My friend plagiarized my resume. That's bad, right?
January 9, 2014 2:49 PM   Subscribe

A friend copied from my resume/LinkedIn profile and is using chunks of it, verbatim, on her resume. Now what?

I'm currently job-hunting but am also trying to help friends who are looking whenever I can. I offered to send a friend's resume to another friend who's the hiring manager for a position in our field (I don't have experience in the industry, so we wouldn't be competing for the job).

When I got her resume, I discovered that she borrowed content from the Summary of Qualifications section of my resume - from my LinkedIn profile, I assume. There are at least two sentences that are the same, word for word, and a couple others where she has changed phrases to fit her experience but the structure is the same as mine.

I'll claim to browsing others' resumes for ideas, but I put thought and intentionality into my profile in order to *differentiate* myself.

On the one hand I realize you can't copyright a resume, and I know there are only so many self-promotional buzzwords to go around. However, since we are in the same field and city, we'll will probably be applying for many of the same positions. I'd hate for someone to put them side by side and wonder if I did the plagiarizing. On the other hand, I'm conflict averse and not sure whether or how to discuss it with her. On the other other hand, I sure as hell don't want to drag out the thesaurus to rewrite my own summary.

Any advice? I could use a script of what to say to her. And is this a phone call or can I do it electronically? We mostly communicate by FB message. We are having lunch, but not until the week after next. I'm not sure it can wait until then, because there are a few jobs closing soon.

Thanks, MeFriends.
posted by Sweetie Darling to Work & Money (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sweetie, you are a better friend than she is. If you can, just chalk it up to someone taking advantage of your offer to help them.
posted by Cranberry at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Dude, seriously? I'm not sending along your resume that is nearly a replicant of mine."

Include a couple of Googles on resume writing & DTMFA.
posted by tilde at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

"Hey, big chunks of your resume are identical to mine, and I'm uncomfortable with that, both for this job and for other jobs we both may be applying for. Can you revise yours? I'd be happy to send along the revised copy to the hiring manager.

In the future, can you check with me before using my writing for your work? I don't want it to look like we're plagiarizing each other.

Sweetie Darling"
posted by jaguar at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2014 [36 favorites]

If she's done this, she must be pretty insecure about putting together her resume. It's likely that she doesn't even realise that she'd done anything strange.

So you say:

"Hey, you know you shouldn't actually use the exact same words as my resume? That could look bad for both of us. It should look like your own work. There are plenty of ways of saying similar things differently, though. For instance, you could write [example of alternate wording]."
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:58 PM on January 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

"Hey, I took a glance over your resume as I was preparing to send it out and I noticed that a few sections on yours came from mine. I am not really sure what to say about this, except that I'm confused and a little uncomfortable. Could you help me understand where you were coming from when you chose to use the same wording as what I've been using on my resume?"
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:59 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

"I noticed that some of your resume was copied verbatim from my LinkedIn profile. I've highlighted those parts. Can you remove or revise? Thanks."

And then never offer to do anything for this... person... again.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:00 PM on January 9, 2014 [22 favorites]

You could tell her you ran your LinkedIn page through Copyscape to check for copyright infringements. (Do this - it's free.) And then you noticed someone was using your copy. You were about to file a notice of copyright infringement (see here), when you noticed that is was her LinkedIn page. Tell her that it's fortunate you hadn't filed it yet, as they may have pulled down her site. Tell her you've listed and highlighted the infringing parts, so that she can fix it asap, as it will keep showing up in Copyscape and you don't want her to get a take-down notice from LinkedIn, as you're monitoring all your web content.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I realize you can't copyright a resume

Your resume was already under copyright protection as soon as you typed it up. You don't have to include a copyright notice or register a copyright to do this.
posted by grouse at 3:10 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

What's the big deal here? Are you competing for the same jobs? Resumes are mostly boiler plate of about "seeking challenging work environment" &etc. It's a little weird that she did this without talking to you, but I wouldn't get overly worried about it. I don't think it's anything to complain to her about.
posted by alms at 3:14 PM on January 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Since you wouldn't be competing for the same jobs, it's not a real deal-beaker as a factual back-stabbing thing, but it's perfectly reasonable to be irritated on a personal level. I'd email her, and tell her:
(1) you're willing to pass this along like you said you would, but
(2) you wouldn't consider doing this for any companies where the same hiring manager was likely to also see your resume, because
(3) you noticed that she's used some of the same phrasing that you wrote for your linked in profile [note the lack of accusation - you're not stating that she copied it, you're not calling her a fraud and a plagiarist, but you are stating that you wrote those words.]
and so
(4) if she'd like you to keep helping her out like this, maybe she could revise some of her wording so it's less similar and the two of you are more differentiated.
posted by aimedwander at 3:26 PM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

My gut reaction would be to think that up to 10% of matching non-crucial or not especially crafty formulations may be okay-ish, while everything on top of that might justify some type of reaction along the lines of what several people here above are suggesting.

Otherwise, I'd help her first and afterwards have a sit-down with her in order to firmly but undramatically tell her to not do that again.
posted by Namlit at 3:28 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

It would help to know what sort of paragraphs she is copying.

Personally, I would just say, "Look, there's a possibility someone might read both our resumes, and that could look bad for both of us. Would you remind revising?

If you think she can't come up with her own wording (which is probably why she's stealing yours) you could offer to help her phrase things so they "sound more like you" or "sound more specific to you."

Also, if you haven't both done the same jobs, you might ask yourself why she thought your words applied to her. Maybe you're being a little vague and buzzwordy on yours? No one would ever copy my resume, because it is very specific to me.
posted by musofire at 3:31 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

People seem to keep missing this:

since we are in the same field and city, we'll will probably be applying for many of the same positions

No, this is not acceptable.
posted by grouse at 3:31 PM on January 9, 2014 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit, but I did mention above that we *will* be applying for some of the same jobs - but not the one I helped her with today. We are in the same field and have overlapping professional connections. I just checked her LI profile and she's using the verbiage there as well.

Thanks to everyone who's weighed in so far - carry on!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2014

Dear god, stand up for yourself! She's taking your words and blatantly using them - to apply for jobs in the same market. In this economy. Stand up. Quick.

Being direct and forceful does not have to equal mean or harsh. Explain to her: "See what you did here - this is wrong and you must stop." That's it. This skill is more valuable than both of your resumes combined!
posted by Kruger5 at 3:48 PM on January 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Tell her you're flattered, but it's too much like yours and she needs to change those sections. My guess is that she'll be horribly embarrassed and change it immediately.

If she won't change it, don't forward her resume on, then change yours and end that friendship.
posted by cnc at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

It would be uncool even if they weren't competing for the same jobs, but not really worthy of the ire at this preliminary stage, IMO. A lot of people don't see this as "wrong" so maybe she just needs to be educated.

She sent you her resume via email, I assume, so I'd respond to that email with something like what musofire suggested and don't send the resume onwards otherwise. Granted, you have no real control over whether she actually revises her resume, but you can control who you pass it on to. If she doesn't, I'd strongly consider revising your own resume.

As an aside, I worked in hiring and saw many similar resumes, although only once did I bother to do a side-by-side to see if one was copied from another. (It was.) It was pretty clear during the interview stage who had copied from whom, if that makes you feel any better.
posted by sm1tten at 3:55 PM on January 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

What jaguar suggested, maybe softened to use "copying" instead of "plagiarizing." And then I'd stop doing these sorts of favors for that friend.
posted by ceiba at 4:16 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Hey, thanks for sending this over. Alas, when I opened it up, I noticed that some of the info is very similar to what's in my LinkedIn. I know you pulled this together yourself, but it might not look that way to the hiring manager, who's familiar with my profile, or others in the industry who've also seen my résumé. It might be a good idea to make a few updates before I send this on or you send it to anyone else.

Could you revise the following lines and send me an updated copy of this? I'll be happy to forward it on once that's updated!

1. "X sentence."
2. "Y sentence."
3. "Z sentence.""

Let me know if you want any help rephrasing—I know this stuff can be a pain to write up!
posted by limeonaire at 4:34 PM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Er, that last part should've been in the quotes—you offering to help your friend rephrase.
posted by limeonaire at 5:23 PM on January 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for helping me find the right words and tone (and perspective). I dropped her a note via Facebook; tried to keep it direct but nonchalant. She responded that she "didn't realize" our info was so similar, but she'd update it tomorrow and asked if I'd mind taking a look at it again. So, crisis averted, hopefully. I really appreciate you all taking the time to respond!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:52 PM on January 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

No. Its creepy and wrong. Any kindergartner knows you shouldn't copy off your friend's paper. Still, some people genuinely don't get it I guess. I'd call her up and say something like "Hey, here in your resume you say, "blah blah blah. " That's EXACTLY what I said in MY resume. Did you get this from my resume?" Keep your tone fairly light and non accusatory, she really may not realize its a big deal. If she says yes, she took it from your Linked In profile, and seems not to think there is anything wrong with that, explain that you'd rather she not directly copy you. Say that you put a lot of effort into personalizing your resume so it can stand out. Then offer to help her re-word those sections she lifted from you. Once its been re-worded send the resume along. If, on the other hand, she says she didn't get it from your resume but you sense that she is lying, you say something like, "Well, that IS a peculiar coincidence!" Hang up the phone and politely fade out of her life. She will know why you left, because if she's lying about it, she knows she f***ed up.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:49 PM on January 9, 2014

Oh crap, sorry, just saw you resolved this.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:50 PM on January 9, 2014

A friend copied from my resume/LinkedIn profile and is using chunks of it, verbatim, on her resume.

Everyone else has covered everything else I would say, so the only thing left is:

You mean former friend, surely?

I would not keep someone in my life who had so blatantly stolen my (muted) thunder.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:45 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Didn't realize" sounds like "oops I got caught and need an excuse," but at least she's willing to change her stuff. I'd just keep tabs on it and make sure she actually does it (especially in the case of her LinkedIn profile), and then just be cautious about offering to help her out in the future.

Good on you for standing up for yourself and asking her to make the necessary changes.
posted by Starling at 10:33 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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