yet another reason to stay far away from resume-writing companies

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…

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. Ash (the other one)*

    Wow. Just. Wow.

    And yea, before discovering your blog, I had a resume writer redo mine for $200. It absolutely sucked, diluted my real skills and experience, and was altogether a waste of money.

    Stay far, far away.

  2. CAinUK*

    I know you take the high road and never name-and-shame here Alison—but it is very, very tempting to do so for this company (esp. as this type of stuff only discourages people from sending in examples of their original content when it is so blatantly and widely plagiarised!)

    Also, I hope the candidate got a full refund.

      1. KarenT*

        Any chance you’d be willing to post the name of the resume writing company? I can understand why you wouldn’t, but it would help people especially avoid this company in particular.

          1. LadyCop*

            Oh wow…I looked at their website. Crazyness aside…the fact one of their front page examples has an objective and references on it screams RUN! Oh, and the other example has two jobs listed under experience and the rest of the page filled with fluff…nope.

          1. Lisa*

            So the plagiarism was done by Loft Resumes? I’m surprised that Loft Resumes’ plagiarism was not caught earlier. It would be a shame if someone looking for a Loft Resumes review found this blog about a Loft Resumes customer experience that left them feeling Loft Resumes may be a scam.

            (Snark Easily Optimization)

            1. Adonday Veeah*

              …aaaaand here’s what’s on the first page when you google Loft Resumes:

              don’t buy a professionally designed resume — Ask a Manager

            2. A Cita*

              Loft Resume plagiarized? Loft Resumes had a stolen cover letter? I know Loft Resumes have a lot of bad design, but I never thought Loft Resumes would condone plagiarism and defend Loft Resumes employees for stealing cover letters. Are there any Loft Resumes reviews that address plagiarism? How much does a Loft Resume writing service cost anyway? Whatever it is, it’s not worth the blatant stealing dong by Loft Resumes.

            3. Soharaz*

              Amusingly this comment is in the description text for this article if you google ‘Loft Resumes plagiarism”. Kudos!

              1. SJP*

                Thing is that makes me laugh so much. If it were a smaller website/blog which might fly under the radar then they might get away with it, but AskAManager is such a big, frequented website by so many that are literally shooting themselves in the foot continuously.
                If they put their hands up and admitted that that writer had plagiarized, apologised and fired that person then they’d come out with still a little bit of dignity but to blatantly defend someone who is in the wrong, with so much evidence in Alisons favour they’re just putting more and more egg on their face!
                I’d be surprised if anyone ever used them again! Haaaaaaaa

                1. Zillah*

                  Oh, I’m sure that people will use Loft Resumes again, unfortunately – the job market still isn’t great, and desperate people will do things like use Loft Resumes to try to give themselves an edge, even though using Loft Resumes is far more likely to hurt them in the long run than help them. I hope this post about Loft Resumes makes it onto the first page of the google search, though, because Loft Resumes’ denial of this entire debacle definitely makes Loft Resumes look pretty damn awful.


            4. Kelly O*

              I certainly hope that Loft Resumes takes corrective action with all Loft Resumes employees involved in this unfortunate incident involving a Loft Resumes customer and blatant plagarism by Loft Resumes.

              Never mind the way the Loft Resumes employees and Loft Resumes manager(s) handled this. As it was pointed out in other posts, had Loft Resumes simply acknowledged, apologized, and moved on, this could have been resolved by Loft Resumes with little impact upon Loft Resumes by those who might want people to know that, like many other resume services, Loft Resumes is hardly worth the value.


              Kelly O
              Chief Hanger-On and SEO (Snark Easy Optimization) Supporter

    1. Melissa*

      I was thinking the SAME thing. Although I think that the general advice not to employ resume-writing services* at all is good advice, anyway. I’ve seen the handiwork of a few and rarely are they good.

      *I’m not talking about people who will work with you to help you craft your own resume, or give you feedback, like Alison sometimes does. I’m talking about people who will write your job materials for you.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    Wow. This is like asking your kid if she was the one who painted all over the walls, and she, still covered from head to toe in paint, insists that someone else must have done it.

    1. Melissa*

      Not just that someone else did it – that actually, YOU, Mommy, were the one who painted all over the walls.

      1. hildi*

        oh my gosh, I’m dealing with that from my 5 year old right now. EVERYTHING is my fault. Everything. She could walk into a wall (and she has) and then gets super pissed and accuses me of putting the wall there.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          How about when they lie about not eating a missing green crayon and then the evidence “magically” presents itself 24-36 hours later? Hmmmm.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            This also happens with dogs. The evidence presenting itself part, I mean. They don’t lie. Hee. It’s the one time when “crapping rainbows” is an actual thing.

          2. Tim*

            I’ve never worried that much about finding a crayon, no matter how much I wanted to prove that I was right…

        2. Violet Rose*

          Late to the party, but this brought memories of when I was five – man, I was *terrible*. Once, my mom told me to stop climbing on the furniture, so I obligingly got down. Then I stepped on some construction-paper contraption of mine and got upset because clearly, it was her fault for telling me to stop climbing on the furniture. (But at least the little kid eventually learns…)

    2. Bunny*

      Heh. My gran often tells me the time my mum was around 4 and somehow got into a bottle of red wine. Did *you* drink some of the special bottle only grown ups are allowed? No, she insisted. With a massive, purple-red stain around her mouth, down her neck and staining her dress and hands.

      (Note in case anyone’s worried – she was fine. She barely got any in her mouth before realising it didn’t taste at all enjoyable for a kid and spitting it out. But that hasn’t stopped everyone from claiming this event as evidence that she was a born lush).

  4. fposte*

    That’s just relentlessly skeevy and obnoxious. Plus their quoted responses aren’t very well written, which I consider a big red flag in a company that’s supposed to be creating saleable writing.

    However, I am amused: in the original post’s comments, I hoped somebody would steal the cover letter and keep in the Game of Thrones reference. And apparently they did.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      AND got caught at it by Alison herself, AND had it posted back her for all of us to enjoy/cringe/be outraged over. Trifecta!

  5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I’m also truly astounded at how many hits turned up when I Googled a phrase or two from that letter – cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, etc. People apparently have no shame.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I periodically go through my content and google random phrases and frequently find it has been reprinted without permission across the internet — sometimes with my name attached and other times presented as someone else’s own writing. (For some reason, they especially love to steal my U.S. News articles, above everything else.) Every so often I spend an evening sending out copyright violation notices. It’s pretty surprising to read the responses I get back in return — a lot of “we thought we were doing you a favor by giving this a wider audience.”

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Wow. Just, wow! Thanks for the free eyebrow lift (as another reader so picturesquely put it a few columns ago).

        1. Melissa*

          I laugh at Judith Griggs’ complete lack of awareness in her comments to Monica Gaudio, particularly this:

          The web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of…

          But the problem is that a lot of people actually think that’s true and plagiarism is rife across the Internet. I’ve seen articles from all kinds of sources – private blogs, forums, etc. – copied and pasted into both reputable and non-reputatabl websites, sometimes with the right attribution and sometimes with a new one. I had a long comment I made in a grad school forum once copied and pasted, completely unedited, into a grad school blog with my forum username as the byline. People really do often believe that anything on the web is fair game for them to just copy and paste and use as their own.

          The further problem is that it sometimes leaks into offline content. I always get students who copy and paste large chunks of text from online sources. Some of them know it’s wrong and just didn’t think they would get caught (you really didn’t think I would notice the significant shift in the quality of “your” writing? Sometimes within the same paragraph?), but others seem to be genuinely unaware that simply copying and pasting large sections and slapping a citation behind it is not ok.

          1. LisaS*

            >>I always get students who copy and paste large chunks of text from online sources.

            Same here. And then when I run a Google search to show them I know where they copied it from, I get two pages’ worth of results for the same text. Look, just because the Internet does this doesn’t mean you can do it for class! (My favorites, though, are when they don’t even change the font to the one they use in the rest of the essay…)

            1. Artemesia*

              Nearly 50 years ago when I was teaching high school and still stupidly assigned term papers (over the years I learned to have highly particular assignments that were simply not going to be available in resource banks or on line articles — things where they had to take models and theories used in class and specifically apply to experience etc etc) I got a long long paper from a kid that had a couple of pages of typing in one font, then about 30 pages in another font with some red circled words here and there and then a conclusion of a couple of pages in that original font. He didn’t even bother to re-type the paper he was stealing from some college friend or sibling in which case I would not have in those days probably been able to ‘prove’ plagiarism.

            2. Emily*

              When I was in high school, I waited too long to start a lit paper that was supposed to review a book with quotes from the book. I found someone else’s paper online, stripped out everything except the quotes, and then built a new paper around the quotes that drew heavily from the ideas of the other paper but was entirely in my own words. I was wracked with guilt about this for years.

              Looking back more than 10 years later, I now realize that pretty much everything high school students write is just someone else’s ideas regurgitated in the student’s own words, and I feel less badly.

              1. Anna*

                One of the things you’re learning in high school (and college, really) is how to reframe discussion so that you’re adding to it or redirecting it. You don’t automatically know how to do that; it’s a skill. At least you put it all in your own words even if the ideas weren’t necessarily your own.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Here’s a question since I’m just curious. I don’t do any kind of publishing-type writing. Just emails and extremely dull IT documents for configurations and design specs. Sounds like you’re supposed to get an author’s permission before using something, even if you cite the author as the source of your content, quote, etc? I figured if you properly credit your source then you were covered. Interesting.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You can use a short excerpt (usually about a paragraph at most) without permission under the “fair use” doctrine, as long as you credit it appropriately. But you can’t reprint the whole thing (or most of it) without permission, even if you give credit.

          1. Arbynka*

            This reminds me of the TBBT episode where Sheldon was cleaning Bernie’s and Howard’s closet and read her diary. Then promised he won’t tell, turned to Howard:”But the copyright law would allow me to quote snippets in context of a review”

            But yes, I have to explain to people many times that you cannot republish someone’s article/photo without their permission – even if you keep their name on it. I am not gonna comment on people who republish someone’s work with their own name on it :(

            1. Regular Commenter but not for this*

              Our pastor’s wife asked me to put some photos on our church’s facebook page. Since I didn’t recognize the place or the people, I asked where she got them from. (They were photos of kids doing “churchy” things, in other buildings, and not any of our kids that I knew.) She had just gone out and found some photos she liked of kids doing things that she wanted to “advertise” that we do.

              She was upset that I wouldn’t put them there, but hasn’t pushed it. I’m not sure if the others who can publish there would do it or not, but it’s been more than a month and I haven’t seen them published there.

              1. Cordelia Naismith*

                Just FYI — Flickr has a Creative Commons section. As long as you give a proper attribution, you can use photos and images that have a CC license. You might be able to find similar images there.

                1. Chinook*

                  On the same note, if your church is part of a larger organization (like the Catholic Church, for example), the local administrative district (for us, the diocese) may have generic photos that they have bought the rights to use in within their business organization. You may be able to point your pastor’s wife in their direction.

                  On the flip side, if you are part of a larger religious organization, you also have to be aware that you can become a test case for someone wanting to sue for copyright infringement because you will be perceived as having assets to go after. But, if you are too small or asset poor, odds are good that no one will pester you too much (which doesn’t make it right. Plus, in a religious context, do you really want to deal with the long (super long) term consequences of stealing work).

                2. Zillah*

                  Yep – with the added caveat that some pieces also require that the use be non-commercial and/or with no derivatives (meaning you can’t edit it).

                3. Mary*

                  There’s two issues you need to be aware of, and Creative Commons only covers one.

                  One is copyright, that creators (or the assigned copyright owner) have the right to control who makes copies of their work. Creative Commons is a pre-granted permission from the copyright owner to allow people to make copies under certain conditions. Copyright on photographs is usually initially owned by the photographer.

                  The other is model rights. That’s the right of people not to have their likeness (ie their photo) used to promote things without their permission. Model rights belong to the person/people in the photo. (They also vary a lot by jurisdiction, but even ethically it makes sense to not use people’s faces to promote your organization or product without their consent.)

                  So actually, even CC-licensed images from Flickr shouldn’t be used to promote things if they feature people in them. Stock image sites where the subjects have granted model rights would be a better source, although they typically won’t be free. The best thing of all for a small organisation with a community would be to ask for volunteers to be photographed for the website! Make sure both the photographer and the subjects have granted the right to use the photographs for this purpose. (Whether you’d want to do this verbally or in writing really depends.)

                4. L mc*

                  The problem with this is that anyone can put any picture up on Flickr and mark it as usable when it was never theirs to begin with.

                  Seriously, just spend $3 on a stock photo. Royalty free images are readily available for almost anything and the sites handle the legal stuff so you don’t have to worry.

              2. Traveler*

                Also adding, she really should know better than to use pictures of children’s faces without their parents written permission – especially for advertisements.

              3. Marie*

                I work for an adoption agency, and we have pictures of kids available for adoption up on our website. It really increases the number of people who will contact us about those kids if we can get a picture up, but we are constantly finding those pictures being republished elsewhere. Sometimes they’re being used as free stock art, especially for people who are looking for stock art of kids of color or kids with visible physical disabilities, and you can just imagine how great it is for a kid to stumble upon their picture being used as “The Face of FASD!!!” on a flyer or website. Often their pictures are being put up on blogs or websites from people who honestly think they’re helping by “getting the word out” about adoption. The ones that think they’re helping will also usually copy/paste whatever info we have about the kid and republish it, sometimes with additional (weird and creepy or offensive) commentary, such as “You can see the sadness in his eyes! I can only imagine what his mother did to him…” No. Come on. Just stop.

                We’re very careful and intentional about what we have up on our website and when, because sometimes these kids have people looking for them and we might need to remove their pictures, or sometimes their information needs to be updated or changed for privacy or other reasons, but we can only change it on our website — the people who steal the info and republish it never check back for updates. And we’re also now constantly having to weigh the huge benefit of having these pictures up vs. the potential for somebody to do something skeevy or inappropriate with them.

                Honestly, the stock art people are easier to hassle into dropping the pictures. The well-meaning people just cannot understand why we’re not grateful for their help.

                1. fposte*

                  Wow, I’d never even thought about that possibility with those adoptable kid portraits–I remember them from back in the newspaper era. Well-meaning people and the internet–not always a good mix.

                2. Kay*

                  So true. I volunteered once at a children’s home when I was a Girl Scout. We had all kinds of strict rules. We were not allowed to take any pictures while we played with the kids. We weren’t allowed to ask anyone’s last name. I was old enough to kind of understand why; sometimes the reason children are removed from homes is because their “home” is not a safe place to be.

              4. Yer anonymous local Vicar*

                It absolutely peeves me to no end when colleagues ask for a copy of a sermon – and I know my insightful, earth-quaking illustrations are going to be used by some hack. $#!+, if you know what I mean.

                Did you know that if you have had someone design something for you, or do work like charts, graphs, research (or any other thing), but you have not yet paid them, that using said work product is copyright infringement? Yes, they still own the product because you have not yet paid them for it.

                It is a matter of respect. It is being honest. It is a big deal.

              5. MLHD*

                Well just FYI, stock photo sites are really affordable now if you get the right resource (iStock, Getty, etc. are very pricey but not all of them are. I’m a graphic designer so I deal with stock photos often (and cheap clients often too haha). For example Dollar Photo Club has a lot of the same photos as other photo sites but they are a buck each (full resolution and everything). Also keep an eye out for deals at Deposit Photos…every so often they run a deal to buy 50 images for $50 bucks or 100 images for $100.

            2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Given my line of work, it may or may not surprise you how many times I’ve had to explain to people that no, we may not print (this Disney logo/character, as example) on teapots for them.

              Just because you find the artwork in Google Image Search, doesn’t mean you have the rights to it.

              (And Disney of all people. They would come for everything I own. The dogs would not be safe!)

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Ha. I just remembered.

                The other week, swear to god, we had some random someone, send us Disney Alice in Wonderland art work to… swear to god….print on actual teapots.

                I mean, I actually do have actual teapots. And this actually happened.

                1. Zillah*

                  Oh my god. And Disney! That’s not just any copyright violation, that a copyright violation of people who are known to track you down and take everything you have ever owned. (Slight exaggeration. But only slight.)

                2. Tenn*

                  Yikes! Remember when Disney was in the news every other day for going after any perceived violation of its trademarks?? I mean, I could be mis-remembering this, but I could swear for several years there that this was one of the main ways Disney was making money. And then they recruited that former Nike advertising guy who proposed grouping all the princesses together (something that flew in the face of proper Disney tradition at the time). And of course about then too came a whole new generation of animated features.

                3. Florida*

                  Disney is pretty aggressive about their copyright enforcement, but they have to be. Let’s say you have a logo that other companies start to use. If you don’t enforce the copyright, eventually you use the copyright. Once it becomes so commonplace that your logo doesn’t represent you anymore, then you can’t enforce it. At least that’s my understanding of it. P.S. I’m not a legal eagle.

                4. JHS*

                  This is a reply for Florida (can’t seem to comment on her comment). From what I know of it, copyright is not a protect it or lose it issue (you can wait years to go after someone if for some bizarre reason you wanted to), but trademarks and logos are; if you don’t go after people using your trademarks or logos quickly, then you are at risk of losing them. I have a few friends very interested in the issue, and I think this is the most fascinating thing about it. I’m guessing the difference is to protect people who might not know for years if their copyright is breached, whereas trademarks are usually for businesses, and their theft might be a little more obvious.

                  As far as Disney goes, they may be a bit gung ho about it, but I think society could stand to take copyright/trademark infringements a bit more seriously.

                  I also think one of the interesting things about copyright is it restarts after the author’s death, so you can have works which go out of copyright in the author’s life and go back into copyright on their death.

                5. Anna*

                  A local company was just forced to change their name because a large, multinational sporting organization that puts on “games” every couple of years told them to. And the company who had to change their name was named for a mountain range. Sometimes copyright holders are douches. However, sometimes people are completely ignorant.

              2. anon for this*

                You guys, my CEO (a filmmaker) used a bunch of music in a film he made, that was going to be in actual movie theaters, and credited the musicians but didn’t notify them (or pay them) and tried to claim fair use. When I pointed out that my (pretty extensive but IANAL) reading of the fair use case laws pretty much dictates that music cannot be “fair used” he tried to get around it by saying “well technically I paid for the songs because I bought them on iTunes, so now it’s my music to use right?”

                Obviously this situation went on and on but that last justification really made me laugh, followed by weeping and spontaneous brain combustion.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  I read a story just like this recently. So very similar. And instead of being embarrassed about it, the filmmaker was outraged he was being called on it. (No, not Shia LeBouf :p)

                  I mean, what what? What?

                  Who doesn’t know you have to pay musicians for their music? When you are making a movie?

                2. Cordelia Naismith*

                  well technically I paid for the songs because I bought them on iTunes

                  I’m crying with laughter here. CRYING. OMG.

              3. Chinook*

                “(And Disney of all people. They would come for everything I own. The dogs would not be safe!)”

                They are bad. They went after a local giant mall that had an amusement park named Fantasyland (but with no connection to Disney. It was a land of fantasy because you could ride rides indoors in the middle of winter). They were sued for copyright because someone might confuse the two. (All the lawsuit did, after forcing them to change their name, was infomr all us locals that there is a park in Disneyland named Fantasyland. Who knew?)

              4. Cordelia Naismith*

                I once heard of an elementary school that had a mural with pictures of Mickey on the wall outside the school. A Disney exec happened to drive by the school, saw the pictures, and sued the pants off that poor school. You don’t mess with Disney.

          2. Jessa*

            Yeh and in no way can you make a profit off of it, or use it without attribution anyway. Even fair use requires you to pretty much identify the author and leave any copyright information intact.

            The ways you can make a profit and still be in fair use territory are fairly small. Mostly parody works and works for review and things (IE you review a book or a movie in a for profit magazine or website, or make a movie like Spaceballs which is a parody.) The standards are reasonably loose for fair use of a small portion of a work. They’re way tighter if there’s money involved.

            They’re also tighter if by the nature of the original you have to use the whole thing (IE a photograph, or a short poem.)

            1. Laufey*

              And it’s not just you can’t make a profit off of it – you can’t cause the actual owner to lose profit (i.e. releasing for free what the original owner charged for). So many people use “fair use” incorrectly.

              1. fposte*

                And “public domain” is to copyright what “hostile work environment” is to employment law–it doesn’t mean what most people think it means.

          3. TNTT*

            And also keep in mind that fair use is a VERY squishy area of the law. Much like the IC/employee distinction discussed below, there is no “magic” formula or number of factors.

          4. Ann Furthermore*

            Thanks Alison and everyone else! I didn’t realize it was such a nuanced, gray area. Very interesting, and much more complex than the idea of citing your sources when writing a paper in college, which is the last time I had to do that.

          5. SerfinUSA*

            I do copyright vetting for a living and boy do I get tired of ‘splaining the fair use thing. To so-called learned professors even! Funny how ethics can fly out the window when someone wants to have an entire book scanned and posted to their class website or have our tech people rip & stream a popular movie.

            1. Kay*

              My university actually did a really good job with this, I think. We had a “copy center” and some of my professors would assign particular articles and readings, but didn’t want to make us purchase 10 books for one class. They would get permissions from the authors and create a spiral bound book of only the readings necessary for that class. I thought it was genius for them to compile the readings that way so that the authors would still get paid, but as poor college students we didn’t have to buy a bunch of extra things we wouldn’t be reading for one article an anthology.

          6. Megan*

            Is that only if you’re profiting off of the work, or just across the board? Is it still ok to do something like distribute it to a class for educational purposes?

        2. Magazine Jeanne*

          To Ann Furthermore: I am sure you didn’t intend any harm in your comment, and it was truly due to lack of knowledge and understanding about other professional spheres, but really… it is still quite shocking and disturbing to those of us in the media/publishing sectors. Why would you think you have the right to use the work of someone else without their permission (or paying for the privilege)? Can you imagine any other profession where that would be acceptable? Why would a writer’s work be less valuable than that, then? And from the (online) publishers side as well, say the New York Times has paid someone for the license to publish their article. Why should you get to publish it for free, thereby diminishing the ad revenue value they have paid for?

          It’s one thing to republish (via social media, your blog, etc.) a quote from something—like the wonderful AAM blog—and the original *link* to it. This actually DOES help the writer and/or publisher because it drives traffic to their site. But other than that… NO.

          1. fposte*

            I’m in the media/publishing sphere, and I didn’t think it was shocking–it was just an inquiry from somebody who had no reason to know and who was familiar with a common misunderstanding.

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            I asked because I’m an IT nerd with an accounting degree. The only writing I do is things like design specs, test scripts, and emails. The only thing I’ve ever had published is a white paper I wrote for a trade conference, and that was an overview of a project, lessons learned, things to do/not do. Those things were all my own personal experiences, having been immersed in that particular project for over a year, so citing external sources did not really come into it.

            My work does not involve publishing articles or any other content for wider audiences. I was not implying that anyone’s work is less valuable than anyone else’s, it was just a question asked for my own curiosity.

            I did once find an article that I’ve referred back to many times that does a great job of explaining some very complex functionality in the ERP system I work with, and clarifying the different choices available: what each one is, and when to use it or not use it. I’ve copied/pasted these explanations into internal-only documents many times, because I am frequently asked why we have to do this particular thing in a particular way. I always include the link to the article, and say that it does a much better job of explaining things than I could. But it’s possible that this could make it into a presentation given at a trade conference, and at that point I’ll make sure I’m properly citing and using that author’s content.

            1. The Strand*

              Culturally (eg in tech) I do not believe you are doing anything wrong at all because you are giving credit and using fair use amounts of the material, and not materially profiting from it… but I bet also that the author would be thrilled to know how you’re speaking to their work and how great it is. You might discover the writer has made it Creative Commons licensed, or that it was written for the government and is actually public domain.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            Part of that might have to do with being in IT. There are many little software programs out there that can be freely used by others. There are sites specifically set up for sharing code. We are supposed to leave in attribution if requested, but in many cases, you have to use the entire thing, you can’t just pull out a part and use that. It’s not true of all software, by any means, and much software is also protected. But certainly some is freely shared.

            So yes, there is a profession where that is acceptable.

          4. The Strand*

            But see, I think the reason for the abuse is right in your discussion.

            It’s because creative work is not valued, because so many people think “anyone can write,” “anyone can take a photograph”, “anyone can make a film”, and because so many artists are willing to do it for “nothing” and stupidly say so.

            And complicit in that is not just average joes and janes who don’t think about how little the writer or photographer makes, but leaders of media and publishing too who set the rates and expectations for this kind of work. (I was just telling someone about how isn’t so great when it comes to paying their writers decent wages.)

            And add in business leaders and others who think you should be honored to give away your work for the benefit of growing your portfolio, getting “credit”.

            When we consider the weird commodification of creative work, where a small few get millions of dollars and are feted at the Oscars for a month’s worth of work, and others find themselves selling their work for $5-25 a pop on Fiverr, I find Ann Furthermore refreshing in that she asked the question!

          5. Anna*

            And to be fair, people do that ALL THE TIME to IT people. “Hey, you work in IT. Can you come over and set up my Wi-Fi network?” So…yeah. There is a correlation there.

      2. BRR*

        It’s a shame because it’s discourages you from posting cover letters here.

        As to the U.S. News I see those on the yahoo homepage sometimes so that might give you a large potential audience than just us news.

  6. Jake*

    I used a resume writer directly out of school. It was very expensive, but it did truly improve my resume. I don’t need one now because I have both it to use as a good example along with AAM’s advice (which match up most of the time).

    I’d always recommend coming here instead of using a writer, but there are actually a few that write decent resumes amongst the sea of incompetence.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I also used a resume help, but they did not re-write my CV. Instead, they gave me very detailed feedback with examples. I kept coming back for clarifications (that brought them some extra $$$ of course), but at the end i got it and it really steered me in the right direction. It did help. having said that, it is worth just talking to someone who is a hiring manager and/or HR to get this advice for free :)

      I saw fully re-written CVs and that was a disaster; i had a feeling they put original resume through a program that adds tons of management words to random places.

    2. A Cita*

      After googling, I was shocked to see resume services using that letter as an example of their work. I wouldn’t trust any service now.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      I actually had a good experience using a resume writer about 8 years ago. At the time, I had had a few jobs where I had a lot of different responsibilities but types of roles where there weren’t typical accomplishments that you’d put on a resume (like hitting impressive sales goals, etc.). As a result, my resume was pretty unfocused and I just didn’t know how to make it more compelling.

      I ended up getting a recommendation for a writer running his own business focused on resume rewrites and cover letters. He spent a couple of hours over a couple of different sessions talking to me about what I had done and what I actually had accomplished in those roles and totally revamped my resume. It was actually really helpful both for getting me a better resume, and for helping me figure out how to frame the experience I did have to make it more meaningful for potential employers.

      All that said, I’ve since gone back to get my MBA, a component of which was learning how to frame my applicable experience in a way that makes it more transferable and compelling, and I’ve found Ask A Manger, so the value in the service wouldn’t be there for me now. But at the time, it actually was really useful for me so I’m hesitant to paint all resume writers with the same brush as this one.

  7. hildi*

    That is all crazy, but the GOT things is where it just goes off the rails! I shouldn’t laugh because it’s a serious thing to have your intellectual property hijacked, but this is hilarious in a WTF kind of way. Good for you for engaging with them. It would be kin of fun to how up at that guy’s career advice workshop to crash it.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      “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.” ”

      I’ll admit to being someone who does not have Cable, so other than the hype, I am unfamiliar with GOT. So I gotta ask — was GOT a thing in 2011? Don’t know how long it’s been around.

      1. Helka*

        The TV show premiered in April 2011, and the first book was published in 1991. So the timeline isn’t impossible.

            1. Helka*

              The running joke I’ve heard is that every time someone asks when the next book is coming out, he kills another Stark.

            2. OriginalEmma*

              We’ve been sadly left bereft on a series finish before (by the original author) with the death of the venerable Robert Jordan. Hope it doesn’t happen here too!

            3. LBK*

              The good news is that he’s supposedly given the TV show producers an outline of what’s to come in case he dies before he finishes the books, so the story can be completed in some form even if we don’t make it to all 7 books.

              1. Squirrel!*

                I’m not sure how much I would trust the TV people though, especially with all of the “creative changes” they’ve made in the TV series already. It just annoys me because it was clearly a popular IP way before HBO wanted a piece of it, meaning people liked it, so why mess with a good thing?

                1. LBK*

                  They haven’t changed anything too major, at least not as far as I’ve noticed. I actually think it’s been shockingly faithful compared to a lot of other adaptations. Yeah, it’s not a direct page-to-screen translation, but the things that make a good book don’t always make a good TV show. Plus you have to deal with the practical factors like mystical creatures being much less expensive to write about on a page than they are to create with CGI on screen.

                2. Burlington*

                  My understanding is that this next season is going significantly off-books. There are lots of good reasons to do that; my understanding is that many fans were bored to tears by at least one full book in the series so far. There are things that GRRM would have done differently in the books if he could re-do them. And the books are just so much material that you have to remove some stuff; some of it won’t translate, some of it is fairly pointless exposition and details, etc. Plus, the TV show is going to end long before all the books are published, so it’s in GRRM’s interests to make the show different enough that fans will still read the books.

                3. Zillah*

                  @ LBK – I don’t know, I’ve missed large sections of series (though I have read all the books), but just from the bits I’ve seen, I think there are some pretty big changes. They definitely changed some pretty important scenes to be pretty damn rapey, which really changes the character and character dynamics involved. Haven’t they also killed Jojen off?

            4. BRR*

              I’m not sure if it was real or fake but there was a GRRM tweet about Harper lees second novel saying and people thought I write slow

    2. Artemesia*

      It would not astound me that they stole AMA’s example to use as an EXAMPLE or in a class as a model or whatever. This may be a sin, but it is a small sin (well a big sin if they actually post it online as if they wrote it.) But to provide it to a client for pay when it is not written for that client and may well damage the client’s job search when the obvious plagiarism is uncovered is incredibly unprofessional. The resume service should have fired this person immediately for not doing his job and potentially damaging a client.

      Big bucks consulting firms routinely provide detailed reports to clients that are essentially boilerplate with a few tweaks for the client’s data and situation. And they charge tens of thousands for it. I imagine there are a lot of such ‘professionals’ who are insensitive to how unethical this fundamentally is.

      1. Chinook*

        “It would not astound me that they stole AMA’s example to use as an EXAMPLE or in a class as a model or whatever. This may be a sin, but it is a small sin. ”

        In Canada, atleast, educators are allowed to use copyrighted examples in whole or in part for educational purposes (i.e. in the classroom as an example) as long as no one is making a profit (i.e. if you use it in a textbook for sale, you need explicit permission) and credit is given. We are a special subset of usage in the copyright law for educational purposes.

        I don’t know if applies to for-profit educational services, though.

        1. Book Person*

          And the flagrant abuse of that fair use exception in an educational context is why York University is involved in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court….

      2. Original Letter Writer*

        Original letter owner, here. Alison has kindly kept me in the loop as things progressed.

        The resume service should have fired this person immediately for not doing his job and potentially damaging a client.

        This seems like the obvious, thing, right? Except apparently not. Seriously – the company owner’s unwavering defense of their employee was the most frustrating WTFery of the whole business. Their defense, by the way, was “we’ve never caught him doing anything like this before [in the whole six months he’s worked for us]” and “his coworkers speak really highly of him.”

        1. Client*

          (Client who hired the resume writing company from this article)

          “Their defense, by the way, was “we’ve never caught him doing anything like this before”

          That was my shock too. I purchased the service in July and just HAPPENED to be rereading it while also reading some blog articles. Had I not been doing that at the same time, I’m sure I never would have noticed. What are the chances he would have ever been caught?

        2. Joey*

          Id drop the whole “he should be fired” argument. That’s you telling them how to run their business which is an emotional response when you have no context. I’m not defending them, but screw ups, even bad ones, don’t always mean firing is the right choice. Hell, maybe hes making boo koo for the company. You just never know. Maybe he was never told about how to do it properly and was just getting it done the only way he knew how. It’s not always as simple as firing someone. Again not defending just helping you try to understand context matters.

          1. Original Letter Writer*

            I think I said as much to Alison at one point – if they were going to fire this guy, they would have already.

            That said, no one ever directly asked, demanded or even suggested to the company that they fire this guy (although I’m sure commenter “Client” may have wanted to!) because you’re right, we can’t dictate how they run their business. I was merely agreeing with Artemesia that that is what the company *should* have done, without any prompting at all.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d agree with that about the original offense — but once he lied to them, his integrity was out the window. That’s an even more serious offense, and you can’t have someone willing to lie to you on your staff.

          3. Traveler*

            If he’s making beaucoup bucks for the company through stealing other people’s work – that’s an even bigger problem.

          4. The Strand*

            I disagree with you but I’m glad you made the point, because frankly, some people are irrational – there are owners who would gladly say, “He may be an a-hole, but he’s MY a-hole, so bug off!” Great reminder.

      3. Clever Name*

        So as a consultant who’s company makes tens of thousands of dollars off of “boilerplate” reports, I have to say that the “few tweaks for the client’s data and situation” isn’t a trivial amount of work to undertake. We obtain our data by going into the field and delineating a wetland, or drilling and then sampling groundwater wells, performing environmental surveys that pulls information from various databases and other sources, some of which we pay for, some of which are publicly available but area difficult for the average person off the street to obtain or even know about. Plus, the boilerplate language is language that is original content developed by my company. So yeah, I’ll write a report and change a number here and there, but that number is the result of hours and hours of effort by scientists with college degrees and years of work experience. Plus the professional judgement that goes into the analysis and conclusions based on the data that took hours or days to obtain is not trivial either.

        Okay, that was totally a rant. /off soapbox

        1. Another Ellie*

          I’d also rather pay you for 20 hours of fieldwork and 2 hours of report tweaking than 20 hours of fieldwork and 15 hours of unique report writing.

          1. Clever Name*

            Exactly. Why reinvent the wheel? Although, I did feel weird about at first. I had this constant feeling that I was plagiarizing, but it really is a disservice to our clients to agonize over writing original documents from scratch each time when it is so much more efficient to use our template.

    1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      I think on AMA’s FB page, a reader was able to figure out who it was. It was in the comment thread of the original post Alison made about this happening from a few weeks ago, I think.

          1. Intrepid Intern*

            Back in the olden days when I was a recruiting intern, I got one of those resumes (not for a design position). My manager said to throw it out, the layout was too unreadable.

        1. A Cita*

          It would be great if the link were put in here so when they check their stats, they’ll see the increase of traffic is due to this post.

  8. Mander*

    Astounding. I would have thought there would be some kind of copyright repercussions, since I think the original letter is technically the copyright of the person who actually wrote the letter? I could be wrong about that.

    But these people are totally sketchy. I feel bad for anyone who uses them!

  9. maggie*

    Hmmm, well then it is highly likely that this ‘writer’ will be perusing your articles now and in the near future and so I have to say to him:

    God, you blow. Have some integrity, you fool!!!

    (I would have made that 60 point font, if I could.)

    1. fposte*

      Somebody from there actually posted in the comments here a couple of years ago–they were pushing these highly designed resumes and we were discussing whether or not they added value (spoiler: we thought they didn’t).

  10. Rex*

    Wow, Alison. I’m sorry this happened to you. But obviously, there are good services out there (like yours!) Maybe you could do a post on “signs that you are getting bad job hunting advice”?

  11. Leah*

    Wow, the lack of shame and ethics here is astounding. Is there anywhere to do from here, anybody above these people?
    This whole thing is just mindbogglingly stupid, especially the GOT part. Those emails you quoted sound exactly like me… when I was six and didn’t understand how being caught red-handed worked. “Well, we totally watch that show too so we wrote it, it’s mine!” *hands on hips*

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      It reminds me of my 7-year-old son, who is obsessed with Minecraft and wants to make video games for a living. Cue many, many discussions about how you can’t copy someone else’s game and “how much alike” something can be before it’s considered copying (kid needs to give up on the video game dreams and go into PR or politics).

      1. Nashira*

        Although when you’re trying to figure out the mechanics of making a game work, it is a valid technique to emulate someone else’s work or style. Art students have copied famous paintings for ages, right? But this only works if you then move on to your own creative works.

        1. Miles*

          Yes, there is a fair use case for education purposes.

          Thing is, if you publish it or show it for any purpose (other than professional feedback on how well you did like a grade, and *maybe* your portfolio) it loses that particular fair use protection

      2. Witty Nickname*

        I’ve had my copyright stolen before (not in a way that would be anything to pursue but enough to make me really aware of how it feels when someone is just like “oh, I made a copy of that thing you sell for money and gave it to my 10 closest friends!”). It is not a pleasant feeling.

        My almost 7-year-old is like yours, so we’ve also had a lot of discussions about copyright law and why you can’t just take things that other companies have made (this is also how we get around the whole “Santa will bring me anything I want no matter how expensive it is because he can just make it” thing. Santa will not violate copyright, so no, he will not bring you a Wii U and all of the Mario games you want. If Santa is going to bring you a video game, Santa has to buy that game for you. Sorry.)

      3. Clever Name*

        My son is very much the same. He is so good at nitpicking the smallest detail. He’ll probably be a lawyer.

    2. Leah*

      **anything** not anywhere. Fail.

      Agreed, the chutzpah here was not in taking the letter, but in denying, to this ludicrous degree, that it wasn’t original.
      Also, this is a company that actually writes cover letters for job applicants? Isn’t that a little shady?

  12. HM in Atlanta*

    Once, in a fit of self-doubt, I paid for resume writing services…through (I know ). This was the late 90s. I sent them my current resume, and wanted them to critique it/make suggestions. Instead, they required me to schedule a phone call to answer questions. I scheduled the call. The questions I was asked were, “Who was your last employer? What was your title? What were your dates of employment? What did you do there?” Repeat for previous employers and educational experience. The resume I got back stripped my resume of ALL the actual accomplishments, and read like a verbal transcript of that phone call. In place of the accomplishments that had previously been on my resume, were multiple paragraphs written like a job description. The best part – my resume went to almost 5 pages after their “help.”

    What actually helped me – getting feedback from a couple of senior business leaders in a local group I was part of (not a job search group). They said what the liked about my resume (and didn’t) and WHY. It was a great learning experience, and provided actionable information (and was so much cheaper than the resume writer).

    1. PEBCAK*

      YES. I have helped people with resumes, but only if they are in my field and applying for jobs consistent with my past hiring experience. When I was three years out of school and had only sorted resumes for internships, I never would have tried to advise people looking for management roles. Same thing for people applying to non-for-profit PR jobs or something like that.

      Which is to say, one of the things most suspicious about resume writing companies is that I’ve never heard of them specializing, and I don’t know how one person can write another’s resume if they don’t even know the field.

      (This is not to say that you can’t advise people, generally, if you have some hiring experience…there are things that make every resume better, but writing it for them? FAIL.)

      1. Zillah*

        Which is to say, one of the things most suspicious about resume writing companies is that I’ve never heard of them specializing, and I don’t know how one person can write another’s resume if they don’t even know the field.

        Right? A lot of jargon is both important and industry specific.

  13. Adam*

    I’d make a joke about what usually ends up happening to Game of Thrones characters, but it’s Monday and I’m groggy so let’s pretend I did and it was hilarious.

    I will say though that the only resume review service I have ever used was Allison’s during one of the occasional times she offers her critical eye for (in my opinion) a very reasonable fee. I do not regret doing it and have had people tell me that my post-Allison resume looks very impressive. It’s the first time I’ve ever been happy with how my resume looks and I do not regret jumping on the opportunity one bit. I heartily recommend it if you are struggling with your resume the next time she offers this service.

  14. MousyNon*

    I wonder if exceptions could be made for federal-resume-writing services? I’ve never used one before, but I’ve been sorely, sorely tempted by it on multiple occasions because each application submitted through takes HOURS to thoroughly rewrite ones resume so that job specializations/accomplishments correctly hit on all of the right keywords. I’d love to go back into government work, but with the amount of time each application takes it feels like I’ll never get there.

    What say you AAM/Readers? Any experience with these types of services?

    1. Melissa*

      I’d be curious about this too – I’ve (unsuccessfully) applied for a few federal jobs and also noticed that the online resume builder takes quite a while, because you have to modify the resume extensively for each new listing if the job duties are different. So far I’ve only applied to really closely related positions as a scientist or analyst in the same field, but even with that, I’ve had to spend some time editing the resume to reflect the different job description (even though they are all doing essentially the same thing – it’s just that someone else wrote the description this time).

      1. MousyNon*

        Same. Hopefully this thread won’t get so buried that maybe Alison or some of the regular commenters (Katie the Fed?) might throw in their two cents on this specific area, because I’m starting to think I’ll need to invent time travel to be able to find the hours in the day required to carefully rewrite my job experience towards each usajobs job description.

        It’s also possible the answer will be “you just have to know someone” which is even more depressing…

    2. JC*

      I would strongly suggest reading a book on federal resume-writing rather than paying someone to write it for you. I’m a former fed married to a fed. We both found books by Kathryn Troutman and Lily Whiteman very helpful. Disclaimer: we were hired in 2008/2009, and I know the application process has changed since then (paragraph-style essay questions in applications replaced with multiple choice questions, for example), so I’m not sure if those particular authors I recommended have the most up-to-date advice these days.

  15. Joey*

    did you expect anything less?

    I bet they’ll change a few words to make it harder to google and keep using it.

  16. Ineloquent*

    Do you have legal recourse? It sounds like you have clear proof that they are plagarising your work and profiting off of it. That’s really not cool, and it might be good for them to experience some pain as a result of their unethical actions.

        1. JoAnna*

          Might not be worth the legal fees. However, perhaps if Alison started a gofundme for this purpose, her loyal readers/commenters might be willing to chip in to defray the expenses…

            1. fposte*

              Though it’s not Alison’s letter. It’s her venue that it got pulled off of, but I’m not sure she’d have grounds to sue.

              1. Original Letter Writer*

                If anything, Alison probably has a better legal leg to stand on than I do, as she is the one potentially damaged by the theft. And of course, if Alison did decide to take things to that level and there’s specific actions that she needs me to take as the originator of the content, I’m more than willing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Lawsuits can be an incredible amount of time and energy. They can be surprisingly large emotional drains. Even if you are able to get a lawyer on a contingency basis, your next biggest expense will be the amount of leg work you do yourself (time).

        My suggestion is like others that have said the BBB or the AG.

        The USAG office is a group of very nice people. They are very quick to grasp the full situation. Nothing like a call from the USAG’s office to make attention. ;)

        Well, no matter what you decide, I think follow-up is a good idea.

      1. Arbynka*

        From what I understand your work is automatically copyrighted the moment you produce it. But, of course, if you challenge someone then the burden of proof is on you provide – that you indeed produced your work first. So you can officially register your copyright. But it is not necessary.

        1. Natalie*

          Yep, this is all essentially correct. Copyright is automatically granted once an original creative work is fixed into some kind of tangible form (written down, painted, etc).

          This didn’t used to be the case – you had to declare copyright in order for it to attach. Fun fact, because of an error with the title screen, Night of the Living Dead was accidentally published as a public domain work.

          1. Natalie*

            I don’t think that’s correct. You can enforce a copyright without registration, but only for actual damages. If you want statutory damages and attorney’s costs it needs to be registered.

            1. TNTT*

              You’re right – to be clear:
              (1) Somewhat recently, it was clarified that there is still federal subject matter jurisdiction over infringement of works with unregistered copryigths.
              (2) Because of the above restrictions on recovert, it will almost never ever be worth your money to enforce your copyright in federal court unless it is registered.

            2. ActualLawyer*

              If we wanted to be the most clear – there is subject matter jurisdiction but without federal registration you’ll lose a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.

  17. Zahra*

    Wow. I saw you mention the incident on Facebook and was just wondering yesterday what happened since. You mention spending some time sending copyright violation notices, I’m sure that this letter (and any other cover letter and resume you have posted on your blog) will be part of your next few passes at copyright infringement checking. What happens after the takedown notice if the website doesn’t take your content down (or attribute it to you, with links to the proper post, which I assume would be okay with you)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Then you file a DMCA takedown notice with their web host, and that nearly always takes care of the problem (the web host usually removes the page themselves if their client doesn’t comply). There are a few web hosts that aren’t great about it (especially if they’re outside the U.S. and not subject to the DMCA at all), but most are pretty good about it.

      (or attribute it to you, with links to the proper post, which I assume would be okay with you)?

      Actually, not okay if they’re reprinting the whole thing. An excerpt (about a paragraph) is allowed under copyright law, but for more than that they need permission, even if they’re crediting it correctly. (And I generally charge for reprints of my work; once I explain that, it typically comes down, although a few times they’ve gone ahead and paid for it.)

    1. Original Letter Writer*

      The TV show debuted in April 2011, I think, but the books have been around significantly longer.

      1. fposte*

        Wait, are you the person who used the resume-writing service? I’m really glad you made them give you your money back.

    2. Laufey*

      According to the most reliable of resources, GoT first aired in April 2011. The first book was first published in 1996.

  18. Penny*

    OMG! I was just thinking of hiring a company and was just going to your site for other info and this story appeared! This story saved me some money and since I’m unemployed…. Thanks!

  19. Sunshine*

    I just googled this line from the letter “In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details – particularly when it comes to presentation” and the plagiarism is astounding. Someone actually copied that entire paragraph WORD FOR WORD into her cover letter.

    1. E.R*

      Yeah, wow, so much plagiarism. On Linkedin, too. Why do people post their cover letters on Linkedin anyways?

    2. A Cita*

      Even this line that is more specific:

      I was not just the admin but also gatekeeper, technology whiz, bookkeeper and marketing guru…

      is all over the place…even LinkedIn profiles.

          1. fposte*

            Been doing it. In fact, I recognized a phrase from that second letter in a recent application without even Googling for it.

    3. LBK*

      Jesus. I just did this and was stunned at the number of examples that popped up. People really are shameless, aren’t they?

  20. HR Manager*

    Am I being too extreme if I were to call BS on the resume writing services and the people who patronize these businesses? You write a resume because it’s a presentation of yourself to a prospective employer. Yes, they should be well-written, thoughtful and a good representation of you and your abilities. Asking for some feedback and advise is one thing, but to outsource this entirely is another. This is no different than hiring someone to write your term paper for school. There is no job that I can think of where writing ability is not important (whether you are hired as a writer or not). This strikes me as cheating or lying – that’s my thought as an HR person. I didn’t even realize this was a thing, until I came here.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I think it would be too extreme to vilify the customers for having someone format their resume for them. But I’m only being generous regarding the resume. Cover letters should be written by the candidate themselves.

      1. HR Manager*

        If it’s just formatting and some advice, then I guess that’s ok. Apparently I don’t really know what these services provide (as noted, I’d never even heard of these services before). Resume-writing to me sounds like you pay someone to write your resume for you, and that sounds egregiously dishonest, but if it’s just a consultation and then feedback, then that makes a bit more sense.

    2. Joey*

      Trades and anyone else without a desk/computer usually don’t have to write well as a core part of their job

      1. Chinook*

        “Trades and anyone else without a desk/computer usually don’t have to write well as a core part of their job”

        Plus, if you are moving from “field staff” to “office staff” you may need help showing how something like the ability to pick up a dime with a backhoe can be related to the job you are applying for (answer: “great attention to detail and the ability to work on a skill until perfection is attained” or “complete understanding of the equipment used in the field”)

      2. HR Manager*

        You can tell that to most of my software engineers. I’m not saying that most of them are great writers, but they have to have a basic set of writing skills. It is a myth that engineers can sit behind their desk all day and never communicate with anyone. They are often involved in project teams and often asked to update on project statuses, they need to know how to document specs and code, etc. Writing is important to engineers, just not in the same way as say a marketer. Even for trades folk…my goodness, they write our receipts, statements of work for me and other customers all the time. Plus they have to read through and/or put out contracts all the time – again, different from a journalist, but clear, concise, intelligible business writing is important in nearly every profession.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I used a resume writer a few years ago. I was having the opposite problem you are referencing. I am a good writer, but after writing, re-writing, doubting myself, and being very beaten down by my previous job, I couldn’t see my resume straight. Just thinking about my job made me sick. I needed outside help. I paid $200, which was terribly expensive for me at the time, and I received an insightful, clean, new resume. I don’t think I ever sent out the exact version I received, I would edit it and rework it for each application.
      I did loads of research to find a reputable company and I was lucky that I chose well. I still feel that it was money well spent.

    4. Client*

      I am the client who hired the resume writing service this article is about. To give context as to why I found their service, I was really unhappy in my current job and feeling very down on myself. I didn’t want to be someone who complained about their circumstances without making an effort to change them so I started looking into several ways I could improve myself and increase the chances of finding a better fit. I signed up for a 3 day aptitude testing service, which was amazing and really helped identify the type of job and industry that suited my skills. Even taking that one step was really empowering so I signed up for a few classes and along the way discovered this resume writing and design service (Note: I am in a creative field so a stylized resume is common).

      I had already written my resume and the only changes the advisor made were a few minor grammatical adjustments. This did actually did boost my confidence because it assured me that I was on the right track. For the cover letter, I had a phone call with their advisor where I explained my circumstances, background and goals. I figured it would be worth the money to at least be given a template or outline to ensure I was presenting myself in the most positive and professional light. The version I was given was only suited for one job so of course I customized them each time when I submitted it to a new company.

      It was only recently that I stumbled upon Alison’s blog after re-reading the older cover letter I purchased and nearly did a double take when I started noticing some of the exact same phrases. I contacted the company first, who of course denied the plagiarism and blamed the blog but had a feeling something was off and reached out to Alison.

      No matter what field, job hunting can be incredibly demoralizing. I don’t know if I would say that all services are bad because sometimes having this help can do a lot for a person’s confidence. And keep in mind that a good resume in no way guarantees a job; best case scenario is an interview, which I personally feel is a more accurate reflection of a candidate.

      But of course I am not defending this company. This was a breach in trust and the whole scenario was very upsetting. Fortunately I did receive a refund and felt relieved to have Alison on my side!

  21. CNW*

    WTH. This whole situation is appalling.

    Sidenote: I think I may need to watch GOT so I understand the references :)

  22. Oops*

    And I just hired a service to help with my resume too! At least I didn’t pay the $1000 other services wanted. Just have to hope Alison will do another resume review soon. :-)

  23. SanguineAspect*

    If they had reacted graciously, it wouldn’t have even necessarily warranted a post. They should have said: “We spoke to Employee X, reviewed all information, and recognize that Employee X based his cover letter for our client off of the one on your website. This is appalling and not at all how we run our business. Employee X has been severely reprimanded/fired, we are refunding our client’s money, and sincerely apologize for all the confusion.”

    But given that they reacted in the way they did, they are VERY fortunate that you aren’t calling them out by name here. Their behavior was horrible.

    1. Three Thousand*

      If they really and truly didn’t allow their employees to steal content, they probably wouldn’t have a business at all. People like this don’t have the creativity or intelligence to produce their own work. I’m sure they’ve made a lot of money ripping people off, and most of their victims just never figure it out or do anything about it if they do.

  24. Similar Situation But Not the Affair One*

    Had a weird incident with a “resume writer”: Anne McKinney and Prep Publishing of the “Real Resumes” series went through my high school class yearbook inserting our full names as her ‘fake names’ for her resumes. Except the address she used (her publishing company) is from our real hometown so it is pretty confusing for employers who Google us … because of course it all shows up on Google. Oh, and I now work in the same field (but different role) than the “fake resume” for me and am a bit too young to have filled the roles on my “resume” at the stated times. Anyone digging might think me a bit fraudulent…

    1. Nerd Girl*

      LMAO at your name! I saw this the other day and laughed. I laughed again when you corrected yourself. Now this? It’s great.

      1. Not That Similar Situation*

        I am the commenter above, but that wasn’t me the other day, however it made me laugh so hard that I thought of it when I was temporarily renaming for just this comment. :)

  25. Jessica*

    So I used to think that fair use covered using more than a paragraph, as long as proper credit was given. You learn something new every day! Alison, I would LOVE if you could do a post someday on the legalities and pitfalls of blogging, how to protect your content, when you need to get heavy-handed, etc.(or if you’ve already done it or have a good resource, I’d love a link ). Every time I try to find a comprehensive resource, I get overwhelmed and worry that I will do something to get sued.

    This story was a train wreck on the resume service’s side. I’m not sure this person CAN feel shame, given their behavior.

    1. Artemesia*

      FYI If you quote poetry in a published source no matter how few the lines, you have to get copyright permission. It is fair use to use something in the body of text or for critical purposes for most work but that does not apply to a quote used above the title as a chapter introduction for example or for poetry. I learned that the hard way and ended up paying TS Eliot’s estate $500 and Richard Feynman’s Estate $250 for using quotes. I didn’t mind the latter as Feynman has living children to benefit, but it did tick me off that a couple of lines of Eliot were so costly. My publisher caught this; I had assumed it was fair use and it was too late to cut or modify by dropping the Feynman quote into the text rather than above the chapter head.

      1. fposte*

        Though even there, some of that is the publisher’s convention for what’s okay, not necessarily what’s been hammered out in court. They’re going to err on the side of caution, especially when it’s the authors who have to handle the permissions.

    2. TNTT*

      The reason you get overwhelmed looking for a comprehensive resource is because copyright law (especially online) is not an easily distilled topic. There’s a reason we go to law school to learn it, and why people hire lawyers to implement/enforce it.

      1. Adam V*

        > There’s a reason we go to law school to learn it, and why people hire lawyers to implement/enforce it.

        It’s all fair use… unless it isn’t. It’s like looking at WebMD and a single symptom usually is associated with 200 different diseases. You have a family doctor because she knows which symptoms are important, and which ones aren’t, to get to the right diagnosis.

    3. Language Lover*

      You’re likely overwhelmed because copyright isn’t an exact science. The amount of reproduction that falls under fair use often depends on the length of the original work and what the purpose of the reproduction is. Sometimes, two paragraphs is reasonable. And I would never feel comfortable copying a paragraph of someone else’s work unless my intent was to put it forth as a basis for discussion or critique where I included my own thoughts.

      What I suspect they’re doing with Alison is essentially copying whole works, publishing them online and not adding new information. Fair use is essential to foster education. It’s not meant to help someone else’s ad-generating enterprise to fill up space.

      The trickiest thing about copyright is that even if you fall under fair use, it doesn’t take away the copyright holder’s right to sue. There are predatory publishing agencies that do just that. They purchase the copyright on some published works and go after people for “settlements” even if their use easily falls within fair use standards.

      1. Jessica*

        So if I wanted to start a blog where I might be linking to other content or citing sources since I doubt that every word and idea will be my own, I should consult with an attorney? That’s seriously how overwhelmed I get, because I just want to do a fun crafts and recipes-type blog for my own enjoyment, to share with friends, but I do get inspiration from other people and adapt things. I don’t know where any of that falls, like, do those people that link to other blogs have to have the other blog’s permission, or can they just link to the source? AHHHH! It’s so confusing to me!

        These are really just rhetorical questions and I don’t expect answers, but I can’t imagine that every blogger has consulted with an attorney before they start, so I’d love to know what they do to educate themselves.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You don’t need permission to link to other content. You do need permission to reprint content (beyond a short “fair use” excerpt, which is generally a few sentences or a paragraph) or photos. But just linking to it is totally fine.

          1. Jessica*

            Alright, so for example, if I said, “Read this great article on how to manage people here” and linked directly to AAM, that’s all good. But if I took an AAM article, reprinted the entire thing, cited it, then that would need permission. Very interesting. I always thought that appropriate citation was what gave you the all clear, but I can also see why that would still hurt the original owner, if they are trying to direct traffic to their site. I don’t know if that has anything to do with the legalities of it, but I hadn’t really thought of it until today.

            1. A Non*

              That’s pretty much it. Eyes reading that thing you made public are valuable (even if doesn’t immediately translate to $$$), so sending eyes to the original author is fine, grabbing those eyes for yourself by reprinting isn’t okay even if the original is freely available. For example, Alison’s put a lot of work into writing this blog and building the community here. At this point she can earn money whenever she wants by selling resume reviews. Links to her blog help build the community – someone who follows a link here to read an article is likely to read more, and maybe stick around. Reposting her work somewhere else detracts from it, because people read the interesting thing but stay on that site and add to that community instead.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yep, that’s right. Part of it is what A Anon says above – it’s hurting the content creator by potentially taking eyeballs that otherwise might go to them when someone is looking for info on that topic (and those eyeballs translate into ad revenue dollars, community building, etc.). But even aside from that, the law says that it’s their content and they get to decide how it’s used. So even if I didn’t have website that could be diminished by my content appearing elsewhere without my okay, it’s still mine and I still get to decide where it can be recreated, because it’s my work and I own it.

        2. TNTT*

          With respect to recipes in particular, you should be aware that it is an exceptionally difficult arena to determine whether something is copyrightable or isn’t, and whether someone’s use is fair use or isn’t, and the people who work in that arena are not only fiercely protective but also (in my experience) woefully underinformed.

            1. Language Lover*

              I forgot to add that many times the person who claims they “own” the copyright because it’s their mother’s secret recipe may not actually own it at all.

              So many people’s “secret family recipes” are everyone’s “secret family recipe.”

              1. Original Letter Writer*

                Like Phoebe’s esteemed great-great-grandmother of the amazing cookies, “Nesslee Toulouze.”

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Yes! This literally happened in my family. My grandmother’s secret butterscotch haystack recipe was from the butterscotch chips bag, which I only learned when I was grown and she had passed. (Still love ’em.)

            2. TNTT*

              It’s not that simple at all. Generally an exact recipe (amounts, ingredients, steps to make it) will not be copyrightable, but the style and form in which that recipe is set out will be.

              If you want to protect your family recipe, you’re looking for a trade secret, not a copyright.

              1. Jessica*

                I always think of Rachel Ray’s microwave bacon “recipe” when I hear about copyrighting of recipes. I don’t have any secret family recipes, but I also wonder what would happen if someone thought I stole their secret family recipe, when really, it was something I made up. More research to be done.

    4. The Strand*

      Actually Jessica, the decision is in the eye of the beholder. “Here come de judge” in other words. Fair use is somewhere between what the copyright owner says it is, and what the judge decides on after you and the copyright owner disagree, and he or she hauls you into court.

      Seriously. Fair use has never been defined anywhere in law except by several tenets that can apply, such as noncommercial use, parody, and whether you have somehow transformed the work or utilized the “heart of the work”. There are precedents as far as legal cases, but nothing codified anywhere except by personal choices and company policies: some universities and organizations may say “less than 2 minutes of a film or musical work, or 10% of a text” but that’s their policy that they’ve decided they’re willing to fight for in court – not the law.

      1. Jessica*

        Wow, that is informative, fascinating, and slightly terrifying. I don’t plan to do anything but link to other blogs, but I am going to have to do some serious reading and gain some understanding of the legalities associated with blogging.

  26. MaryMary*

    I want to say something similar came up in the Friday open thread a couple months ago: someone got a cover letter that matched Alison’s Catelyn Stark letter word-for-word. The commenter was debating whether or not to call out the candidate, but they were definitely no longer considering them for the position. Now I wonder if the poor candidate used this resume writing service, and was unknowingly using a plagarized letter.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I was working at a college a few years ago, and a student turned in a project with the Smart Bitches Trashy Books logo slapped onto the top of it. (No, the project did not have anything to do with SBTB or romance reviews.)

  27. CoffeeLover*

    I want to know how many people have been hired using plagiarized cover letters. One would hope the person’s true merit (or lack there of) would be apparent at the interview stage, but you know there has to be a few out there. Maybe along with interviewing and calling references, employers need to start googling for plagiarism. Ridiculous.

  28. Cupcake*

    Time to drop the GOT references (chuckle-worthy as they are) in materials like this and add Wakeen and Chocolate Teapots. Let them try to wiggle out of that!

    1. Well*

      Based on their response to the GOT thing, we’d simply be hearing about how they used to have an employee named Wakeen who was in the chocolate teapots business before switching career tracks to resume writing, and by the way, they’ll be sending a C&D letter for Alison’s coffee mugs. Unbelievable.

  29. Student*

    In all likelihood, the company either knows or now realizes the employee was plagiarizing cover letters.

    However, if they have a competent legal adviser, they know that they really only have two options. They won’t fess up about committing plagiarism for fear of legal repercussions.

    (1) Publicly side with the employee, privately fire him. This is what they’ll do if they were unaware of the plagiarism.
    (2) Publicly side with the employee, privately side with the employee but tell him to start using a different cover letter template. This is what they’ll do if they endorse or encourage the plagiarism, which is frankly what most write-X-for-hire paper mills do.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And that’s a good example of how overly cautious lawyers sometimes end up steering companies wrong. If the company had just fessed up and apologized, I would have let it drop. The way they handled it makes me way more likely to press forward with it.

      1. fposte*

        I was just thinking this–that the failure to apologize has been a demonstrable factor in medical malpractice cases. Lawyers are often way too focused on the risks of doing something and miss the risks of not doing something.

        1. Natalie*

          Somewhat of a tangent, but I wonder if there has ever been a case where a court has decided that a doctor saying “I’m sorry” meant they were admitting fault. I kind of doubt it – legal fault doesn’t work that way, of course, and the courts aren’t usually that literal.

          1. Green*

            There’s also a difference between what people would assume lawyers would advise and what lawyers would actually advise. They likely don’t have in-house counsel so they are just going with the aggressive “ADMIT NO FAULT” route because they think that’s the liability-limiting approach, not because any lawyer has told them that.

            1. Chinook*

              This conversation about saying I’m sorry = admitting fault made me remeber a 2009 law that was passed in Canada (link to follow in moderation) called “Apology Act” which states:
              2. (1) An apology made by or on behalf of a person in connection with any matter,
              (a)does not, in law, constitute an express or implied admission of fault or liability by the person in connection with that matter;
              (b) does not, despite any wording to the contrary in any contract of insurance or indemnity and despite any other Act or law, void, impair or otherwise affect any insurance or indemnity coverage for any person in connection with that matter; and
              (c) shall not be taken into account in any determination of fault or liability in connection with that matter. 2009, c. 3, s. 2 (1).

              I remember that this law came out of the fact that it is natural for Canadians to apologize even when not at fault (citizenship test: if someone steps on your feet and you apologize to them, you are Canadian) and some people were taking advantage of that fact.

              In short, in Canada, feel free to apologize without having it taken the wrong way.

              1. Green*

                That’s also the law in many US states, but you do still have to be careful with wording to fall under the law. I.e., “I’m sorry that we weren’t able to save your wife” vs. “I’m really sorry I drank too much last night and spilled my entire surgical tray into your wife’s chest cavity.” Option 1 isn’t an admission of guilt (since even a perfect surgeon may not have been able to save your wife) but may have traditionally been construed that way in a lawsuit (why did you apologize if you didn’t mess up?); the other is an apology for and admission of gross negligence and not covered under most apology laws.

                1. Green*

                  (Here, the company could have said something along the lines of “Thanks for alerting us to your concerns. To avoid any potential issues with this template in the future, we won’t be using this template going forward and would like to offer a refund to X” would probably have sufficed so as not to be an admission of anything unlawful while also making Allison happy.)

                2. fposte*

                  @Green–exactly, and that’s where I’m indignant as a writer, since any decent writer could have crafted such a suitable response. I can see why they have to plagiarize

              2. louise*

                Huh. Apparently my sister was just invoking the Ontario Apology Act every time she half-assedly said “sorry” to me when we were little. She was certainly not admitting any liability…

                1. Cupcake*

                  The proper pronunciation in that circumstance is “SAW-reeeee”. If used correctly, that will absolutely never be mistaken as admission of guilt (or responsibility) by any reasonably sane individual.

          2. fposte*

            Interesting question–I wonder if you’re right. And now that I think about it, it’s not just medicine–it was an article of faith in the insurance company I worked at that you never say “I’m sorry” at the scene of an automobile accident for similar reasons. However, at least there it’s not likely to make somebody likelier to sue you, whereas in medicine it seems to have an actual cost.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep, my husband worked for an insurance company and he said the same thing. Unfortunately, the lack of an apology seems to trigger lawsuits. Even after receiving healthy settlements people still want to hear “I am sorry”. It’s so simple, yet so difficult.

          3. Nashira*

            I don’t know. That idea makes me feel ill. I had a terribly awful form of chronic pain result from a surgery, one that devastated my surgeon because it was so unlikely at my age. He was truly sorry that I had this result, even though we all knew it wasn’t his fault for Reasons. I would hate to have his display of empathy, which is still very meaningful to me twelve years later, be seen as legally dangerous.

            1. fposte*

              Absolutely–and in general I think people are more at peace with the outcomes when their doctor empathizes, too. That’s especially true since bad outcomes aren’t the same thing as malpractice at all, and how sad not to be able to have a doctor regret the outcome along with you when that happens.

              And I’m not your doctor, but I’m also sorry about your pain.

          4. Chriama*

            I was actually listening to a radio show the other day talking about a new legislation (or a new push to publicize and old legislation? I’m fuzzy on the details) that protects doctors from malpractice suits if they apologize. I don’t remember much, but I remember they were talking about how to give a good apology and why medical professionals might hesitate to apologize or offer sympathy.

            Anyway, the TL;DR is that there’s legislation in at least 1 Canadian province to protect doctors so they can offer apologies without admitting fault.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Yes, I was thinking this too. Admitting in writing they plagiarized is not going to help them win any lawsuits.

    3. A Bug!*

      Any competent corporate lawyer needs to have a passing familiarity with non-legal repercussions for actions, which widens the set of options considerably. A carefully-crafted apology and attempt to make amends might well be preferable to risking bad publicity.

      Besides which, an employer isn’t always liable for the actions of an employee when those actions are taken outside the scope of his employment, contrary to policy, or otherwise not reasonably anticipated by the employer. If the employer was unaware of the plagiarism and doesn’t condone it, then a flat denial in the face of overwhelming evidence makes the employer look complicit which again, feeds into the earlier point about non-legal repercussions.

  30. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m honestly not surprised this happened. If anything, I bet it happens all the time. Let’s face it: there’s only do much you can say in a cover letter and resume. It’s not exactly a talent show audition.

    That being said, I can see why these shysters are peddling “out-of-the-box” nonsense that looks super cool on paper but translates poorly in reality. This firm of communication is so limiting that flashy, empty tactics are all you can do and all others can sell to naive job seekers at a high price.

    Take a look a last week’s I Thee Dread blog post on a cover letter for a job in domestic violence. Good example of that.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        How does auto-correct get “firm” out of “line?” This is why I am a Luddite.

        OK, a Luddite with a computer and internet access, but still…

  31. Macedon*

    Quaint. They can’t afford to acknowledge plagiarism without casting shade on their service, whereas they can dare the gamble that a private person won’t undertake the expense and headache of litigation.

    I hate to suggest the equivalent of a ‘my daddy can beat up yours’ manoeuvre, but would you be all right with name dropping a few of the publications you’ve collaborated with in your About section (or even in some of your blog’s side-cells proper)? Just having the blatant reminder that you’re a respected figure in your field and that you have the backing of a few big name brands might help prevent this kind of incident in the future.

    1. Melissa*

      You would think anyone with two brain cells to rub together would do a quick look over the blog before they lifted anything from it. By 2014 (when she posted the cover letter, and when it was presumably lifted) Alison’s blog was already popular and she was already writing for U.S. News, Intuit, etc. At least if I were going to plagiarize something from someone, I’d want to find out whether they had a tiny blog that nobody was likely to find (and that they were likely to be a single individual who was unlikely to sue me) OR whether they had a well-read blog that one of my clients was likely to have read and recognize anything lifted from it. ESPECIALLY when the readership of the blog and the people who want my services are likely to have significant overlap, like…let’s say…job hunters!

      1. Macedon*

        I agree with you completely that Alison isn’t exactly an unknown, but we’re not dealing with especially smart people here, and sometimes you have to hand feed their sort the obvious.

        Then again, I know of “professionals” who plagiarised entire Reuters articles, so sometimes even the brand barrier isn’t enough.

      2. Original Letter Writer*

        The *only* leeway I will give this moronic, skeezy, lying, cheating excuse for a “writer” (ahem) is that it’s possible he saw it somewhere other than AAM, because it has been reblogged in its entirety on dozens of other sites.

        1. A Cita*

          He gets no leeway because he continued to claim it was his and emailed the client accusing Alison of stealing.

      3. Mander*

        I think the key is in your very first line: “anyone with two brain cells to rub together”. Sorely lacking in a writing service of any kind that blatantly plagiarizes like this!

  32. Dan*


    I gotta ask. Why not name names here? Instead of telling your readership to avoid a particular resume writing service who has truly screwed up, you’re metaphorically handling a problem employee by creating a “policy” when the issue should be addressed with the offender alone.

    These guys are low, and deserve to be outed. They don’t get to “spend more time with family” and quietly go away.

    You’ve got evidence, and if it came down to it, the truth is an absolute defense to libel.

      1. A Bug!*

        Might be worth naming them in your post or post title as well, because then it might have a stronger effect on any search engine results when other folks search for this company.

      1. Adam V*

        From that post:

        When I told Rebecca all this and asked for permission to post it, she replied:


        Please go ahead and post it as inspiration. I know it will be plagiarized in part or whole, but I’m so happy to have landed my dream job with it that if it helps someone else so be it. I’m contributing to the greater good if even one person is inspired by it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          oh boy. Okay, the last sentence she is indicating that it would be used as inspiration as opposed to replication.

          Question: Who “owns” this letter? Alison or the original writer? I have been taking it as the original writer gave it to Alison. And that seems to be the basis for most of the discussion here.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Right, and it’s one thing to say “I know people will do this obnoxious thing, because people are assholes,” and another to say “I’m totally OK with people doing this obnoxious thing.” I’m pretty sure that when the original letter writer wrote that, she meant the former. What she’s actually OK with is it being used for general inspiration for people to write their own letters in their own words.

    1. Leah*

      Wow, shamed. One of the guys call himself a creative marketer who thinks outside the box, and half his LinkedIn is your cover letter! I would laugh if it wasn’t so infuriating. I predict in another few years, Hiring Managers will check cover letters the same way college Professors now check papers.

      The worst part is someone might decide that the creator is the plagiarizer. That happened to be in 10th grade, and it still pisses me off.

      @Joey – Because it was expected that people suck, she can’t be upset that some people do, in fact, suck?

      1. Joey*

        Well to put it into context Cover letters will never be so good that they outweigh a poor resume or interview. It’s the equivalent of someone lying about education or job title which people do all the time. And those lies get uncovered all the time.

        And even if someone does fake it through the first time they’re tasked with writing at work they will be up a creek.

    2. Zillah*

      On LinkedIn, at least, it’s pretty easy to report them for copyright violation. I’m not sure LinkedIn will take any action, mind, but I just reported a couple people for lifting phrases from the Westeros cover letter.

    3. LBK*

      My favorite example of plagiarism I found was a mashup of your letter and the one this post is referring to. They basically alternated between paragraphs of your letter and the other one. Two instances of copyright violation for the price of one!

  33. Lamington*

    we have a mole!! In all seriousness, thanks Alison for sticking to your guns and protecting your content.

  34. GigglyPuff*

    Oh my, with everything else aside, if I had been looking into using them, this would have completely nixed it for me. Went to their cover letter portion of the website, and the header shows a resume, and it lists Appalachian State University, with the address of Starkville, MS


    If you’re going to bother using a real place, at least put the correct info (or did they not even know it was a real University?) And then on another place on the resume, in the same picture, they list a fake college…if you’re going to list real things in one place, at least be consistent instead of mixing in real with fake. Least that’s my opinion

  35. Golden Yeti*

    I wonder if you should go back and edit posts like that so that the cover letter used is a secure pdf that can’t be copied from or printed? I know it doesn’t help with all the aspects of people copying from the site, but maybe it would help with the cover letter copying at least.

  36. Iro*

    Sadly my general experience has been that anyone who is inconsiderate enough to plagirize, will also be enough of an A**hat to try and accuse you of plagarizing them.

    This happened to me at a previous company. We worked with a 3rd party quality advisory company who contracted individuals out to help with certain process improvements. During this time one of these contractors took my work and put it in a presenation to senior management claiming it as theirs. To my knowledge when my manager called them out about it they claimed I must have stolen it from them ….

  37. Melissa*

    I’m honestly not surprised, and I am suspicious of most resume/cover letter-writing services anyway after seeing experiences my father (a terrible writer who will get someone to do his writing for him any chance he gets) and my sister (actually a good writer who was given terrible advice by my dad, lol) had with these kinds of services.

    One in particular was pretty bad – a resume writer my dad employed and that “helped” my sister by creating a resume for her. I don’t do resumes for a living and my field actually uses CVs, but even I could tell that this resume was bad (tiny green font, misaligned rows, vague job descriptions – sometimes in paragraphs). The thing that took the cake is that the resume writer listed references on the resume and listed herself as a reference. WTF? Thankfully I’m pretty sure my sister didn’t pay her.

    I went to check out her website (the resume writer’s) and found that she has a writing business in which she purports to write all kinds of documents for people. But the written prose on her website was filled with spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors.

  38. CollegeStudent*

    I may be wrong, but can’t Alison sue this resume writing company for plagiarism? I’d figure that since this company has repeatedly denied over and over again that the cover letter was not plagiarized – to an extremely ridiculous extent – that would be enough to take legal action.

    Or is the whole thing so ridiculous and mind-boggling (LOL, when he went on this tangent about how the employees were GOT fans), that it’s just not worth it at this point?

    1. fposte*

      Plagiarism isn’t itself illegal. Additionally, it’s likely to be the original cover letter writer, not Alison, who’d hold the copyright and have standing to sue. And since generally the point is to sue for your financial damages, and it ain’t cheap to file such a suit, rarely are people going to bother unless they demonstrably lost a lot of money as a result.

      1. Original Letter Writer*

        Yeahhhh…much as I would love to sue them for general asshattedness and lousy business practices, I haven’t been able to come up with any actual damages to me from their actions. I’ve thought about running it by an attorney friend, but even typing it out makes me feel a little ridiculous. I guess I consider my payment to be the lovely front row seat I was granted as this all went down.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think you’ll probably get more effect from the public ridicule anyway. Though I’m starting to think it’s time someplace like Gawker had a look at these places–that would be some major internet humiliation, and it would give a lot of people a heads-up about using them.

  39. Catherine*

    You know, male fans of GoT kind of hate Cat. Almost as much as Sansa. If this guy were to pick a character – it would probably be Ned or Jon or Tyrion or any number of other characters including Ramsey freaking Bolton before he’d use Cat.

    1. Sarkywoman*

      I don’t know any male GoT fans who hate her, but I personally dislike her a fair bit. (And love Ramsay, fwiw.)

  40. PurpleChucks*

    This HAS to be the BEST use of stolen material: If Beyonce Wrote a Cover Letter…

      1. Artemesia*

        I wouldn’t even consider this plagiarism if it were my letter; it is pretty hilarious and fun not mean.

        1. A Non*

          Yeah, if I were someone who had to deal with plagiarism on a regular basis I would have a folder labeled “too funny to sue”.

    1. Original Letter Writer*

      I remember seeing this discussion and had to stop reading because my feelings were getting hurt. :p

      1. Artemesia*

        I remember someone attacking the film 32 Short Films about Glenn Gould saying they didn’t know who Gould was but obviously some composer of really crummy piano music. Glenn Gould was of course a virtuoso pianist and the music in question was written by Bach.

        So consider yourself the Bach of cover letters and the commentators among the clueless.

    2. A Cita*

      One response to it refers the OP to check out the advice on this blog! (Post #37)

      I also saw a forum where someone blasted someone else for posting it as their own, acknowledging that it was plagiarized.

    1. LBK*

      The irony is pretty great. Clearly the text skimmer that decides what ads to put on the page doesn’t have a filter for if the entire page is trashing that product.

    1. A Non*

      I hope I’m reading that wrong and you did not retweet the entire text of an article about plagiarism. :-)

  41. Red*

    That’s too bad. I had great luck with a resume writing company. (I seriously still get calls based on that now outdated thing!) I guess scum are everywhere.

  42. Donna Svei*

    Resumes writers can provide a valuable service to people who aren’t experts at marketing themselves, or don’t have time to market themselves. It’s important to know how to evaluate what you’re going to get before you pay for it. I write resumes. Here are some steps consumers can take to improve their likelihood of getting a good resume:

    1. You get what you pay for. Don’t buy a low cost ($200 is low cost) service and expect a high quality product.

    2. Ask to see samples of your specific writer’s work. If you don’t like the samples, you won’t like the resume they write for you.

    3. Connect with your writer on LinkedIn. Then read their recommendations. Make sure the majority of their recommendations are written by actual clients — not just people who know and like them.

    4. Make sure your writer has experience making interviewing and hiring decisions — lots of them.

    These simple steps will help you make a better buying decision.

    1. fposte*

      You forgot #5: Google sample text from all their examples and anything they provide you with to make sure it’s not stolen before you give them a penny.

      (I think maybe you didn’t read the article you’re commenting on.)

    2. Alternative*

      And, make sure they don’t blatantly copy someone else’s writing, right? I’m with fposte, I suspect you may not have read this article before commenting.

    3. GigglyPuff*

      Because internet reviews are so trustworthy?
      Especially if the person is “quoting” clients, yeah right

  43. Trainer*

    I have a question…

    I’ve read a lot of the tips on this site and the general consensus is that you should not use artfully designed resumes unless you you’re a designer. What if a big part of your job is creating beautiful, eye catching presentations? Would it be ok in that circumstance to use a few touches of color and some design elements just to show your esthetic? I’m not talking about anything as over the top as Loft Resumes, but something simple, that is just a bit different than the ordinary black and white resume?

    I haven’t done this, and right now my resume is really working for me so I probably won’t mess with it, but I’m curious.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d be inclined to put links in my resume to eye-catching presentations — thus using a formal resume format but also showcasing the skills. Having a strong but conventional resume design would actually speak to one’s versatility.

    2. Mander*

      I think that a little bit is probably ok, but unless everyone else in your field is using the wacky infographic style I’d keep it on the tame side. I added a bit of modest colour and used square bullet points on my most recent CV and everyone I showed it to liked it, but the actual format is still pretty conventional.

    1. Original Letter Writer*

      That was an entertaining read, and now I want to try that metadata trick on the “proof” that Alison was sent.

  44. Technical Editor*

    As a freelance resume and cover letter writer, I don’t think it’s fair to lump all resume companies together like this. Some of us interview our clients thoroughly and work very hard to provide original, targeted, and custom content. I don’t just copy and paste stuff I found online into a boring Word template. Some people really need help selling themselves, and I have an excellent track record of getting people better jobs in less than 3 months after a year-long (or more) unemployment stint. So…there’s some good apples in that rotten bunch.

  45. Not So NewReader*

    I just got finished reading the book about the couple behind the poem “Footprints”. Her husband was a minister and the book basically describes her life. She created this poem and shared it with a few people. This was a poem then went viral, in the days when computers were not commonplace. What upset the author was that it was made so commercial, people put it on anything and sold it. She never made a penny. And she tried to stop the copycats. There was no stopping it. The poem would crop in so many new places at an astounding rate.
    I never realized that the author never made any money on her work. I have bought a few things with the Footprints poem on them.

    Where she landed with all of this, after about 7-8 years of agony, was that at least it is out there for people to read and consider.

    Alison and Original LW, if nothing else, please do not let it leave you jaded, don’t let it eat you up inside. They can copy your words off the screen, but they cannot copy how your mind works. They cannot copy the next clever thing that you will think of. There is no way to anticipate what cool thing you will attack next. And this is where you both win big time.

    Dull minds need to copy off of someone else’s paper- because they KNOW they are not capable of generating this type of work themselves. I cannot think of a bigger defeat than privately knowing that you have to copy someone else because you cannot do the work yourself. In the long run, they are the massive failures.

  46. Labyrinthine*

    This really makes me mad. I found AAM when I was in a really bad place, career-wise. I specifically found you when searching for ways to improve my resume because I was getting zero interviews. Taking your advice has led to a job I love and finally (finally!) a job that pays me a living wage. I am convinced had I not found your advice I would still be earning poverty wages, working in jobs I hated because I couldn’t get anything else.

  47. JC*

    AAM is now the 4th google hit for me for Loft Resumes, right behind their website, facebook, and twitter pages!

    1. JC*

      Wait, I take that back…it’s not this post, but an older post of AAM’s on not buying professionally designed resumes. Still, hope potential customers have been reading it.

  48. Rich*

    Well this is messy.

    I’m laughing heartily at the fact someone(s) is trying to justify what’s happened despite all the “similarities.” I won’t write off resume services all together because I know people doing good work (I’ve also did many a resume for folks), but job seekers definitely need to be careful.

    It’s real in these HR streets!

  49. Domi*

    Ah yes, the futility of arguing with unreasonable people – it just doesn’t generate high returns. And this IS a lesson that you can apply in some workplaces :)

  50. jasl*

    This may appear terrible to some but I firmly believe that if you can’t create your cover letter or resume in your own words you have no business applying for a job. It’s one thing to get tips and inspiration but if you can’t communicate in your own writing you are misleading the reader.

      1. Mander*

        I think I’d be pretty unhappy if I were hiring and got a beautiful resume and cover letter, even for a post that didn’t need many writing skills, and found out after I hired the person that they could not actually write that well and had hired someone to write their application for them. I think that anyone who doesn’t write very well would need to be careful with the kind of help they receive so that they don’t give the impression of possessing skills they don’t really have.

        I think it’s fine to get help with spelling, grammar, organization, what to include or leave out, and so on. But if you get too much help and the resume/cover letter writer does things like add words you don’t really know or writes the text in a style that is dramatically different from the way you normally speak and write, it could come across as misleading in an interview because your application materials are not written in your own voice.

      1. Jessa*

        I loved that but didn’t want to call it out cause it’s fun to see it yourself the first time. But yeh. Awesome tag.

  51. hayling*

    Honestly I had a great experience with a resume coaching company, but they don’t write it for you. There’s a lot of work on your end to think hard about your experience, come up with concrete numbers and achievements, etc. I felt like my new resume was a much better representation of my experience – and made it seem more transferrable since I was shifting industries a little bit. And having worked on it for so long made me understand my experience better and therefore better in interviews.

    That said, this company mentioned in the post sounds awful!

  52. The Writing Guru*

    As a Certified Professional Writer, business owner and member of various professional resume writer associations, I was appalled at the fact that a resume service would steal your work product and pawn if off as the service’s own work. Additionally as a lawyer, I am even more outraged at the lack of ethics and professionalism. I am certain this resume service was more concerned with quantity of clients served versus quality of clients served and was therefore likely a factory/mill resume service with a junior outsourced writer doing the grunt work. Not all resume service companies are evil, I assure you. A relevant tip to ensuring your service is ethical is working with the resume writer one-on-one and knowing *who* is actually writing your resume. Always know the credentials of your resume writer. Please feel free to contact me for more info. I am happy to assist you in making sure your work product stays as yours.

  53. ThomasT*

    Loft Resumes’ Twitter handle is “We create resumes that standout. Get noticed. Get hired.” That should tell you everything right there.

    In case it doesn’t, consider that their cover-letter service costs $60. This may seem like a princely sum when you are job-hunting, but when you consider that this covers one round of revisions, as well as whatever their profit margin and overhead costs are, you can see that you are either getting an absurdly small amount of someone’s time and/or the time of someone who is not well-compensated for ostensibly professional writing. I say this not to justify one bit their plagiarism, but to point out yet another reason that this offer is never going to get you good, original writing.

  54. Kat A.*

    This post by Loft Resumes on their Facebook page is ironic given that it’s about lying — or rather not lying.

    Loft Resumes
    Jan 27 ·
    Don’t be a resume liar! Working with a professional resume writer can help make your content shine without dishonest embellishment.

  55. Sharyn Essman*

    Please allow me to offer a slight tweak to your advice not to hire someone to help you compose your resume.

    The best way to get help writing your resume and accompanying materials is to get a referral from someone you know and trust. Employing a resume service is like employing a hair stylist: you’re joining forces with someone who can help show you in the most favorable light. The key is collaboration. If you surrender control to a writer who doesn’t help illustrate your strengths, your resume will reflect only how the writer sees you, not necessarily who you really are.

    As a resume writer for more than 20 years, most of my business comes from referrals. I help my clients take part in every step of the transaction. I quiz you about what you like to do, where your strengths are, what you would do for free, and what you wouldn’t do for any amount of money. We analyze your skills and achievements to identify what it is about you that gets you where you want to go. We work together identifying language that is comfortable for you, and will be accessible to potential employers. Your participation in writing and editing will give you familiarity with the material, and confidence in your qualifications. By the time we’ve finished, you will have been through at least two practice interviews. You’ll be able to speak about your resume as if you’d written it yourself, since, in essence, you have.

    As far as needing help composing your own resume being a sign that you can’t write: it’s not just about writing. It’s also about selling yourself in a way that will appeal to a reader, and it’s quite hard to evaluate your own qualifications impartially.

    Thanks, and good luck.

  56. Bee*

    I was seriously considering of sending my resume/cover letter to one of these companies as I’m getting desperate to find a job. But after reading this post, I have to reconsider.

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