Job interview ethics

Hi folks,

Here is the basic question: Do I tell a potential employer that I have law school applications pending?

Today is my last day at work. A few days ago, I turned in applications to six highly competitive schools. There is no way to reliably predict my likelihood of acceptance. The LSAT / GPA charts (with their inherent deficiencies) generally put my chances between 30 to 50 percent. Even if this were a reliable statistic, there are two major aspects of my application that would serve to skew the results in opposite directions. The decisions are mostly sent out mid to late April, I may not hear from some schools until May, and if I am wait-listed I won’t hear a definite answer until the summer.

So do I bring this up in an interview? I would think that to do so would severely limit my chances of getting the job. But finding work as a temp has several drawbacks, ranging from the loss of dignitude to the dramatic decrease in pay. Unemployment is not an option, as D.C. provides minimal support.

My first instinct was not to hide anything, to be up front with the interviewer. To say nothing is pretty much the equivalent of a lie. I think I would have trouble accepting a job now, and in eight months (provided I am accepted at a college) putting in my notice. This is assuming that there whatever job I take will involve a fair amount of training and individual time.

Most of my friends and compatriots think I am a bit insane. The company I am with now, though we were expecting layoffs later in the year, only gave me three days notice. They, and by extension corporations in general, do not have a strong ethical burden to give me advanced notice of a layoff. I shouldn’t directly lie, but there is no reason for me to put off finding a job for several months on the off chance that I will be leaving in August.

So I turn to the wonderful debaters of the SDMB. Is there a debate here as to what I should do, or am I holding myself to too high a standard?


Your only obligation is to give your employer more than the three days’ notice that you received.

You come across as being overwhelmed by the whole situation.

I do not blame you.

Is it possible to keep a part time job while you are attending school? Or do you wish to devote all your time to the school.

Am I understanding your thread properly?

Please reply bacause I would like to at least try and help



“Honesy is the best policy.”

If they do not ask you, I see no reason to provide them with this extra information. Just as you don’t need to tell them that, for example, you are applying at X other companies.

I don’t think that you need to tell them. I wouldn’t lie, but if they don’t bring it up then I wouldn’t either.

You should give them two weeks notice before you leave, unless you job would be really hard to fill. Then you should give them enough time to fill it.

The corporation that only gave you three days notice stinks. But, not all companies are like that. I don’t think that you should treat your current employer unfairly because your last employer was unfair to you.

Good luck getting into law school!

You’re honest, and so am I, and it’s a good thing to be. But you are letting your honesty spoil your own chances, and letting other interviewees (who might not share your own scruples) get ahead of you. Not good.

Act in your own best interests. At job interview, your aim is to get the job you want, so let that aim guide all you say and do. It’s probably good not to tell an outright lie, but play a shrewd game. If information is harmful to your getting the job, then you don’t want it aired. Don’t volunteer it. If you get asked a direct question, be economical with the truth. Learn a little political speak. You don’t have to answer in unequivocal black and white yes/no terms. "Right now I’m just focused on what I can do for [name of interviewing company], that’s my priority. My aim is to do a good job here… " etc.

At the moment, all you have are some hopes and pending applications, and these may have some consequences several months from now. That’s a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. But in the meanwhile, you have to live. So if you’re asked, the truth is, “I don’t have any other plans right now. This [the job] is what I want to do…”. If law school comes up, fine, at that point you have other plans and intentions. But not before.

Why should you play it this way? Because the company will. Do you think they go out of their way to tell you about the aspects of the job that will suck? Or irritate you? Or about the unfair demands that will be made on you from time to time, or the abuses of power and authority that will infuriate you once in a while? Nah. They keep the crap out of view, and make the company and the job sound as peachy as they can. You wouldn’t expect them to do anything ese. That’s the way the game is played.

Go the same way. Look after Rhythmdvl first.

It is indeed, a throny situation. I think you are obligated to treat the people you are hoping to work with as people, not as means to your end. That does not necessarily entail immediate full disclosure, however. Your actions need to be tailored ot the particulars of each situation. From a distance, I can see a few “turning points”:

  1. You are asked a dirct question about your long-term plans. You must answer honestly.

  2. You are asked to commit to a specific term of employment. If that term extends beyond the time you would leave the company to begin law school, you must be honest about that possibility.

  3. The employer, like many, has a “probationary period” after hire. This is quite common, and a standard probationary term is 60-90 days. Now, most companies prefer to view this evaluation period as one-sided, a time in which they can determine whether you are truly a person they wish to grant retirement, medical benefits, etc. But if they wish to hedge their commitment to you until they gain more information, it does not seem unethical for you to take a similar tack. During the probationary period, I would see no obligation to divulge the possiblity of law school (barring 1&2 above). However, I would consider it an obligation for you to raise the possibility before the company offers you the transition to “full employee” status.

[popping up on the left shoulder, across from SPOOFE]


Lie. Lie your fucking ass off. This is your life, your dinner, your future. Go in there with the game face on, tell your interviewer you want her job, and that they’ll be sorry if they don’t snap you up before you screw them over while playing for someone else’s team.

You’ve got other plans? Why do they have to know? Since Ronald Reagan came to town, corporations and their lesser cousins have been all about screwing you for the most work and the least wages and benefits. You don’t owe them jack shit, much less honesty. They’re not being honest to you, unless you can get it translated to legalese on paper, and even then it’s a toss-up.

Let me put it in the most stark terms: business does not respect honesty. They take advantage of honesty. You show your hand, and they’ll show you a card-sharp dealer who will take you for all the productivity you have. Why can’t you be the dealer?

Go out there, kick ass, and do what you want to do. Anything less is a disservice to yourself.


I’m amazed at your ability to lay the justification for lying at the feet of Ronald Reagan.
Ethical gymnastics only a democrat could acheive:)

If you want to stay true to Reagan’s form, you have to claim that just can’t seem to recall if you applied or not. It’s Clinton who would have straight out lied.

I say avoid the question like the plague. If they ask, think carefully before you lie. I’m not a believer in karma, but stuff does seem to come back and bite you in the ass sometimes.


Make sure you are not burning any bridges.

I agree with the posts suggesting you don’t need to volunteer the information but if you’re asked, you need to be honest.

I have to point out, however, that showing this kind of concern for honesty and ethics will be a big impediment for you in law school. You might want to make sure none of the potential admissions officers are regular readers of the SDMB.

No wait–what am I saying!?!

Good luck on getting into law school.

Wait … so Rhythmdvl has an ethical quandary, and is applying to law school, so we have the makings of a future lawyer on our hands …

…and we’re encouraging dishonesty?

Sigh. I’m just naive, I guess. Don’t lie, then. Omit the truth.
[sub]I suddenly feel so dirty.[/sub]

So you’re wondering whether you should tell the company that there’s a possibility that you’re going to leave after eight months or so? And you’re worried that if you omit this information, it is tantamount to lying? Well, I think the question you have to ask is “In the absence of any discussion of this issue, is it reasonable for them to assume that I’m going to be spending the rest of my life (or a significant portion of it) with this company?” There are some factors that would make the answer to this question “yes”, such as them paying you for a six months training period, or the job description specifically mentioning some long term duties. But for the most part I think that the possibility that you may quit sometime this year is something which is rather obvious. If you specifically mention something so obvious, it will make them think that you’re planning for certain to quit. If you really want to make sure that they aren’t depending on a long term commitment, you could include something in your cover letter along the lines of “This job appeals to me because it offers me an excellent opportunity to evaluate my options regarding further career goals”.

Aw, bullshit.

There’s a difference between lying and failing to speculate about an uncertain future. If I felt my chances of being accepted at school (any school) were less than 50-50, then my job would remain my main priority and I wouldn’t screw it up by speculating about what may or may not happen down the road.

That said, I agree that you must evaluate every interview individually and assess your own comfort level on telling or not. If it’s apparent the company is going to invest a bunch of money in training you, for example, that implies a long-term commitment and you arguably owe it to them to explain that you might not be able to make it. Same with a company that is obviously looking for a long-term hire.

I’ve known women who have had to deal with a similar problem, BTW: How do you apply for work if you’re newly pregnant and know you’ll be on maternity leave in seven months? I think the consensus is that you have no obligation to tell; and in fact generally should NOT tell if you think or know you wouldn’t be hired solely for that reason; but if it’s obvious the company’s plans are probably not compatible with yours, then you should disclose. Certainly if asked directly you should be honest; I would never advocate making a liar of yourself. Despite the humorous (?) comments to the contrary, sacrificing your personal integrity will not help you either in law school or at work, whichever place you end up.

Do not directly lie. Evade, do not mention it. If they ask about long term plans, there is nothing wrong in saying that you are interested in/plan on taking classes to “better yourself”.

Despite what my friend Jodi says- a little verbal footwork, as opposed to direct lying- is likely good training for a legal future. :smiley:

I am in exactly this situation. I have the opportunity to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s, and if I go to school in Texas, I can use my veteran’s benefits and attend for the cost of books and fees (the state pays the tuition.). However, in the meantime, I still have to pay my bills until I can move next month.

What I did was I took a job that I don’t really care about; that I can quit easily, and where I don’t have a lot vested in training. No, I didn’t inform the manager or HR of my intentions. It probably wasn’t the most honest thing I’ve ever done, but should something not work out, I’m not out of a job.

Yes, it’s going to look strange on my resume, but I can leave it off, or I can dress it up. (“I learned better customer-service skills and to work with a greater cross-section of people that I would’ve otherwise not have done, yadda yadda”.)

As for probation periods, I use them to evaluate the company as well. I quit one job after less than 90 days. At my exit interview, all I said was that the company was not a good fit for me or my career aspirations, and I was leaving before wasting any more of my time or theirs. They seemed OK with the answer, and I’ve never gotten a negative reference from them.


I had the same thought when I was reading the OP. If the employer asks you directly whether you can commit to long term employment, then I think you should mention that you’ve applied to law school. However, I don’t see any ethical problem with not volunteering this information at an interview.

Good luck with the law school applications, Rhythmdvl. :slight_smile: (BTW: which schools have you applied to?)

I love you 2, Freedom. Let the record state that I believe our best president lied both by omission and overtly; that goes for Ronnie, too.

“Reagan knew everything” – Lt. Col. Oliver North, after his pardon.

Do NOT lie. An actual lie is very bad, it could get you fired. But that doesn’t mean you have to bring up everything either. “I just thought I’d mention, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I like to dress up in a bunny suit and fill my hot-tub full of lime jello during my time off…” No, you are not obligated to tell your employer everything about yourself.

You have sent some applications to school. But you have no idea if you will be accepted, and perhaps even if you are accepted you will decide not to go. So, don’t mention it but don’t lie. I mean, suppose you got a job offer that paid double what you’re making at your current job? You’d feel fine about taking that new job. These guys are not promising life-time employment. You have no obligation to promise to work for them longer than is beneficial for you.

Legally it depends on your employment contract BUT in general, if you think an organisation treats there employees well then do the same to them.

If they treat there employees badly then do it back to them.

Its not personal, its just business.