Can my employer doctor my resume?
January 14, 2011 5:20 PM   Subscribe

WorkplaceEthicsFilter: Can my employers doctor my resume for a client presentation?

I'm a freelancer, but work on-site, and for all intents and purposes, am a full-time employee (sans the benefits, natch). Recently, a VERY IMPORTANT POTENTIAL CLIENT decided to visit us and assess our worth. This triggered a wooing frenzy where suddenly everything was up for circumspection, and the dog-and-pony show was in full swing.

They asked all of us, contracted and freelance employees alike, to submit updated resumes that they will present to the clients. After I submitted mine, it was "suggested" that I remove all line items that do not show direct experience in this field.

As it happens, I'm a freelancer for good reason -- I have extensive experience in education as well as in the entertainment field. Our business is strictly corporate.

Was it ethical of them to demand this? Is this not lying by omission? Does an employer have any right at all to "doctor" their employees' resumes?

Anon because at least one other Mefite knows where I work...
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total)
They didn't "doctor" it, they evaluated what they wanted to present and, in their opinion, your involvement was better represented without unrelated experience, they they asked YOU to make the changes.

You could have refused.

I see nothing unethical.
posted by HuronBob at 5:24 PM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

It is ethical and ok for them to ask you to do it. Resume items are selective. As a freelancer, when I put out a resume, I go back through my client list and only put in those job experiences that relate to the task at hand. With the all the freelance jobs that I do, a lot of the jobs just become noise to the client.

Now making stuff up, well that is another thing. in fact, I was bidding on a job where a buyer wanted me to doctor a college diploma for him. Even though it was not my diploma, I still declined. I didn't want to put out falsehoods and it just plain wasn't right.
posted by lampshade at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2011

A background check might specify, "List all jobs you have ever had ever, no exceptions," but a resume is expected to be a sales pitch. Isn't it standard practice to tailor resumes for a specific position by highlighting relevant experience and minimizing irrelevant experience?

In short, I don't see an ethical reason to not honor the request. You might have some other reason to refuse it, though.
posted by jsturgill at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Absolutely ethical. It's entirely acceptable to omit irrelevant information and otherwise tailor a resume for a specific audience (assuming, of course, that there wasn't a specific requirement to list ALL work experience--I had to do that in excruciating detail when I moved to a new law firm so they could do conflicts checks).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:36 PM on January 14, 2011

It would have been unethical to ask you to put stuff on your resume that you didn't do. Asking you to only put things on your resume that you did do, and which were on point for the client is not only entirely ethical, but not doing so would have been kind of dumb. A resume is not a job application or a legal document, it's an advertisement.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:36 PM on January 14, 2011

I don't understand. What's your concern here?

No, selectively showing work experience on a resume by limiting it to what's relevant is not lying by omission. By definition, almost, this is what a resume is.

But you seem upset that this is your resume and your employer is the one doing it. So... is there some reason you want the client to see your full resume? (I still doubt it's unethical; it's your employer's client, not your client.)
posted by J. Wilson at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2011

I disagree that a resume is a sales pitch; rather it is a listing of your work experiences. The cover letter and the interview are the sales pitch.

It would be unethical for you to vary a resume very far from the truth if you were seeking employment. In this case, however, your resume is just a piece of the larger sales pitch that your employer is presenting to their client. They need to present only the things that they are willing to sell to that client. Your experience that isn't relevant to your employers work line is, as they say, noise.
posted by gjc at 5:44 PM on January 14, 2011

Selectively listing things isn't unethical. After a certain point you have to tailor your resume to the specific position/field.
posted by beerbajay at 6:11 PM on January 14, 2011

What appears on the resumé is a function of the skill-set required for that position by the employer. Resumés are not biographies. A resumé is a summary of relevant experience. Ideally, it needs to be kept to one page, as well. It's never expected that everything anyone ever did would be on there.

Using myself as an example, I have work experience as: a camera salesperson, forest-fire fighter, taxi-driver, sawmill machine-operator, bicycle-store manager, deck-hand, audio and video sales and management, used car sales ( yuck!) courier, windsurfing instructor, event-promoter, internet bicycle and parts sales, limo diver, trainer, dispatcher and sales manager, glazier and skylight installer, audio/video system designer and account manager.

Do you see then that tailoring a resumé to the needs of the employer is not only ethical, but necessary in some cases?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:22 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's fine. When I worked for Big Corporate Firms they would cut our resumes down (never adding anything we didn't do) to be tailored to whatever we were bidding for. It was understood by them & the potential clients that they were getting specially formatted "resumes" that would just show what the firm thought that client or that project needed so the potential client wouldn't have to wade through stuff that wasn't meaningful to them.

Don't worry :)
posted by pointystick at 6:25 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I put together presentations for corporate clients and I routinely excise non-related experience on resumes. This is a fairly common practice, especially when you start hitting resumes of people in the field for 10+ years. It'll get down to not only related experience, but anything below a certain price level is yanked. Frankly, for things like this, no one gives a rats ass about experience outside the client's domain. This is paticuarly true of competitive bids where a lot of experience outside the paticular industry will look like you don't have experience in the industry if a competitor can produce 20 resumes of people working on Widget X for the last 15 years.
posted by geoff. at 6:35 PM on January 14, 2011

Don't take it personally, people often have different resumes for different targets. Even though you may feel this impinges on the breadth of your experience, the employer was just shaping a "sugar daddy" version. Your expertise will shine through regardless.
posted by rhizome at 6:59 PM on January 14, 2011

If they had asked you to present experience or skills you didn't possess, that would be unethical. Asking you to present only those skills most relevant to the engagement is not unethical. Who has been deceived?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:38 PM on January 14, 2011

It seems like you want this other experience to be visible to the client, so you improve your chances of getting other work from them in the future.

That would be nice for you, but there is no obligation or ethical requirement for your firm to advertise you to the client in this way.
posted by dave99 at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2011

Part of my job is to put together business development proposals, including staff resumes. I'm not sure I've ever used the same resume twice - they're always tailored to the specific project/client/issue. This is totally normal.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:17 AM on January 15, 2011

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