Hey Job Seeker, Ever Been Asked to Resign?

When a job application asks about a resignation, this job seeker waffles.

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Suzanne Lucas

I have been asked to resign from my job. I have never been asked this before. Now I am at a crossroads when I [fill] out applications. When it asks if you have ever been asked to resign? I want to be truthful, but I am a single parent of twins. I don't want to lie. Moral crossroads. What would your advice be?

[See the best careers for 2010.]

The first rule of job hunting is to leave out references to being a single parent. I promise it doesn't help and might hurt. People don't make job offers because they want to be nice. They make job offers because the person they hire can make their company more money. I realize that's tangential, but I thought I'd mention it.

As for forced resignations, you first need to get everything in writing. This probably isn't an issue because the company will undoubtedly have a release they want you to sign. And what should be written? Quite a few things:

[See if you should follow up with a phone call.]

1. What the official company statement will be when someone calls for a reference. Will they indicate that your termination was voluntary? Will they only confirm dates of employment and title? Most likely the official company statement will be the latter, but if they do say more, you need to know exactly what it will be.

2. What your former boss will say when someone calls for a reference. Now, I realize that your boss should say exactly what the company policy is (dates of employment only, for example), but we all know that in real life, former bosses spill the beans. This needs to be part of the formal document. They may try to say that you aren't allowed to use your boss or company as a reference. Fine, but a recruiter can look at your resume, see where you worked and call up your boss. Honest. Get in writing what he will say when the phone rings.

3. Whether the company will contest unemployment. You may have to fight for this one. They'll say, "But it's a voluntary term!" Yeah, in that involuntary sense. You can still be eligible for unemployment if the company doesn't oppose. True, the state determines eligibility, but if a company doesn't fight it, they almost always approve.

[See the trouble with blogging.]

4. What the severance payment will be--if any. Frequently situations like this come with severance, but that depends on the company. If they normally offer severance, this would be one of those cases. They aren't required to offer severance (in almost all cases), but always ask. The worst that can happen is you'll be told no.

Now, as for what you say when you are applying for a new job? If they ask "reason for termination," you say you resigned. Why? Because you did. You may have been asked to and all, but that's your actual termination reason.If they ask if you've ever been terminated or asked to resign, you've got to be honest.  Note that you were asked to resign and give a brief description of why. I won't lie and say no one will care, but the situation isn't uncommon.

Whatever you do, don't start bashing the former company.  You can say, "We had different ideas about where the department should go," rather than, "My boss was a freaking idiot." 

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.