Why You Should Tell the Truth About Why You Left a Job

Over and over again I run across background investigation applications (SF-85P and SF86) where the applicant fudges on listing the real reason that they left a job. The SF-86 asks “in the last 7 years have you been fired, quit after you were told you would be fired, left by mutual agreement following allegations or charges of misconduct, left by mutual agreement following notice of unsatisfactory performance?” The next question asks “in the last 7 years have you received a written warning, been officially reprimanded, reprimanded, suspended, or disciplined for misconduct in the workplace?”

These questions are pretty self-explanatory, right? Yet, many applicants fail to answer yes even though there may have been instances that fall inside the scope. Just last week I reviewed a case history on a guy who had applied for a non-sensitive position (SF-85) which requires the lowest level (Tier 1) background investigation. He had two previous investigations – a Public Trust MBI and an SSBI with two different agencies that were both adjudicated unfavorably. Due diligence required a review of these two previous investigations to see what the issues were and to see if one of them could be used under reciprocity. The issues in both cases were the same: a failure to list the fact that he was pending adverse action for employment misconduct and resigned in lieu of termination. So you would thing he learned his lesson after having his clearance request denied, right? This time he had to fill out an SF-85 which does not ask the questions about employment, however, the Declaration for Federal Employment (OF-306), which must be submitted along with the SF-85, does ask for it. Unfortunately for him, he chose not to disclose the real reason he was fired from two previous jobs. Needless to say, this was not looked upon favorably and he found himself unemployed once again.

Here is the irony of the situation: most of the time whatever the issues are that resulted in getting disciplined, fired or let go can be mitigated. Most people know the circumstances of why they were fired or left a job. Just be honest about it, accept responsibility, show that it was an isolated anomaly, and move forward. If there is any doubt in your mind about how to answer the questions, list it so there is no appearance of dishonesty.  As soon as you start trying to hide information or blatantly lie about it your trustworthiness and integrity is thrown into question.