Career Advice Tuesday – “Past The Expiration Date”
September 12, 2012
Currently I am at the end of a job search. The interviews have gone great, I really like the company, and I am on the verge of becoming a CISO for the first time in my career. For about 95% of the process, I have been on “Cloud Nine”.
Unfortunately, my process may have hit a snag, and I really need your advice to potentially avert a catastrophe.
On the company’s application they asked me to list my current professional certifications. I listed my CISSP and my CISA, which I know are current, but I also listed a couple of technical information security certifications that I received earlier in my career. My assumption was that these certifications were current.
I received a call the other day from the background check company asking me to provide some proof of these certifications. I did some checking, and I do have the actual certificates, however the during my discovery I learned that these certifications have definitely expired.
Here is my issue; technically, I have misrepresented myself on the background check form, which I know speaks to my credibility. At the same time, these certifications are not even applicable to my hiring or the qualifications that this information security leadership role requires.
Do you have any advice on how I should handle this situations, to preserve this opportunity? On one hand I want to come clean and let them know of my oversight, on the other hand, since these certs are secondary, they may not even be verifiable, which would mean I would draw attention to something that will be irrelevant.
If you could let me know, that would be great.
My advice is simple but it is two-fold. It will be short but sweet.
First of all, “tell the truth”. What you need to do is to be in front of the story and to let them know that you made a mistake, and you want to bring it to their attention. You can let them know that your assumption was that these certifications were granted for life, and to your knowledge you did not need to renew them. If they question your sincerity, you can point to both your CISSP and your CISA, which are both current and in good standing, to demonstrate that renewing your certifications is a standard operating procedure for you. In addition, the fact that you can produce the actual certificate as proof, will at least demonstrate to your new employer and their background check company that you did actually achieve the certification and your initial statement was indeed accurate.
Secondly, whenever you speak about this, and to whomever you discuss it with, make sure that you do not make this a “big deal”. You should not send e-mails, or contact the senior members of the interview team – you should just deal with the background check company – and should do so via the phone, so that nothing can get forwarded to people with decision making authority for your hiring, who may have dogmatic views about this violation/oversight.
If you make it a big deal, it looks like you are attempting to cover it up and you got caught. If you make it like it is just an honest mistake, you may get them to overlook it altogether and it will most likely become a foot note, and not even become an issue.
What can be learned from this is that when filling out an application, less is more. Only include things that are essential and you know your can verify. If you can not be 100% accurate, omit it, you can always complete it at a later date.
Hope this helps and it works out for you.