A TechRepublic member has a problem with prospective employers who won’t hire him because he has a side business. How should he handle it?


In a blog this week I wrote about how to convince a prospective employer that you’re not overqualified for a position.

One of our TechRepublic members was frustrated by the fact that a couple of the people who interviewed him for a developer position refused to believe that he would be happy stepping down from the management position he currently held.

This week, another member wrote in with a similar complaint. In this case, prospective employers think some business endeavors he started while on a hiatus will interfere with any new full-time position he gets. Here’s the scoop:

“I took a year’s hiatus from IT and started up a few small businesses (consulting, web development) to keep me busy and to learn some new skills. Now that I’m back to looking for a job, employers question the ‘self-employed’ item in my resume. I don’t want to leave the last year blank and I don’t want to lie about what I’ve been doing for the past year. I was told flat out at one interview that they were already having problems with two staff who had their own business on the side and weren’t interested in taking on any more – end of interview!”

My advice:

How nice that this interviewer was so eager to make an assumption about your work ethic based on his experience with other people! Unfortunately, this is pretty common. Most of the time when an employer makes a bad assumption about a job candidate, it’s usually because they’ve been burned by a similar situation before. It’s not fair, but that’s why it happens.

The interviewer is assuming that you have money and sweat equity wrapped up in your companies, and that you’ll surely want to keep them afloat. And, in his experience, that means you will probably use company time to make that happen. This is also a shame for him because he’s missing out on a lot of good employees — a pretty good percentage of IT moonlight.

I wonder how your side businesses are presented in your resume, and if there is any way to refer to the experience gained from the endeavors without referring to them as “side businesses.” That is, instead of saying that from 2006-2007, you started a Web development business, maybe you could say that during that time period you consulted on Web developments issues. The latter speaks about your experience and expertise without implying that it is a business that requires attention that would take you away from a job. It may appear that you are withholding information, but you’re actually just spinning it so the information will be more agreeable to anyone looking at it.

It’s a shame that the initiative that you showed during your time off is being held against you. I hope things work out, or at least you interview with a manager who hasn’t been burned by freelancers before.