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Surviving a sullied employer

When a company's reputation nose-dives, it can also bring down the standing of anyone who worked there — unfairly or not. The challenge is also one that plenty of other job hunters have faced and overcome. • The secret to getting your career back on track after working for a notorious employer, career advisers say, is to explain your tenure at the sullied organization honestly and diplomatically. Washington PostUnder no circumstances should you just drop the sketchy employer from your resume. Besides being dishonest, pretending you didn't work somewhere creates a gaping hole in your employment history, said Bruce Weinstein, who writes the Ethics Guy column for BusinessWeek.com. And that will just make you look worse.

Share more information on your resume, said Susan Strayer, a human resources executive and author of The Right Job, Right Now. "Be specific about where you worked" if that helps, said Strayer, whose own career included a stint at Arthur Andersen, which folded after it was tangled up in the Enron scandal. "For example, the Andersen incident happened in the Houston office in the accounting arm of the business. My resume makes it clear I worked in the D.C. office in the consulting side of the business."

Don't let dismay about the company's fate cause you to play down your achievements there. "Include strong, detailed, results-oriented bullets for your job there," Strayer said. "Don't minimize the work you did or the results you achieved just because the company no longer exists. You still want to demonstrate how what you did there could help the company you're applying to."

• Once you land an interview, be prepared to keep explaining things — for the rest of your career. "Your experience may be a talking point in an interview no matter when you worked there," Strayer said.

Take care not to come across as too negative, even as you distance yourself from any illegal or unethical behavior. "Be extremely professional if asked about how you feel about it or your take on what happened," Strayer said. "Focus on your workplace values and how important it is to report impropriety and remain ethical at all times. Avoid a discussion about placing blame or berating the professionals who played a role."

• Finally, while defending your reputation, don't forget to scrutinize the reputation of your potential employer. Investigate the firm's finances, as well as the background of people in leadership positions. Before you accept an offer, ask to talk to customers, and people who have worked at the company before.

Surviving a sullied employer 09/12/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:36pm]

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