Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fired for Personal Use of Internet

I was recently fired from my job for using the internet for non-work related activities, after being warned more than once. When I go to look for another job, do I include my firing on my resume, and how do I disclose this to the potential employer in an interview?
--Fired and Off-line

by Dan Schawbel, Personal Branding Spokesman

Interviews are times when individuals are viewed on set criteria. A hiring manager’s perception of a candidate is either their ticket to a position or to a failed attempt at one. Candidates are judged today based on their Personal Brand, which by definition means “an individual’s total perceived value, relative to competitors, as viewed by their audience.” Basically, employers are looking for a complete package (i.e., Personal Brand) and compare one candidate’s Personal Brand to the Personal Brands of others who are applying for the same position.

Saying this, I believe that any direct mention of something negative impacting a Personal Brand will devalue the candidate and lower his or her total perceived value compared to others competing for the same job. After an interview, when a negative instance is revealed, such as in the scenario in the question above, the hiring manager will always think of this negative aspect when they think or view the candidate associated with the instance.

If you don’t reveal that you were fired for using the internet for non-work related activities, the company you are interviewing with could find the details out if or when they call for a reference from your previous employer. The only way around this is to either be upfront or just plain lucky!

If you’re upfront, you will tell the hiring manager directly that you were let go from your last position because of your conduct and the prospective employer will either take you out of the applicant pool or keep you in because he or she values your honesty. Most likely you will be taken out of the pool because competition is steep, and it’s very easy for them to find a replacement.

However, if you don’t tell them about this negative circumstance and you’re lucky, they won’t call your last employer for a reference. Or, if they do call your former employer, he or she will not divulge the details of why you were fired.

My advice would be the latter. Do not put on your resume the reason your job was terminated and only explain in the interview what happened if the question, “Why did you decide to switch jobs?” is raised. No matter what you decide, your Personal Brand has been tarnished and you must seek new ways to rebuild it.

Building a Personal Brand can be as challenging as building a corporate brand. I have been one of the pioneers of this concept for quite some time now, helping individuals discover, create and maintain their brands over time. Gain a Competitive Edge by Establishing a Personal Brand and Personal Branding, The Future of Recruitment are two articles I wrote that might help you recover from this incident.

It’s all about storytelling. After getting fired from a previous position, try doing some community service or some other community building activity to raise your morale and others’ perception of you. You want to focus on activities that will help balance your misfortune, so that if you are asked about why you left your previous job, you can explain what happened and then move on in the conversation to talk about constructive activities you’ve been doing since that time.

My final recommendation is to start brainstorming and strategizing how you can strengthen your brand and how you can communicate your redesigned brand to your audience (hiring managers).

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Fired and Off-line, you’re not alone. Non-work related Internet use on the job is prevalent, as indicated by the following statistics found in Who’s Reading Your Email by Paul H.
• Non-work related Internet surfing results in up to a 40% loss in productivity each year at American businesses. (Gartner Group)
• 85.6% of employees use office e-mail for personal reasons. (NFO Worldwide)
• 70% of all web traffic to Internet pornography sites occurs during the work hours of 9am-5pm. (Sex Tracker)
• 92% of online stock trading occurs from the workplace during work hours. (Business Week)
• 30 to 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not related to business. (IDC Research)
• 24% of American workers admit to shopping online while at work. (IDC Research)

It’s clear that employers don’t like personal Internet use on the job so I’m afraid employees need to resist the temptation. I wish you success in this area on your next job.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

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