Another guy and I, used to work for a “bad boss”. You know the type – he will lie, cheat, steal, etc. if so inclined. This other guy quit, and after the “non-compete” period was up, he started his own “competing” company. His company grew enough to bring on additional help, and he offered me a job. I accepted his offer and turned in my notice to HR at the old company. A week later, this “bad boss” found out I was leaving to go work for this competing ex-employee and drummed up a number of bogus reasons to fire me and I was walked out 2 days earlier than planned.
I worked for the new employer for a year before the economy slowed down and I was laid off. My problem is in applying for new jobs. They ask “Have you ever been terminated? Explain”. If I say “No” and they contact the “bad boss” company, will a “He was terminated” response make me look like a liar? If I say “Yes”, what do I put for the “explain” when I was really terminated for planning to work for a competitor? Will the “potential employer” get my “bad bosses” bogus reasons for my “termination?
I find this to be a fascinating question, which kind of surprises me because on the surface it doesn’t seem that exotic a question. After all, it’s not like the kind that Dear Abby gets (“Dear Abby, my sister-in-law didn’t sit next to me at a bridal shower. True, she arrived late, and there were no chairs next to me, but she should have made an effort. I was so angry, I poisoned her punch. Then I felt guilty and knocked it out of her hand before she could drink it. It stained her shirt. She says I should pay for the cleaning. I don’t think I should. What do you think?”)
Here’s why I think it’s interesting: I would say that you’ve never been terminated from a position. Lots of times employers don’t want you working for them once they know you are going to a competitor. It’s not uncommon for someone to hand in two weeks notice and be told that today will be their last day.
But, I think I’m wrong here. This situation is different in that they came up with reasons to terminate you, didn’t terminate you upon your giving notice, and will (most likely) state you were terminated if anyone should happen to call them for a reference.
The problem with references is that you don’t get a chance to defend yourself. (Usually.) I know most HR types are huge fans of references, but I think there are huge flaws in the whole reference system. After all, unless I know the person giving the reference, how do I know she’s not a complete whacko? That’s another reason why networking is a much better system for finding a job. But, I’m digressing.
Here’s what I would write: “I received an offer to work for [x] (a direct competitor), and gave two weeks’ notice. Company opted to terminate me prior to the notice period ending.” That sounds accurate, right? Will it compensate for a scathing reference should they call your previous company? Probably not. (See above paragraph.)
The more critical question is, will your last boss (who just laid you off) give you a good reference? I think it shows your value as a worker when someone has recruited you like he did. I think it says a lot when someone says, “I not only like working with you, I like working with you enough to hire you myself.”
Good luck with your job search. Hopefully all will go well and you’ll be in a fancy new job soon.