*

    Arghhh this is why I hate advice to be a bit dishonest to be more savvy – there are so many implied rules that you might accidentally break.

    It’s like “Don’t let them know you’re unemployed, but Of Course I didn’t mean outright lie! I meant just don’t volunteer that information. Anyway your unemployment doesn’t really count because it was only for a month after being laid off. That’s not the bad kind so you can be open about it.”

    I wouldn’t be able to intuit all that either. :/

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      Blanket advice from someone who is really good at this stuff:
      Never try and be savvy. Always be scrupulously honest. In situations where people tell you to ‘be savvy’, just don’t offer up potentially damaging or awkward information unless directly asked. Then be scrupulously honest, but also tactful.

      In my experience, ‘being savvy’ never works. People think it does because they’ve been caught out by their own assumptions when other people omit stuff, and they’d rather believe they were tricked by a really clever and subtle liar than face the fact that they were caught out by their own assumptions.

      1. Sarah Mlynowski*

        Just want to flag these very helpful comments for other neurodivergent people like myself—here’s some of that invisible context that always seems to be coming for us!

  9. Nicki Name*

    I am baffled by this advice. I’ve always been told that being immediately available can actually boost your chances (as long as you weren’t fired and it hasn’t been years since you last worked). Is this something specific to certain industries or have I just been lucky to avoid it?

    1. Bast*

      In my field, being immediately available would be a bonus, but not a determining factor. If we had two equally matched candidates, might it swing it in someone’s favor? Slightly, but it would not be the deciding factor. And the WHY would definitely matter. Parent looking to re-enter the workforce after the kids have gone to school? Sure. New grad? Great. If it looks like there’s a repeated stream of someone getting hired and fired/quitting in a relatively short period of time (6 months here, 3 months there, etc) with large gaps in between each, and they’ve been out of work for the last 6 months, that would set off an alarm bell.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I think it’s very field dependent. In retail, sure, they want you to be able to start same-day sometimes. There are plenty of fields where bouncing around a lot is normal, especially if there’s a lot of short term contracts. In some white collar office fields where a long tenure is expected, they may not care if you can start right away (I once negotiated for a month’s leave period) but they definitely care that your past employers all adored you, promoted you several times over the years, and protected you during that last round of layoffs.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Before my current role, I was unemployed for 4 months. They still set my start date for 2 weeks after I accepted the offer.

    4. LW*

      In my industry, most people end up being immediately available because it’s standard to be locked out the minute you give notice, even though it’s still standard to give two+ weeks notice.

  10. Tex*

    OP – the interview is done, don’t go back to clarify. But if this is a large company, especially finance, then be completely truthful when filling out HR paperwork.

    The hiring manager probably wanted to know how soon you could come on board, not holding unemployment against you. (By the way, they may not move quickly if they think you are employed).

    HR and background checks are different though. Usually HR and the hiring manager won’t discuss the nitty gritty details, just did X person pass the background check or not.

    1. Nea*

      be completely truthful when filling out HR paperwork

      This, including an updated resume to show the end date of the previous job and the freelancing gigs “because I discovered I was interviewing with an out of date resume.”

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – what’s done is done. Calling attention to it isn’t going to help and probably will hurt. Just be very accurate on your HR forms.

      Also, it’s entirely possible for someone to start out a job search while employed and to become unemployed during the process – if anyone asks.

  11. MisterForkbeard*

    This is a bad situation to OP to be in. But I echo the other commenter’s advice: Come clean. Go back to the recruiter and say “I was thinking back on the interview, and I realized I gave you the wrong impression. You asked if I was employed and I said I was – however, I’m fully employed on side gigs at the moment, but left my primary job in January. Looking back on it, I can see this might cause confusion so I wanted to clear it up now.”

    In my org, being ‘unemployed’ isn’t an issue (especially in this climate, and especially if it was recent). But better to clear this up now rather than screw up the background check or get a reputation for dishonesty.

    1. Hendry*

      Isn’t that just another lie though? It wasn’t confusion, they lied. I’d recommend not mention anything rather than digging in further

      1. TCPA*

        I’d say they were confused by all the bad advice given to them! They could say, “Hey, I lied!” or “Hey, I made a bad call in the moment during the interview and while I have been working side gigs, I have not been employed by XYZ Company since January.”

        I think it’s ok to be honest but also phrase things carefully.

      2. Bitte Meddler*

        We tell white lies all the time, to ourselves, our employers, our co-workers, our family members, our friends, our S.O.’s.

        Alison gives advice here all the time about “diplomatic” ways to deflect unwanted behavior from co-workers by using white lies.

        If the second lie to get out of the first lie is a real whopper (“It turns out, I had a mini-stroke during the interview and my thinking was muddled. I could tell something was wrong but thought maybe it was nerves,”) then that’s a whole different ballgame from “I’m sorry, I got things mixed-up [from bad advice] and answered the wrong question. Here’s what I meant to say…”

    2. TCPA*

      I fully agree! I’m not sure I could work somewhere knowing I lied in the interview…it would just bother me the whole time, personally. Your wording is an excellent way to come clean without making OP look bad. Wonderful advice and wording, MisterForkbeard!

    3. Wha……?*

      Yeah, don’t do this. If OP has to say anything, say something like the job offer being great not only because you’re excited by it, but also good timing as layoffs have just happened. Don’t make a big song and dance about it.

    4. LW*

      That genuinely feels like it would make things worse—because it’s another layer of lying, and also drawing attention to my previous lie. I’d rather not say anything, or fully fess up.

  12. Becky S*

    Many years ago I worked in HR for a bank. Our accounting manager wouldn’t even look at a resume of someone who wasn’t currently employed. Then the bank folded (in the great S & L crisis of the late 80s) The accounting manager found himself unemployed. I lost touch with him but always wondered if he changed his attitude.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      I never understood the logic of this, and I am usually someone who can get in other peoples’ brains and understand their logic, even if they’re wrong.

      It always sounded like some myth made up by someone who never worked a (corporate) job and who still believes there is a perfect allocation of resources and capable people immediately got placed in jobs where they’re thriving.

      Or maybe I don’t get it because of my experience, at my last job they laid off all of the best people, almost by design. It was insane to live through. They literally replaced one person with three to four, in ten cases, – and here is the zinger – on purpose. They wanted to simplify roles to enable growth/scalability. Apparently it backfired, because many of the large customers they had had loved calling into to talk to one (older) experienced person who could wear multiple hats. Who knew! Also some of the new hires were bored because there wasn’t enough workload in each bucket to actually create full time roles.

      Long story short, layoffs and firings were never done efficiently

      1. BellyButton*

        Good lord, whoever made that awful decision does not know anything about business, organizational development, people- and lacks any sort of common sense!

    2. Cochrane*

      I had a manager at an old job tell me that “I don’t need some other manager’s garbage” when I mentioned a recently laid off peer at another firm was interested in a position in his department. Of course, he found himself axed years later and wonder if he still feels the same way….

    1. Bast*

      It is becoming more common to not reach out to the current employer if requested, as some companies will fire you on the spot if they find out you are looking.

    2. HR Friend*

      Oof yeah, good point. Background checks sometimes require documentation to prove dates of employment, like paystubs, if the candidate doesn’t want their current employer contacted.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Depends on the role and the company. Some of my clients do complete background checks. Some do references. Some just do criminal checks.

    4. Wha……?*

      Potential employers who do reference checks or background checks with a candidate’s current employer put the livelihoods of those candidates at risk. If they have any decency, they won’t do it, especially if their candidates do not give them permission to do so.

  13. Fake Kirkland Coffee*

    I once read advice about what to do after a lie you regret and the upside was that the anxiety you feel about potentially being caught in the lie, your discomfort with the effort to cover it up, is the price you pay for the lie, and it’s a steep price. Remember this in the future, when you’re tempted to lie or stretch the truth.

  14. A Girl Like Moi*

    Ugh. That’s a tough spot to be in and absolutely disgraceful that being unemployed can hurt you even more than it’s awful consequences.

    My suggestion is to update your resume as an Independent Contractor and list the skills that would most benefit you in the position/s you’re applying for. You can still be honest about being laid off, but also shows initiative that you took it upon yourself to seek some side work while looking for full-time employment. You can also seek some gigs, even if through friends, to serve as references.

    Best wishes!

    1. LW*

      My side-gig work is deeply unrelated to my main industry, and my industry isn’t really one where contracting is common. (Think my side gig as flower planting, and my main industry as rocket launching—you don’t typically contract in my main industry due to the information access and technology used, and onboarding a temp is typically too difficult instead of just hiring a new full employee)

      1. londonedit*

        I think the thing is, though, that it’s often a good idea to show that you’re doing *something* during an employment gap, even if it is unrelated. You could frame it as ‘Having been made redundant in January 2024, I took some time to focus on my part-time work planting flowers while looking for my next opportunity in rocket launching’.

  15. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I’m in corporate recruiting and my experience has been very different. None of my peers or I have a problem with laid-off candidates, and most of my HR partners haven’t been oddly focused on this either. Our attitude is, ‘That really stinks for the candidate, but it doesn’t change our interest. Layoffs are not firings.’

    Our hiring managers are another story: ‘If the candidate was solid, they wouldn’t have been laid off. Employers will find a way to keep good employees no matter what.’ Which is, of course, baloney. The recruiting team shares articles and reports about industry leaders laying off talent and they drive home the point that even solid talent is at risk during a 25% reduction in force. The hiring managers usually come around, but it takes some heavy persuasion for others.

    Even though there is a bias about this, I would never recommend that someone lie about their employment status. Be matter-of-fact about it if asked, and don’t treat it as something that reflects badly on you.

    1. soontoberetired*

      Our managers have had no say in who was laid off, so while some people were under performers, a lot were not. the managers didn’t even know who until the day they were told who was going to be laid off that day. We lost some good people, and it does show up when we start having issues. And I know a lot of those people haven’t found jobs yet.

      over 40,000 tech workers were laid off last year, and 7000 plus people were laid off in the insurance industry. No way they all deserved it.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        No way, indeed. I used to work in defense in the 80s and early 90s when layoffs took place with alarming frequency. During the initial phase of layoffs, underperformers were told, ‘Take the package or get put on a/another performance review and get fired.’ By the third and fourth rounds, solid performers remained and it was difficult to decide who should get let go.

        The rumor was every Nth person on payroll was targeted to equally spread the risk, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that a lot of solid talent was let go and, given the circumstances at the time, there wasn’t much that could have been done to save their jobs.

    2. BellyButton*

      Any hiring manager who thinks like that is so out of touch! I don’t anyone who has worked more than 10 yrs and not been laid off at least once. Also, hiring managers aren’t usually the ones making the call on when layoffs happen! It is the c-suite level people who make that decision.

    3. Leenie*

      How silly of them. I’m a hiring manager and most of the people who I’ve interviewed in the last year had been laid off. Despite the low unemployment numbers, the market is bad in my industry right now because we’re impacted by the interest rates. I’m not expecting people to come out of entire departments or lines of business being cut, somehow miraculously still in their jobs because they’re super special rock stars. That’s not how it works.

    4. Audrey Puffins*

      In my previous job, I was by far the most knowledgeable and experienced member of my team of three, however the funding was cut and they couldn’t afford to keep three of us, so I was first out of the door because I had been on a rolling series of fixed-term contracts while the other two were hired on a permanent basis. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled, it doesn’t at all mean I was the weakest just because I was the easiest to axe.

    5. BigLawEx*

      I have a friend who believes this. We were talking about this a few months ago and she said that no one good is ever laid off. She said RIFs are an opportunity to get rid of low performers and missing stairs without direct management/confrontation of the problem.

      1. allathian*

        She deserves to be laid off herself simply for having that attitude. When it happens, I’d be so tempted to ask, “So, have you changed your mind about only low performers and missing stairs being laid off or about your identity as a high performer?”

  16. MistOrMister*

    I was laid off last year. It sucked and I also worried that I would look bad to employers, but I put my end month on my resume. It really is not something worth lying over. Most people I spoke to were very understanding when I said I was laid off due to the workload diminishing. And frankly, I would not have wanted to work for anyone who is judgmental about people who have been laid off!

    I am on the fence about the advice for this one. On the one hand, it makes sense to just let it go and hope they don’t catch it. But on the other, if it comes out during the background check, it’s going to look really bad. There is definitely an argument for both speaking up and staying silent. Whichever choice, definitely this is not something to lie about again in future interviews.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve never encountered an interviewer who thought badly of anyone being made redundant. Redundancies, by their very nature, aren’t the fault of the employee and I don’t see how anyone could judge someone for having been made redundant! I’ve been made redundant twice in my career and it’s always been very straightforward to just say that on my CV/cover letter/in an interview and move on. I have been asked what I’ve been doing while unemployed (fortunately for me I picked up some freelance work to tide me over, so I could mention that) but being made redundant has never held me back from getting another job.

  17. Throwaway Account*

    I think this is a great example of working out and practicing answers to questions like this ahead of time.

    It sounds like the OP was asked in a vulnerable moment and did not have time to think. You have to do the thinking BEFORE you get asked. This goes for everything but especially something you are hoping to avoid.

    An answer like, “I was employed when I started this process but I am now laid off” would be an acceptable answer. OP, think this all through now so that you can answer honestly but professionally if it comes up again!

    Good luck!

    1. Garblesnark*

      Yeah. Anytime I help someone with a resume, we also practice answering the sticky questions everyone gets asked – tell me about yourself, why are you looking, why did you leave your last job, tell me about a time something bad happened. Just running through a response that isn’t terrible 3-4 times will set you up for a better chance at success the rest of the interview.

  18. BellyButton*

    I don’t think it is a big deal to not be employed! People are unemployed for a ton of reasons- layoffs happen all the time, people are no longer willing to stay in a bad work environment, family, a move, finishing up school, there are so many reasons. So no need to lie!

  19. The Ginger Ginger*

    I was on an interview panel 5 or so years ago hiring for a position to join the team I was on. We were all set to make an offer to a candidate until we checked references and discovered the applicant had been laid off 2 months ago and went through the whole interview process speaking as though they still worked there. We didn’t care about the 2 months; we cared that they’d lied. You got really (strangely) common advice, but it is incredibly, incredibly misguided. A good prepped answer can cover any gaps on your resume (and a couple months is so insignificant), but there’s no answer that can cover over dishonesty.

    I’m sorry you got bad advice. I hope you can establish yourself here as a hard worker so if it does come to light, you’ve got some capital banked to potentially carry you through it.

    1. Wha……?*

      I mean this as a genuine question, and as someone who hires a lot of people in both private sector and government. Considering how common this bad advice is, and that people need to work to be able to eat (so they can’t afford to have any red flags pop up – they need a job), I don’t understand why you’d withdraw an offer to the person who was your stand out candidate because of this.

      If they’re saying they’re still employed and the layoff was a year ago, I would understand it. But if it’s only a month or two, it’s really not an issue. There are nuances that need to be considered.

      1. nnn*

        Because someone who actively lied throughout the interview process, it sounds like multiple times, is someone you can’t trust not to lie to you when they are working for you. After all they’ll need to work to be able to eat then too.

    2. allathian*

      It also depends on the circumstances of the layoffs.

      I don’t remember the dates exactly but something like this happened to me: I worked retail and the store closed. Even though I only worked part-time, they had to give us a month’s notice. This included any accrued vacation, and by that time I’d accrued two weeks. I started looking for another job right away and actually got hired in another store during my notice period/vacation. I also got a great reference from my former store manager.

      The advice not to use your current/most recent employer as a reference generally doesn’t apply when you’re laid off through no fault of your own. Decent managers will be happy to help their former employees find new jobs.

  20. Link*

    Honestly I think it depends on the region you’re in when it comes to how important it is when answering that question. In my area, most places refuse to hire someone who’s been out of work for more than a few months. Meanwhile, 2 hours away in another city, it doesn’t matter at all, most places there will take anyone even if they’ve been out of work for 10 years provided they have any relevant experience.

    1. BellyButton*

      2 months?!?! I was laid off in May 2022 and didn’t get a new job until Dec 2022! I was applying to 30+ jobs a week and interviewing like crazy. I got a few offers, but I was looking for just the right company/culture/team/boss.

      The interview process for the job I accepted took 4 weeks. One job I was interviewing for took 8 weeks to get through all the interviews because of people’s travels, illness, and vacations.

      1. ItTakesTime*

        I was out of work for 19 months after my 9/11 layoff. And I’ve had other longer periods in economic downturns. Two months is nothing.

  21. HumanWoman*

    A few years ago I was part of the hiring team for a manager in our department. We were in the offer stage, and discovered the candidate was no longer employed at her previous job.

    Same thing, the recruiter told her to tell us that. We hired her. If the candidate had come clean before we found out, I would have still felt the same and the result would have been the same.

    Fingers crossed for you OP!

  22. EngineeringFun*

    I have just not spoke about a job but never lied. Over covid, I had a horrible job for 9 days at a well respected engineering firm. I quit and had to go back to interviewing. I didn’t put it on my resume or talk about it. But I never lied. 2 companies since then never asked about it. However my latest job requires extensive background check. It’s in the paper work there.

    1. allathian*

      Indeed. But from the perspective of a hiring manager, a job you had for barely two weeks doesn’t count in the sense that you had no time to contribute anything to the employer’s bottom line, barely had any time to even learn the basics of the job, and only had time to learn that you didn’t want to work there.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Honestly, I would say I forgot clean about it if ever it were a problem! I recently got a statement from the retirement fund office recapping all the jobs I’d had and there were a few I could barely remember because I’d only been there for a month or less.

  23. BecauseHigherEd*

    Also, telling the truth and saying that you were laid off isn’t the end of the world–you can certainly always plan a response like, “I always received high marks, did excellently on performance reviews, and received positive feedback from clients. Unfortunately, the entire division was phased out because of a projected budget shortfall” or something like that.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree that this is the best plan, although apparently if your resume accurately shows no current employment (with an end date on your prior job and a new entry for “freelance” or whatever) – that could prevent you from ever getting to this level of consideration. Or at least that’s what this recruiter was apparently worried about.

  24. Garblesnark*

    Hey OP, if you were just laid off last month and your savings are dwindling rapidly, would you consider applying for unemployment? Some people qualify when they don’t expect to, the requirements are often not very onerous, and some money coming in is better than none.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      In my state, being laid off definitely qualifies you for unemployment.

      1. Garblesnark*

        It depends on the state and factors that may not be clear in the letter (like how many of the last X months or quarters OP was employed and in what state(s) they worked), but layoffs OFTEN qualify and many people qualify when they do not expect to.

    2. LW*

      I applied for unemployment the day after I was laid off, however my state is one of the slowest to process claims in the entire country. My case hasn’t even reached the review stage yet, and likely won’t for a few more weeks. (Yes, it’s likely going to take between two to three months to see a dime from unemployment, if I’m lucky, and anecdotes are indicating 3-4 months, assuming no issues with my paperwork.)

  25. Spicy Tuna*

    I have admittedly been out of the job market for quite some time, but I would think the ability to start right away would be a bonus to employers, esp. if the new hire hasn’t been out of work all that long. The last time I switched jobs, I needed to give something like 4 or 5 weeks notice. New employer was understanding but I could see it being a negative in some cases

  26. Dawn*

    If they do end up asking you about it, I’d be strongly tempted to let them know that their recruiter told you not to.

    1. Hendry*

      If LW is going to come clean I definitely would NOT blame the recruiter – that’s like admitting you didn’t know enough to realize that lying is wrong. IMO they would come off much worse than just being upfront

    2. Dawn*

      I’m not sure I agree that following instructions during a hiring process reflects badly on one, but that is certainly also a perspective.

      1. Dawn*

        I’m not saying the LW should proactively volunteer it, but if they end up asking about it, I don’t see the harm in saying, “Oh, Recruiter advised me not to include it when submitting my application materials to her.”

    3. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’d mention it but all that will do is throw the recruiter under the bus too. And they should be under that bus! But if the hiring company doesn’t want to move forward because of the lie, they’re going to end it regardless of whether you finger point at recruiter or not. Unless you had no knowledge of the lie on your resume (say the recruiter changed the info, which does happen), you’re still at some fault for lying.

      1. Saturday*

        And it seems like the response to the question in the interview is more of a concern than the resume, which could have just not been updated yet.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Won’t make the candidate look better, and might make them look worse. I would leave it alone, in the OP’s shoes.

    5. LW*

      For the record, it was an external recruiter, not internal. But also, I’m not going to blame them for my choices. If the recruiter told me to say I was fluent in Portuguese, I wouldn’t have followed that advice because I don’t speak Portuguese. I knew I should have been honest about my employment status, regardless of what he said. I’m not going to mention him at all, if this does come up. I solely responsible for my choices here.

      1. Sarah Mlynowski*

        Job interviewing is so stressful, and when you’re unemployed, so much is at stake. You seem both scrupulous and conscientious, and I hope you’re able to appreciate those things about yourself, and not only the times when you’ve failed your own (very high) standards.

  27. Ashley*

    Industries and areas differ on this but a lot of the bias comes from two assumptions: that unemployed people are more desperate (and therefore might say/do whatever to get a job even if they’re a bad fit) and that unemployed people must not have been valuable employees and/or have been out of the game too long to be valuable (depending on how long you’ve been unemployed). Obviously these are nonsense biases that might not even be conscious biases but knowing where they stem from can make it easier to gently navigate around them. As stated, lying won’t do this and can make it worse if they find out but so many folks don’t really consider that when they give advice.

  28. k the pmp*

    This is a niche reply, but crucially important. As a long time Gov employee, I want to note that lying about anything in your resume or work history can be held against you to the fullest extent of the law by the state or federal agency. Particularly if you’re applying for any gov contract work, one must sign a resume representation form that holds you responsible, and not the hiring firm / contract holder.

    A gap in employment is not worth legal trouble or even anxiety. Best to be honest. And shame on that recruiter.

    1. Wha……?*

      If I may, there’s an important caveat here: this is really meant more in terms of lying about qualifications you don’t have at all, or jobs you’ve never held, than the sort of things that can be genuine accidents or a change in circumstances between application and offer, like being a month or two out of your actual start or finish date at a job.

      This can vary between jurisdictions and departments, of course, but they’re less worried about you saying you finished up at Job A in June 2019 rather than May 2019, than they are about you saying you have a medical degree when you’ve never studied medicine at all.

      And if the recruiter told OP to do that in writing? Yeah, they’ll be fine.

  29. Goldenrod*

    I feel so bad for you – I could totally see how this happened, even though you are otherwise an honest person!

    I agree with Alison’s advice, just move on and hope they don’t check. The good news is, you have learned something important that you will carry with you into future situations.

    Not exactly the same thing but similar – when I was younger, I would sometimes hide mistakes at work out of insecurity. Then it would become a big, scary secret. I learned to never hide *anything* at work – be transparent about everything, and explain mistakes as they happen. It’s so much better that way, but sometimes we all have to learn the hard way!

    Hang in there – I bet it will all work out fine. (And update, please!)

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “when I was younger, I would sometimes hide mistakes at work out of insecurity. Then it would become a big, scary secret.”
      If you are in a place that is punitive about mistakes, you are in the wrong place.
      Good managers don’t care what you made a mistake.
      They care that you understand how you did it, what you are doing to fix it and how you plan to avoid doing it again.
      It was the most freeing revelation.
      I forgot to upload the final version of a document one month.
      The next year it was needed for updating. The person who needed it, told me.
      I was like, yeah, sorry. I can recreate it. Did it. Uploaded it.
      Told my manager when it was done.
      Manager asked person who needed it how it was going. She tried to cover, “fine. no problems.”
      Manager: “the new document is good?”
      Coworker: “Not Tom TOLD YOU?”
      Manager: “Of course.”
      So coworker wouldn’t have to lie, and I wouldn’t have to worry about manager finding out.

      1. LW*

        And that’s great in theory. But I found myself suddenly unemployed, uninsured, and scared. I’ve never been unemployed before. I’ve never been so close to losing my housing. I can’t get my medications refilled. If anything goes wrong, if my car breaks, if I get sick, if my pets get sick, I’m completely screwed. The last time I was in such a vulnerable and precarious place, I was leaving my abuser and living out of my car.

        I get why you feel that way. I agree. I’m (normally) a scrupulously honest person. I’ve never lied like this before, and never ever want to again. But, I was also scared and panicked and made a mistake.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The fact that you feel so bad about it is proof that you are a good honest person in general. Good old George couldn’t tell a lie, but I bet he tried at least once. Everyone does! Honest people feel bad about it, and learn from it, dishonest people … well I don’t know how they feel, not bad apparently, and they also learn from it, although their takeaway is different.
          My fingers are crossed that you get a job, whether this one or another, very soon since it must be very frightening not to have access to healthcare.
          Be kind to yourself, remember to breathe deeply to avoid stress and remember the AAM commenters are rooting for you!

  30. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    The takeaway from friends and recruiters:
    being laid off bad
    lying not bad

    So if you lost your job through no fault of your own, were a good employee, received severance, have managers willing to speak as references for you, nope.
    You are damaged goods.
    But don’t really advertise this, the good, the bad, ultimately indifferent hand of fate. OK, that’s understandable. Why you are interviewing should not be about where you are leaving, but where you’d like to go.
    But if you are asked directly about your work experience, you hide everything.
    So you throw away references; you avoid opportunities to network because your old and new job might overlap and your life could implode.
    “Bob did a great job on the X project. I really fought for him to stay through that round of layoffs.”
    Sounds like a fun way to live.

  31. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I would like to offer that you give yourself as much self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and peace as you possibly can.

    You can run through scary scenarios in your mind or positive ones (like no one was taking close notes and you were employed when the process started but were laid off, you thought they meant ‘are you employed in general’ which was true, and not ‘are you employed at that company’ and it was just a misunderstanding).

    You can choose a scenario you can live with, and put yourself in that state of mind. They will decide to hire you or not, and even if they don’t, you’ll have spent the time leading up to it in a more relaxed and hopeful state of mind rather than a panicking self-recriminations one.

    You of course don’t want to do this if there is some work you should be doing (like taking any particular steps to control what you can control) but once you’ve done all you can, sit back and rest in the sense of being loved and thought well of.

    If you’re not hired at the end of that, you also will be better equipped to handle the disappointment than if you were panicking during that period.

    1. LW*

      Thank you, I really appreciate this. This comment, plus Alison’s advice, is helping me at least find peace with the decision I made. I can’t change the past, and I know I won’t panic and ever do this again in the future because apparently I don’t have the constitution for even the slightest dishonesty!

    2. LW*

      Thank you. I recognize that I can’t change the past, but I feel more in control of how I’m going to handle things in the future.

  32. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

    I almost had the opposite happen- I was very clear on my resume and interview that I’d left my previous job a few before, but HR still reminded me a few times to “put your two weeks in”

  33. anon for this*

    Whenever I’ve been laid off, I will usually tweak my resume but don’t immediately put an end date for my previous job. I’ve had colleagues or employers reach out after the layoff requesting I provide (unpaid) help for tasks I used to get paid to do. For those reasons, it’s felt less unethical to continue to leave the end date off.

    However, I’m upfront with my references about what’s on my resume and will usually send them a copy. No one has chastised me or refused to be a reference.

    Now, if I were applying for a government job, I wouldn’t do this because there is likely to be a more stringent background check, and it would come out during that.

  34. MicroManagered*

    I think the offer stage is the perfect time to clarify this little detail, which is exactly how I’d frame it. It doesn’t have to be a big “I need to come clean, I lied” moment — but just an update to the info you provided when you applied vs. today.

    I would just say “One thing I wanted to clarify, is that I believe the version of my resume you received from Recruiter may not show an end date with XYZ Company. That job ended in January because (layoff reason).”

    Depending on the exact date you were laid off vs. the exact date you sent your resume to the recruiter vs. when the company got it, when you were interviewed, whether the person who asked directly remembers that they even said that…….. Considering that was all within the last 2 months and you sound like you’re in an industry where things change quickly and immediate
    availability isn’t a red flag, I feel like that’s probably not going to cost you the job unless they were very shaky about the offer to begin with.

    1. LW*

      While typically processes don’t move this fast, I went from resume to interview to offer in less than a week. Which is also part of why I’ve been so flustered! Normal hiring timelines are closer to 1-3 months, with my last position taking 5+ months to have me actually start from the date I applied.

      1. Audiophile*

        I also had that happen with my two most recent roles, where I applied while still employed and was laid off while going through the interview process.

  35. Pita Chips*

    I once had a situation where I was employed at the time of the first interview, but not employed at the time of the second (I was fired). I simply didn’t bring up the change. Had I been asked, I would have told them when the job ended.

    1. Wha……?*

      This has happened to me as well, due to layoffs. They didn’t ask, I didn’t think to mention it, and it was never an issue.

  36. PantsOnFire*

    The idea that being laid off or out of work is shameful is about 40 years out of date. I don’t know anyone who’s never been laid off; most folks I know have been laid off multiple times. As long as people are honest about it it’s not a big deal.

    Lying on a job application or during the hiring process is an automatic fiting offence at every place I’ve ever worked and most places I’ve interviewed.

    Good luck, I hope that fate doesn’t await you, but next time just be honest and don’t be ashamed of it.

  37. Wha……?*

    I feel for you, OP! Please don’t beat yourself up. A lot of employers are less than honest during the recruitment process, so I don’t know why the workers (who are not in the position of power) always cop flak.

    If, and only if, it comes up, I’d mention the layoff, and you’d be within your rights to imply it’s happened since your application for the new job. It’s good timing, this job offer, with the layoffs at my old company impacting the department. You could also just mention the layoff in passing at a future point in your employment with the new job.

    It’s poor form for a potential employer to call a candidate’s current employer for a reference or background check, unless they want to run the serious risk of getting candidates fired.

  38. AnonyMoose*

    This explains why my ex-coworker kept her status in Linkedin as actively employed with us for the better part of a year after being fired.
    I reported that factoid to my managers, but nothing happened. Guess she used that to get her next job.

    1. LW*

      That seems like a rather aggressive and negative interpretation of your coworker’s actions (and pretty unrelated to mine.) Maybe she just didn’t update her LinkedIn. My former coworker didn’t update his LinkedIn until 3 years into the job. It wasn’t out of malice, it was that he didn’t think about it.

  39. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP, what’s done is done and it’s a bit of a bummer, but what I really don’t understand is why you couldn’t have said “I left that job one month ago and right now I am freelancing until such time as I might find a full-time job again” since you did say you were working a bunch of side gigs.
    Something to keep in mind for next time anyway!

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