A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who told me that she had purchased a professionally written resume and cover letter from a resume-writing company … and then had realized that the cover letter was nearly word-for-word the same as the one from a reader that I posted here last year.
That set off an annoying and ridiculous chain of events in which the following happened:
* The company refused to acknowledge that their employee had plagiarized the letter, after their client and I both complained.
* Their employee claimed that I was a career advisor in Virginia Beach in 2012-2013 (!) and must have attended one of his cover-letter-writing workshops (!) and gotten the letter from him that way (!), because he used it in his workshops. (I’ve never worked as a career advisor, or worked in Virginia Beach, or taught a cover letter writing workshop, or attended a cover letter writing workshop. I assume he simply made up facts in a panic. The company later backed off this claim but suggested he must have known some other Alison Green.)
* The resume-writer then doubled down and attacked me, by writing to the upset client: “Is this cover letter a basis for what I wrote for (the client)? Yes. Is it plagiarism? No, it is my property to begin with. Was Alison Green wrong for taking my work and posting it on some website? Absolutely.” (WTF? This is a blatant lie, which the company later told me they asked him to apologize for. He still hasn’t.)
* The company claimed that the letter was from a cover-letter-writing tutorial that this guy presented “numerous times before and specifically at a conference in 2011.” If you Google key phrases that were identical between the two letters, you’ll get plenty of hits by others who have copied it, but you won’t get a single hit older than the 2014 date of the blog post here. Despite these claims that he’s been circulating it since 2011, there’s not one instance of any of its key phrases that pre-date its publication on Ask a Manager.
* At one point, the company wrote, “I think the likely scenario is that your reader found (the letter) after one of the attendees took the presentation, which they distribute freely, and further distributed it to make it available to more people.” There are two problems here: First, the reader wrote it after I worked with her on her resume, and she was very clear about what what advice she used to create it. Second, apparently this company is totally okay with recycling a letter that they acknowledge they “distribute freely” for a client who is paying for original content.
* When I pointed out that they’re doing their clients a huge disservice by recycling existing content over and over (and that if I received that letter from a candidate, I would have recognized it from the one on my site and assumed the candidate plagiarized it — which would be an instant rejection for that person — and that they’re putting clients in a terrible position by supplying them with un-original work), they responded that “it’s a proven method where clients have had great success.”
* When I asked to see a copy of this tutorial that was allegedly originally created in 2011, they sent it to me — and here’s where it gets truly ridiculous. As you may know, I often use Game of Thrones character names here in place of real ones, in order to keep things anonymous. On the cover letter post in question, I had used the name Catelyn Stark, a Game of Thrones character. In the presentation that they sent me that was allegedly this guy’s original content … the cover letter was also written as “Catelyn Stark.”
* When I pointed out that it was highly unlikely that their resume writer (a) just happened to use Game of Thrones character names too, and (b) happened to pick the exact same character name that I used in the letter on my site, they responded: “I don’t think this is evidence at all that ___ is guilty of plagiarism. Especially since several of our employees are big GOT fans, including myself, and ___ has discussed the show with us on several occasions. We felt that it was odd that someone would use the same fictional character as their placeholder name. However, GOT is one of the most popular shows around right now, so we wrote it off as coincidence.”
No further comment from me. You can draw your own conclusions.
I’m going to continue to strongly recommend that you avoid resume-writing companies though…