When we were kids, we were taught, “don’t lie, because you will get caught out”, yet as adults, a lot of us forget this, especially when we go for interviews.  In today’s times, there is so much fraud and corruption, that any employer with much sense, will do extensive reference checks, criminal checks, ITC checks and possibly even psychometric and pre employment polygraph tests.  So, with so many checks, what makes job seekers think that they can beat the system?!


Generally speaking, if we all loved our previous jobs, then we would never have left them.  So when employers phone previous employers for a reference, they take this into account, especially if you have explained your reasons for leaving in the interview.

When you attend an interview for a position, normally reference checks have not yet been done.  This is your opportunity to explain your reasons for leaving- and being asked why you left a previous employer is a question that you are guaranteed (so best prepare and look at our previous newsletter on this topic).  You have one opportunity to give your side of the story.  Don’t lie and pretend that you left for a different reason, because if we catch you out on the lie, we are not going to phone you back and give you another chance at being honest!


Hint and tips at dealing with “Reason for Leaving”:-

o   Don’t bad mouth previous employers. Employers empathise with other employers, and will wonder what your responsibility was.

o   Leave emotion out of it.  So many people come for an interview, and they are so emotional about what has happened in their last position, that it consumes them… and the interview.  Too much of the interview time is spent listening to the feud, and not enough time is spent on why you are suitable for the position you have applied for.

o   Don’t jump into the negative stuff.  Focus on the positive things in your CV and sell yourself, then when they love you, then tell them the negative stuff.  Candidates are often so scared and nervous of the negative things, that as soon as they sit down, they are telling them to the interviewer- and again, the interview becomes about these problems, and not about why you are suitable for the job.

o   Have your facts at hand, and explain yourself in detail.  If the interviewer fully understands what has happened, and it makes sense, they will put it aside and an employment agent will be able to explain it to their client before you even arrive for an interview.  But if the interviewer gets half truths, it won’t make sense to them, and they will wonder what you are not telling them.

o   Be humble and take responsibility for what you did wrong.  In every situation we have some responsibility.  Own it.

o   Tell the truth.  If you lie on one small aspect of your CV and you are caught, your entire CV is discredited.

o   Remember, the person interviewing you does it for a living.  They are experienced and trained to pick up when you are not telling the truth.

It may be helpful to know how we do our reference checks:-

o   Firstly, no reputable agency will phone a current employer, unless you have specifically given then permission, as this will put your job in jeopardy.

o   We will call the two most recent previous employers.

o   We will not phone the person that you listed on your CV- we will call the offices, or someone we know in the company, and ask who you reported to, and we will speak to this person or the HR department

o   We seldom will take written references, because if they were bad, you would not show them to us.

o   We have a standard format that we follow, that has competency based questions (i.e. they are based on facts, not emotion.  E.g. Did they arrive at work on time?  Were they able to meet deadlines?  NOT Did you like them?)

o   If we are aware that there was a particular issue, we are sensitive to this fact, and will take it into account.  (e.g. you may have told us that you did not leave on good terms because you went to the companies opposition.  When the employer is bitter and tells us that you are not loyal, we understand where this is coming from.)

o   If we feel that the referee is not telling us something, or there is a certain tone to the reference, we will ask more questions on that area and try and get to the truth.

o   If they disclose that you were dismissed, or did not work the dates you stated or did not do the duties that you said you did, we will not phone you to explain yourself.

o   If there is a minor difference with what you have told us, and the referee says, then we will get a second reference and ask you to clarify yourself.

o   We want you to get a good reference and to get the job, and we will fight for this, but if you don’t help us with the truth, then we often get references that we don’t like.

So next time you go for an interview- use the time to sell yourself, and then to give your side of the story.  Be humble, take responsibility and disclose everything!