Is it ok to leave a bad job experience off of your resume?

Can’t we just forget about this?
Can’t we just forget about this?
Image: Reuters / Scott Heppell
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Q: If you have a bad experience at a job, and it doesn’t last long, is it ok to take it off of your resume?

First, the short answer: No, you can’t take it off your resume. As tempting as it is to skip over the short job disaster, the minute you leave something off your resume—and fudge the dates of other positions to close the gap—you run the risk of making everything on your resume suspect. If you are less than truthful about one thing, how does potential employer know you haven’t fabricated something else?

Hiring managers do check dates of employment. If what you listed on your resume doesn’t jibe, then you’ll be left to explain what you were trying to hide and why. It’s far worse to explain a “sin of omission” on your resume than to admit upfront that you’ve had a job that didn’t work out.

When a recruiter or hiring manager asks you about that short stint, have a brief explanation ready for what happened and, most important, what you learned from the experience. It’s possible to turn a negative experience into a positive talking point, especially if you gained insight into yourself: you now know more about what type of culture fits you best and the working environment where you thrive.

What would be even better is if you could avoid those “bad jobs” in the first place by doing your homework. When most people are looking for a new job, they don’t think about culture or what they’re going to learn. They don’t even think about the boss they’ll be working for. They just want a new job.

The reason? They’re bored, they hate their current boss, a rival got promoted, or they’re angry about something else. So, they jump at the first job to come along, without really thinking about where they’re going. That’s what gets them into trouble, and they’ll be left with a short-term job disaster that they want to erase.

If you find yourself in that position, don’t quit—no matter how tempting it might be. The best time to get a job is when you have a job. Stay where you are, learn all you can, and take the time to find the right job. Finding a job that ignites your passion (yes, they are out there, but it takes time to find them) and is aligned with your sense of purpose will give you greater satisfaction and improve your performance.

Then you won’t have to worry about having to explain those short-term jobs that didn’t work out. You’ll have a much better story to tell.

Gary Burnison is the CEO of Korn Ferry and author of “Lose the Resume, Land the Job.”