Dear J.T. & Dale: I just got fired for failing a drug test. I need to immediately update my resume and start job searching. How would I handle this on my resume and at interviews? – Fred
Fired for failing drug test?
DALE: As for handling it on your resume, you don’t. Some people put “reason for leaving” after each job, but this is unnecessary clutter; just list your last job and put this month as your end date.
J.T.: Next, confirm with your former employer what will be said when references call about you. If they are going to say that you tested positive for drugs, then tell prospective employers, before any reference checking: “I am ashamed to say I was let go for failing a drug test. I am so upset about it – you cannot imagine. But I want to take full accountability for my actions. My goal now is to find a new employer who is willing to give me a shot and let me prove to them that hiring me was the best decision they ever made.” The honesty and accountability are vital.
DALE: Yes, but if the drug was marijuana, somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent of Americans admit to having tried/used it, so your experience isn’t exactly shocking news. What’s more shocking is that you used despite knowing the company did drug testing. That adds a note of irresponsibility that will be worrisome to employers. You need to line up former managers as references, ones who will give a glowing account of your work ethic.
J.T.: Another possibility is that your former employer is not going to say you failed a drug test. I still would argue that you should go the honesty route. “When you contact my reference, they won’t tell you the reason for my leaving, but I will. I want you to know so you don’t have to wonder.” Again, this added honesty on the front end shows your character and accountability.
Lying is only going to come back to you; even if you get hired, the moment they find out why you really left your last job (and trust me, they will), they’ll feel betrayed. On the other hand, show employers that you are willing to take responsibility and to learn, and they will see past your mistake to your potential.
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