should I tell a candidate she was rejected for plagiarizing her recruitment test?

A reader writes:

I work for a translation agency where I am also in charge of recruitment and selection for my team. After the initial phone screening, I send out a test to candidates and evaluate their language and translation skills. To evaluate all candidates against the same parameters, I send them the same document in English and request them to send me back the translation in my language. This test piece was created specifically for recruitment testing so neither the original nor any translated versions are available publicly.

Two days ago, I rejected a candidate’s test. He wrote back asking me for “an example of what you are looking for.” My boss asked me to send a test completed earlier by a successful candidate. In hindsight, that was probably not a good idea.

Today, we had another candidate apply and I sent her the test. Within 15 minutes, she sent me the “translation” back. That struck me as a bit odd. The test piece is short — 150 words — but it is not possible to complete it in a mere 15 minutes. When I started reading it, I realized it was the identical document I had sent to the candidate I had rejected two days ago. The document properties showed that it had been created by the successful candiate, so it was clear that the document had been passed on to her and she had merely re-attached it and sent it to me.

After I alerted my boss, he told me to send out a rejection email. I generally just send a generic form letter. However, I am really tempted to mention the reasons behind the rejection this time. Is it unreasonable for me to do that? If not, how do you suggest this be communicated to her?

Yeah, not only do some candidates plagiarize, but they do it in really foolish ways. I’ve had people submit the cover letters from this site as their own to me, with almost no changes. (I’ve never sent candidates examples of other people’s work for this exact reason — it’s just too likely to get passed on to someone else. Instead, in response to that request I say I’m not able to share other candidates’ work.)

It’s particularly bad judgment to plagiarize a skills test — since if they don’t have the skills for the job, that’s going to come out once they’re hired, and they’re likely to be fired. It’s a real act of self-sabotage. I assume people who do that haven’t thought about what happens after they get the job (or perhaps don’t have especially strong critical thinking skills in play in general).

Anyway, I understand the impulse to let them know they were caught. I let a few of those cover letter plagiarizers know. Sometimes it’s satisfying to let people know you see the ridiculous thing they’re doing and that it hasn’t worked.

There’s also an argument that it’s a kindness to them to let them know, so they (maybe) stop doing it.

Some of them, though, are shameless and don’t care. I once pointed out to someone that the writing exercise he’d submitted to me had paragraphs that were copied word-for-word from something online, and he told me it was just “coincidence.”

Someone is sure to tell you that people are desperate, and you should understand what they did within that context. I think you can understand that people are desperate and still consider it a bad thing to try to cheat a better-qualified — and maybe equally or more desperate — candidate out of the job.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. It’s fine to mention it if you want to. It’s fine not to. (Although in this case, it sounds like your boss is telling you not to — if that’s the case and if that’s something he’d normally have the final call on, I wouldn’t reverse that without his explicit okay.)

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Nonprofit Nancy*

    Sadly, you will probably now also want to change at least a significant sentence in the test you will use moving forward, because the “leaked” answers may be on line or somewhere. To save yourself time, perhaps the first sentence would be one you change.

    1. Casper Lives*

      This was my first thought. Now that the “right” answer is out there, some people will search for it and cheat.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        At the same time, speaking as a translator, I would say that demonstrates good research skills. I once painstakingly translated three pages of heavy legal stuff only to find at the end that in fact it was a text published by the EU in both my source and target languages, with just a few bits deleted here and there.

        When I worked in an agency, we handed out several tests and told the candidates to translate whichever ones they felt like translating. That gave us an idea of the type of translations we could entrust them with (no high finance for me thanks!) as well as an idea of their style.
        We did once have a candidate who plagiarised. She did the test in-house and apparently came across a printout of a test executed by a previous applicant. Almost word-for-word the same, mistakes and all. We didn’t bother telling her why she was rejected. So she won’t make any more efforts to hide her tracks and other potential employers will be able to screen her out easily like we did.

    2. MK*

      I would think it might be a good idea to change the test on a regular basis, if not every time they hire, at least every so often. And/Or to have a selection of tests to choose from.

        1. valentine*

          I would think it might be a good idea to change the test on a regular basis, if not every time they hire, at least every so often. And/Or to have a selection of tests to choose from.
          I would have a large enough selection that it’s unlikely anyone but an obsessive will try to capture them all. Even if the tests are only done on-site, candidates could photograph them. I’ve noticed a business’ surveys switch the multiple choice order, and that would be good to do here. You could change the sentence/clause order to create unique tests you can trace back, like some productions do with scripts.

          Privacy is another great reason not to share candidates’ work.

          I think the rejected person was planning to do the work under the primary plagiarizer’s name.

          1. Marketing research*

            Marketing researcher here–any good survey should have the order of multiple choice answers to a question rotate, unless there’s a good reason for the answers to be in a particular order. (E.g. “Please rate this item on a scale of 1 to 5” needs to stay in numerical order.) There will always be a few random idiots who just choose the first answer (or the last, or whatever), but at least this way their bad responses get distributed among all the possible answers and it’s just noise in the data, instead of skewing the data in one direction or another. So that’s why you will generally see multiple choice order changing!

          2. JessaB*

            I think it’s also telling that the meta data was not changed. The person submitting the plagiarised translation didn’t even bother to check if it could be identified as not theirs. That’s…another reason to not hire them. They can’t even plagiarise correctly (I know I know it’s wrong and in any case it should be an immediate “we are never going to hire this person” mark against them but still.)

    3. anonymous 5*

      +1 Hilarity can ensue if the languages in question have some good opportunities for a very subtle difference to produce a dramatically different meaning!

        1. allathian*

          Thanks for the laugh!

          For the OP, I’d definitely recommend changing the test every time they’re looking for new employees. You’re looking to compare the applicants against each other, not to earlier ones.

        2. Quill*

          Oh, the number of teenage classmates who made a mistake, like saying that they ate the color orange for breakfast, and then followed that up by loudly announcing a pregnancy…

          My favorite though (and the story that got me my current job) was the poor guy who rendered our culture and civ professor speechless with laughter with a sentence about removing the octopus from a wine bottle.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I was once giving an English speaking test to a Mexican student, and I said, “Tell me about a time when you felt very embarrassed.”
            He gave me a very confused look, said, “You mean…?” and did the “pregnant belly” gesture.

    4. irene adler*

      I’m thinking that folks who are bent on cheating may very well notice that first sentence being different. Hence, they will be on guard that this exercise is different.

      Might be more ‘interesting’ to change a sentence mid-way through the exercise. Then their laziness shows as folks don’t often check through the entire document. They read the first few lines, conclude they are the same and then turn in the plagiarized exercise.

      1. Chinook*

        This would be why it would be wise to change soemthing in the middle. This way you can catch a cheat hile cresting a new test.

            1. YesImTheAskewPolice*

              In addition to the great article linked by SK, here are two about maps:

              Trap streets, inserted to catch unauthorised copies:

              And hidden illustrations in Swiss maps, done mostly for fun (something we Swiss aren’t always known for):

              (I first came across both links through the awesome

              1. JessaB*

                I find more links to go to, more books to read, more sites to see, on this blog than on any other.

        1. Ageeknamedbob*

          They sure do. Now go go back in time to 2002 and tell me and my friends the road we’re looking for in the middle of no where SC at 2am is a trap road, we’ll not get lost and save several hours!

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, it’s a common thing, in publishing in general even. As a proofreader it drives me mad but it’s useful:
          A friend of mine sells maps of a famous park with lots of landmarks. Her boss created it with a significant deliberate mistake. Some other people then copied his map and he won the court case thanks to that mistake.

      2. Squeakrad*

        Years ago – Back in the days of AOL messenger – there was a story that went around about a young woman who messaged someone on AOL and asked him to write a paper for her that was due the next day. With some kind of comparative religion paper, and the guy thought it was quite a lark to do it, but stick a sentence in the middle but anybody who read the whole paper would notice.

        The poor girl didn’t notice and submitted it and was almost expelled from school. To his credit, the writer contacted the school and let him know that he thought it was a joke and that the poor girl should not be punished for panicking about a late paper. All worked out and she graduated.

        Back in the days of AOL messenger – there was a story that went around about a young woman who messaged someone on AOL and asked him to write a paper for her that was due the next day. With some kind of comparative religion paper, and the guy thought it was quite a lark to do it, but stick a sentence in the middle but anybody who read the whole paper would notice.

        The poor girl didn’t notice and submitted it and was almost expelled from school. To his credit, the writer contacted the school and let him know that he thought it was a joke and that the poor girl should not be punished for panicking about a late paper. All worked out and she graduated.

        1. Cassie*

          I don’t get it the joke – she’s not a poor girl, she’s a college student who tried to pay someone to do her work for her. She should have been suspended, if not expelled. The fact that the paper was “bogus” is not the point. She still violated (presumably) the college’s academic integrity policy just by hiring someone to write the paper for her.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I know someone who bought a couple of papers off the internet while a student, only to have them come back to her desk when she was an assistant professor…oh, the irony!

    5. JSPA*

      Add another 50 words, and you have a combined skills and ethics test. In the (unlikely) event that someone happens upon essentially the same wording as in your example, you’ll see that the new section is also translated very much as you’d have done it. In the (more likely) event that the translation is plagiarized (and by someone un-clueless enough to wait an hour and change a few words), the new section will be terrible, in comparison. You can still use only the old section to compare apples to apples, once you’ve used the new section to handle the ethics issue.

      1. TiffIf*

        In the (more likely) event that the translation is plagiarized (and by someone un-clueless enough to wait an hour and change a few words), the new section will be terrible, in comparison.

        Or the new section is missing altogether.

    6. Artemesia*

      Yes. The OP needs a completely new test document. A more sophisticated cheater would have made enough changes in the document so that it was not clearly copied and now that it is floating around that will happen. She would also have waited at least a couple of hours to submit it. It was a terrible idea to have sent the passable response out, but we all make mistakes like this on occasion. So a new test document is in order.

    7. Quill*

      Yes, but I’d change more than one sentence – the chances of a candidate doing a quick skim through the plagiarized version and noticing 101 level discrepancies between the two pieces and only changing that one sentence are not terribly high, but they’re there.

      It should probably also be changed completely at least once a year to begin with.

    8. TardyTardis*

      My husband once put out a different version of a test to each of 10 students just for the sheer fun of it (although one of the students was so diligent about copying she also copied the other student’s name. That one was a classic).

  2. The Grey Lady*

    Alison mentioned it, but what do these people think will happen when they get the job and then demonstrate in front of everyone how unqualified they are to do it? Surely that’s more humiliating that just getting rejected up front?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      “If I can just get my foot in the door, they’ll see what a gem I am!” is one of the reasons you’ll hear or they think that it’s something they can learn on their feet “I just need to get the job and I’ll learn the deets later!” [Yeah, usually not the case in a transcription job, you’ll probably get better but it takes a lot longer than most people want to admit].

      The other one is “If I get fired, I’ll get unemployment.” is another less popular one but I’ve heard it. [Yes, lots of time if you can prove they lied in their interviewing/resume then they’d be not eligible for benefits but it’s a risk they’ll try to take, since often times places won’t contest your claims.]

      They’re short sighted, they aren’t thinking about the next step. They’re trying to win the first level of the game.

      I’ve ran across a lot of people who have this problem over the years, most are weeded out thankfully but some have gotten jobs doing it. And it’s as painful as you imagine.

      1. The Grey Lady*

        I obviously have a much different perspective than these people, but I’ve been hired for a job I wasn’t qualified for and it was torture. I had just started taking veterinary classes at my mother’s insistence, and she decided to use her connections to get me a job at a vet office (which is wrong for all sorts of reasons, but I was a surly college kid who didn’t know how to handle my wildly controlling mother). I was supposed to do things I had never done in my life– like handle medicines, help with X-raying animals, etc. The vet was confused by my lack of knowledge (because apparently my mom had lied to him about my skills, thanks mom). I was eventually let go and was ECSTATIC about it. I could have danced out of that place.

      2. The Grey Lady*

        I suppose I just have a different perspective than these people due to my shady, jaded past (sarcasm, kind of). I got hired for a job I wasn’t qualified for once. I had just started taking veterinary classes at my mother’s insistence, and she decided to use her connections to get me a job at a vet office (which was wrong for all sorts of reasons, but I was a surly college kid who didn’t know how to handle my wildly controlling mother). I had to do all sorts of things I had never done in my life–like handle medications and help with X-rays. And I couldn’t do any of it, nor did I want to try because I was so scared I would do serious damage if I messed up. I was eventually let go and was ECSTATIC about it. I could have danced out of there.

        1. Mike*

          Yeah, I remember once finishing a job I was hired for and well qualified for (legal translation of Mongolian to English), and then being asked to try the other, more important part, translating foreign standards into Mongolian. We gave it a try for a month, and it was excruciating–I’m not a native speaker with native-language legal training, and these had to be ready to undergo a short review before being submitted to Parliament. It was the happiest day of many years when we mutually agreed to let me go.

          1. WS*

            Same here – I was hired to translate from another language I speak into English, which was fine, but then the person translating the other way around left suddenly and I was given their work as well. My grammar was fine but my vocabulary and grasp of formal language was absolutely not. I told my bosses repeatedly but they were so desperate that they said it would be fine. (Spoiler: it was not fine.)

            1. jenkins*

              Oof, yeah. I translate, and working into a second language is a big no from me. My liability insurance wouldn’t even cover me to do it, I don’t think. The text might be grammatically correct but I would never be able to reproduce native-level vocabulary and nuance – it would read like crap.

        2. Parenthetically*

          I’ve been in a similar situation, unqualified for a job I HATED — you never saw a person happier to have been let go.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          No worries, I’m the last one to chirp someone in this scenario!

          I agree with you fully, I am not that person AT ALL. I once had a massive panic attack and thought about packing up my stuff and “going back home” to my old job [and commuting 4hrs lmfao yikes but anxiety is a devil] over a job that I actually could do, it was just a lot at the time to take on and it’d been awhile since I did that kind of full scale over-taking of a high position. I don’t fake it until I make it, if I can’t do it, I’m done done done done.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            + 1 to your last sentence. Who wants that kind of stress in their life, waiting around for the other shoe to drop and be exposed? Not I.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I was actually given the advice to lie about my credentials by someone I know who used to work as a recruiter (obviously for a not-great staffing company). They said, “All my friends do it! Everyone I know in [field I was looking at] does it!” Well, I wasn’t dumb enough to actually do it. I may be unemployed, but at least I’m honest. :P

        Several years later, this same person said they had to fire someone for misrepresenting their credentials. I swear, I think my head exploded.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Given the dimwits I deal with on a somewhat regular basis who seemingly know nothing about their “specialty” and “expertise” I can believe there’s a LOT of liars.

          It’s that weird fine balance of over exaggerating and shining yourself up a little too much for the “sales pitch” and just simply being a cheating liar like the OP’s issue.

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            I actually was reading a post on this subject today on Quora- and the number of people who were ‘everyone lies on their resumes.’

            Everyone lies on their resumes? No, that’s not a thing.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I’ve caught my fair share of liars and known them throughout life, so it is very much a thing. “Everyone” is a huge stretch and something that criminals tend to say. “Everyone breaks the law sometimes!” “Nobody pays their full income taxes!” yadda yadda.

            2. Artemesia*

              Some people don’t know the difference between putting their best foot forward and lying — leaving off that 3 mos disaster of a job where you were fired is one thing, adding expertise you don’t have is another.

              1. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

                Also, if it’s a big, US-based corporation there’s a tremendous amount of back checking now.
                I’ve had to provide reference/work confirmation for people who worked here before the living memory of anyone in still working in the organisation. It was two rebrands and two mergers ago and I literally had to go digging through old drives because none of that information got filed as it should have been.
                Work history confirmation I get, but one was a reference! Even if I knew the person, I don’t feel confortable talking about someone I worked with 10 years ago. A lot can change for better or worse

              2. Cassie*

                Just read an article about how a city worker in Japan was fired after 24(?) years because his bosses found out he has a college degree and the requirement for that particular position was high school graduate or lower. Usually we see people inflating their education credentials!

            3. Wired Wolf*

              A friend copied off my resume–we’re both applying to the same store, and she decided that since we both did the” same things” at the old job she could copy my wording…um, no. My job duties were a bit higher-level than hers and one–printing price tags–required permissions that typically only supervisor and above had (a manager gave me specific login credentials because he knew I could be trusted to do the work).

              Now I’m worried that the hiring manager will see that similar wording and think there’s something suspect going on.

        2. ellex42*

          Ditto on the being told to lie by recruiters. A previous job I had has the term “analyst” in the title, and for some reason that’s picked up for a lot of financial/CPA type jobs. I have no experience or qualifications in finance/accounting, and the other word in that job title makes that clear. But I’ve been told more than once to apply for jobs I’m wildly unqualified for (and wouldn’t want to do anyways) because “you’re an analyst, all analysts are the same”.

          They’re really, really not.

      4. Potatoes gonna potate*

        “If I can just get my foot in the door, they’ll see what a gem I am!” is one of the reasons you’ll hear or they think that it’s something they can learn on their feet “I just need to get the job and I’ll learn the deets later!” [Yeah, usually not the case in a transcription job, you’ll probably get better but it takes a lot longer than most people want to admit].

        Sadly I was given this advice a LOT when I was job searching post 2009. Put some fake experience, friends as references, dazzle them in the interview and figure it all out once I get in to hte position. Some of these were people higher up on the corporate ladder. A very misguided sense of “fake it til you make it.”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The thing is that this can happen but it’s SO VERY RARE it’s tragic.

          I’m a “bootstrapper”, I survived and then thrived off my ability to self teach myself and reverse engineer things. And I’ll tell someone to their face that I wish I could replicate that for them but it’s not possible, it’s not normal, I’m not who you should strive to be, I’m an exception not the rule. Then they think I’m just a butthead who is full of myself…I’ve watched so many people fall flat on their career faces trying to step into my foot tracks, I wouldn’t set up another generation or another person like that.

          LOTS of people have magic beans to sell you and just like all the failed “lose weight quick” schemes you have people trying to sell you, career advice is right next to weight loss and quick cash scams.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’m currently telling my work-aged nephews to NOT in any way emulate how I work. I thrive in ‘Chuck me in at the deep end and watch me swim’ environments, I’ve taken jobs not knowing the programming language they use to make the software and learnt quick.

            But, I’ve never lied to do it or said I know something I don’t and it is not a model for perfect behaviour. It’s a terrific way for them to get stress illnesses at age 20!

            I’m unemployed and getting rather anxious about getting another job soon but I’m deliberately ignoring those people who are telling me to ‘stretch the truth’ or pad out my CV.

        2. Blue*

          I wonder if some of this is people who haven’t properly understood the Very Important Difference between “Jobs are often advertised requiring way more experience and qualifications than are actually necessary, so go ahead and apply anyway *if* you genuinely have good reason to think you could do the job *and* you can demonstrate that,” and “What the hell, go ahead and apply for stuff you’re wildly unqualified for.”
          On the other hand, some people just have really excessive chutzpah.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yep. I applied for a job where I had a smattering of knowledge of a “desirable”. When asked in interview how I’d rate myself on it, I said at the moment, about 2 or 3 /10, but that was self taught, I understand the underlying theory and am confident I could get up to speed. I got the job, learned the skill, and was there for over 5 happy years.

            Stretching yourself can work… just don’t pretend!

            1. whingedrinking*

              Exactly. I once interviewed at a tutoring centre where they prided themselves on using the Orton-Gillingham method. I had never once used O-G, but I (truthfully) answered that I had plenty of experience with learning other methods, was willing to learn this one, and was pretty sure that I wouldn’t find it that hard to pick up. It turned out not to be necessary for me, since they were able to find plenty of students who needed someone with skills I already had, but it got me the job and I’m sure I would have been plenty capable if I had needed to learn it. On the flipside, if I’d lied and said, “Sure, I know it like the back of my hand”, then they might have stuck me on day one with a kid who barely knew the alphabet and where my academic English for adult learners background would have done me basically no good.

        3. Happily self employed*

          I got the same advice. I have no idea what I was supposed to do on my job if I said I had X years’ experience with automated teapot glaze analysis on a specific model of glaze analytic equipment when I had only had one lab session with a previous generation using different techniques.

      5. Potatoes gonna potate*

        and to add to this, trying to win the first level of the game IS very much the idea, especially when you’re not even in the game yet you’re just trying to enter the game.

        Maybe I can chalk this up to being an arrogant 20 something thinking I can BS my way through a job.

        Cut to now, I’ve been in my field since 2011 (?) and got my first full time job in 2014, got promoted several times and I still fear that people will think I’m a fraud. I have to remind myself that I’ve not lied on any resume and was honest in all my interviews & conversations.

      6. Amaranth*

        Its also possible they *are* fluent and are considering that means its not *really* cheating – its time management! (Yes, I heard someone argue this.) Which takes us to the realm of crappy prioritization, honesty and decision making. But they’ve got skills!

        1. George*

          Oh my! And here I was saying things in an interview like: I do not have any experience in application to this area, is that an issue for this position?

      7. Paulina*

        There are jobs whose stated qualifications are possibly something someone might not exactly need, initially. And then there’s the ability to translate accurately, when that’s the job. It’s not an “I can poke around until it works” type of task.

        FFS, what a mess an incompetent translator would make, if trusted.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, especially if they’re hired to translate a language that nobody else in the organization is fluent in. In the US, a person who tried to translate to Spanish without being either fluent in the language or having any translation skills would probably be caught, but if it was a matter of translating to, say, Mongolian, it would be less likely that there’d be someone else in the org who knew the language to check the translation.

          I’m a translator, and one of my pet peeves is when people think that just knowing the language is enough to be able to translate, and it really isn’t. Translation is its own skill, sadly underappreciated.

    2. I am a translator (but not the one in the letter)*

      I’ve encountered fraudulent translators before, although for contract positions, not staff positions. Their business model appears to be getting two or three jobs out of each client and then moving on once the client stops using them, and occasionally changing their online name or business name. They don’t appear to be expecting to keep any particular job. (Although some of them respond with a lot of bluster when rejected, trying to put the client on the defensive.)

      I’m aware of one person/company (can’t if it’s an individual operating under a business name or an actual company) who’s been doing this for at least a decade, which seems exhausting! He could have trained up to be a proper translator in that time!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oooooh this sounds like the fly-by-night online retailers I battled constantly years ago. They operate until they get their merchant services accounts revoked.

      2. Caliente*

        LOL this is the thought I always have when people are so into these types of shenanigans! Just handle your business, get your degree/certification/ job / whatever and then you can just move forward without constantly looking over your shoulder or stressing. I guess some folks like to live on the edge…

      3. Natalie*

        Years ago I had a tenant who operated home health care agencies like this. Between him, his twin brother, and both of their wives, they opened a new agency every year or two.

        1. JKateM*

          That’s horrible! Home health and home care clients are among the most vulnerable in our population.

      4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        We had a print salesperson for a while that apparently moved from printing company to printing company in the area doing something similar. He would create fake job estimates in my org’s name so that it looked like his sales numbers were awesome and he was out there drumming up business from potentially big clients! But after he moved on, and none of the estimates ever materialized into a work order, the poor reps that took over his accounts would start following up with us, “Hey, we see Fergus gave you an estimate for that 32-page annual report…” and the jig was up because we never requested an estimate and had never actually met Fergus at all. He used my org as a fake client for about 5 years. I wonder if he needed to move to a new region because he tapped-out this one, or if he finally found a nice employer to stay with and made the effort to build a legitimate client list.

      5. jenkins*

        I’m surprised they manage to get paid for bad work at all, to be honest. My translations get reviewed pretty quickly and any issues fed back to me straight away, normally before I’ve got the invoice in and certainly before it gets paid.

        1. Not a dr*

          There are other companies that don’t check. A beer company in Canada recently had a scandal as they hired a non-native speaker of a language to name a beer, and they named it an insult.

          Trying to find it I googled “mistranslated beer name” and it has happed to some very large companies as well.

    3. Slothy Coffee*

      You would think so! However, as a former ESL teacher I had a number of people coming in for urgent language lessons who had seriously exaggerated their English skills on their CV, been called for interview and were panicking because they needed to demonstrate said skills. These were usually positions which required the candidate to be able to give presentations, make phone calls and follow meetings in English. None of them could explain where the magical ability to speak a foreign language fluently in a matter of weeks was going to come from.

      1. Eva Luna*

        You never know. A childhood friend of mine got accepted to an advanced math program in Budapest. He didn’t speak a word of Hungarian (and had a hard time with high school French, so it’s not like he was some linguistic wunderkind). When we asked him how he was going to handle grad-level math courses taught in Hungarian (he was an undergrad at the time, but had run out of math classes because he WAS a math genius), he told us that there was a 6-week intensive Hungarian language program first.

        1. Eva Luna*

          (Now, 20+ years later, he is married to a Hungarian and is presumably fluent by now after living in Hungary for several years. But the first few weeks in Hungary must have been quite an experience.)

          1. Quill*

            Immersion via sink or swim is definitely a thing that sometimes works – heck, when I (then about to start 311 lit and composition level spanish courses, having studied for 7 years) went on a trip to guatemala in order to translate for my classmates there for a business course, I could feel the gears in my brain switch over and was temporarily very, very confused when I returned to campus for spring semester and had spanish lit back to back with archaeology from my former latin professor.

            I answered questions in that class in a bad mix of spanish and latin for like a week before the prof made a rule that I wasn’t allowed to raise my hand until 20 minutes into class so I could remember which language it was being held in.

            … to this day I can still get deeply scrambled, but at least most of the spanish I speak for my job is actually typed up in emails, not coming out of my mouth. So I can proofread it instead of just stumbling through a fog of romance languages so thick that I occasionally end up in french 101, which I studied for like a year when I was 5 and which NEVER comes up unless I have to spell elephant or bicycle in spanish.

            1. Can’t think of a name cool enough for this site*

              I thought this was just me. I was raised speaking my parents native language and English. From ages 4-9 I remember having to consciously check which language I was speaking every time I switched from school/friend time to family time. (Unfortunately as my parent’s English improved we spoke our first language less and less and now I’m only comfortable speaking it informally with family members.)

        2. kt*

          To be fair, for my PhD in the US I had to translate math papers from French to English and also give a crack at Russian to English (got a pass on that at the last minute). The vocab necessary to *only* do math is pretty well-contained — to woo your wife-to-be you’ll need charm too, though ;)

          1. TechWorker*

            Agree, I think of all the things I’d be ok to try to do in a language I wasn’t that familiar with, maths would be the best. Like, there’s definitely some technical vocab to learn but there’s also a lot of numbers/symbols *anyway* and if you can follow the maths the bits in between might come easier!

            (I had to translate a Russian paper during my masters and google translate + a Russian friend to clarify one particularly important sentence was sufficient…)

        3. Artemesia*

          I did a 6 week intensive Italian program once — and at the end I could easily shop in local shops and pass pleasantries at bus stops — but absolutely could not hold an intelligent conversation. When I lived in Germany as a teen, it took me about 3 mos of living and going to school in a German high school to become fairly fluent — and that was with one year of high school German going in. 6 weeks? not gonna happen unless the person IS a language wunderkind with perhaps knowledge of similar languages.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn new languages. I lived in the UK for a year when I was 12-13 (September to August). I went to school there with almost no skills in the language as I’d been studying English for a year at school at the time (things have changed, my son started learning English in second grade). I did have extra lessons in English, but by Christmas I was able to manage without a native tutor in class, and my English teacher told me at the end of the school year that I was the best speller in the class, when all the other pupils were native speakers. To be fair, English is hell to spell and I learned at least as much vocabulary by reading as by listening. I’m also the opposite of dyslexic, when I’m learning a new language, I need to see a new word once to be able to spell it, although I haven’t tried to learn a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. I was also bilingual already, it’s easier to add another language when your brain is used to coding meaning in more ways than one.

            1. Quill*

              Hyperlexia buddies, hey!

              Of course, I got hyperlexia joined with a speech impediment that reared it’s head back up in my late teens after lying dormant for a decade, so I’m far more reading-fluent in my second language, Spanish, than I am speaking fluent.

              At one point I was also able to manage portugese and italian reading semi-passably, because I briefly studied latin and french (about a year each) enough to recognize a lot more words. And my culture and civ professor admitted to having to look up some of the words that I used in essays because apparently me flinging a spanish ending onto a latin root word that is just not at all common in spanish actually lands on a real word often enough. (I used glorificacion instead of valorizacion – glorify is the far more common way to say things in english, valorizacion (valorize) in spanish.)

          2. Quill*

            God I wish I’d done immersion younger, I waited until I was 19 and my fluency is frequently stuck in what I’ve seen called the “roaring blank” of being almost fluent in the target language to the point of having trouble communicating in either language.

            And this from someone who is probably hyper-wired for languages, having learned to read at 3. (Not to mention the rivalry I had at five when we were studying french with the girl whose grandparents were french! We used to play round the world with our vocab flashcards and the days I beat her were things I was proud of for weeks.)

            1. anonymous 5*

              OMG…thank you for the term “roaring blank,” as it describes perfectly a phenomenon I encounter all. the. danged. time. in my two languages!!

              1. Quill*

                There are WORDS in there and I don’t know where the hell they are, what they are, or what they’re doing, but it’s not good.

      2. Alternative Person*

        Current ESL teacher here and I’ve had this experience too many times too. I’ve had people with massively grand plans- people who think their (often mediocre) writing skills mean they don’t have to develop their speaking skills, three weeks to get a high test score to go study abroad for a Masters, applying to PhD programmes but can’t even put together a passable Personal Statement draft. Some who can’t (as far as I can tell) even fully understand the application information. I’ve had to bite my tongue to not ask ‘What exactly do you think you’re going to do when (if) you get there?’

    4. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I suppose it’s also possible this person does have a decent grasp on the language but was overwhelmed by the pressure of the test and the requirement of having it in an acceptable format for review (they would still likely fail at the job for similar reasons!). I did have a few friends in school with paralyzing test anxiety even when they knew the material.

      1. KHB*

        Yeah, I was thinking they might be skilled enough (say, at a 6/10 level) to do the job and not get fired, but not enough to wow the employer and outshine all the other candidates (which would require being 9/10 or 10/10). At a lot of places, it’s a whole lot easier to keep a job you already have than to get one in the first place.

        The flaw in that thinking, of course, is that an employer isn’t any more likely to hire someone who obviously cheats than they are to hire someone who does a 6/10 job on the skills test.

      2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        My not evil/more sympathetic thought is that the candidate didn’t understand that she had more time. Maybe the guy who gave her the answers said that he spent two days and got rejected, so you have to submit quickly. Not thinking that his submission was not good enough, but just that he was “too slow.”
        Less generous,
        Or it’s a remote job and they figure he can do the translating, but she still has to interview so that is crazy.

      3. kt*

        I taught foreign students in the US in master’s programs for many years. Yes, that anxiety exists: but if the student/prospective employee is ruled by that anxiety, they will not be able to do *anything* useful in the program. One has simply got to get over it. If one remains ruled by the anxiety of formatting and pressure to succeed, one will… cheat on the homework, cheat on the test, try to get some random guy to sit in on the online version of your class to pose as you even though you’re female and of a substantially different build (yeah!), procrastinate on papers, try to get your friends to do all your work without technically cheating, etc. This sort of person who is hung up on how the results look rather than doing the work cannot be a good employee, and it’s not your job in an interview to coach them through that.

        It was my job as the professor to coach students through this, so I employed a lot of techniques: for instance, I said to students “if you hand in your paper a week early I’ll go through & grade & comment on the entire thing and get it back to you so you can revise it before you hand it in ‘for real'”. Building trust and in fact giving credit for certain kinds of “good failure” (explicitly giving credit in a paper for explaining honestly what you don’t understand, giving credit for posting questions in discussion fora, etc) takes a long time and is totally worth it. It’s also not what workplaces are usually about.

      4. whingedrinking*

        Yup. I teach IELTS and the bulk of the class is spent on learning the test format, time management strategies, and so on. It’s not really about content, it’s about how to take this specific test. I hope my students learn some grammar and vocabulary and so on along the way, but that isn’t our focus.

    5. irene adler*

      “I’ll just Google it!”

      After all, Google does do translations of web pages and the like.

      (uh, not suggesting anyone do this. )

      1. KimberlyR*

        Native speakers can tell when you use Google translate. My children attend a school with a language immersion program and the teachers advise that they not use Google translate for whole sentences. Its good to help out with a specific word or two, but typically doesn’t work well when used for the entirety of a piece.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Even one-off words are difficult without a valid dictionary at the minimum. My classic example is translating “battery” in French.
          Context matters. There is a different word for a lead-acid battery that powers your car, and the battery of big guns at a fort.
          We fired a translation company that couldn’t get this right after 3 jobs…and they still email me.

          1. Paulina*

            My favourite example, which alas Google Translate can now handle properly (really it’s good that they can, but correctness is less amusing), is the translation to English of the French “avocat”. Could mean lawyer, could mean avocado. Before translating programs used context, they used to translate a certain recipe instruction as “take two ripe lawyers and slice lengthwise.”

            1. Dr Rat*

              A follow up from the classic line in Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. Then you make dinner from them. Waste not, want not.

            2. Jess*

              My favourite Google Translate fail happened to some Anglophone friends of mine in Germany a month or two ago. One of them got an electric shock trying to change a lightbulb in the new flat, and his partner translated the email she’d written to the letting agency to German with Google Translate. Unfortunately, that meant the agency got an email saying their tenant had been electrocuted and died…

            3. whingedrinking*

              The time one of my Spanish speaking students said “My mother is a nurse and my father is an avocado” is my second favourite thing a student has ever said in class, and my favourite one that I can tell to other students.
              (My favourite error, which I cannot tell to students, is the time one of them was giving a presentation and meant to express the concept “manual labour”. Instead he said that a particular service provided “hand job”.)

          2. Christina*

            I handle translations and multi-lingual content creation for my company, which writes about sports. Our previous translation manager wasn’t fluent in the target languages and probably didn’t have any double-checking going on.
            The English word “tie” has many meanings. I was shocked when our German content had the word for “necktie” in the context of a tied soccer game. That content has since been refreshed with something I’ve personally proofed.

            1. GerryL*

              Years ago I heard a story about a young German woman at an American college who told a stuffy professor that she admired his bow tie. Except she falsely translated from her native language and caused raised eyebrows when she announced that she admired his fly.

        2. Windchime*

          Yeah I once tried to send a google-translated message in Russian to my close friend, a native Russian speaker. It was a really simple message; just a couple of sentences. She and her husband got a good laugh out of it because it was such a bad translation.

        3. jenkins*

          Definitely. Google Translate seems to be getting more sophisticated to me than it was when I first got into the translation field umpteen years ago, but it still doesn’t produce text you could publish and it comes up with some right howlers.

          1. Quill*

            When google translate was brand new, around when I was in high school, we used it to check which words to look up in our spanish/english dictionaries so we could work out the correct tense and grammatial gender from the notes. It didn’t get useable for spot-checking verb tenses until I was in college, and now I only use it to spot check new vocabulary words to make sure there aren’t any false cognates around, because I’ve given up on doing any verb tenses other than present, simple future, and simple past.

        4. aebhel*

          I mean, if you’re using google to translate something in a language you don’t speak, you can usually get… enough coherence to get the gist of it, at least in my experience of reading international news articles. But it’s never going to be pretty.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        In my last job I had to generate notes in French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, and Afrikaans.

        I had to write technical “how tos” — I have no hesitation about telling people I used Google Translate.

        Lekker dag. Bly sterk!

        1. Quill*

          Lol. I once worked at a place where everyone was bilingual, but I was the only person who was fluent in a second European-originating language… my boss turned up with a technical document one day and said “hey, do you speak german?”

          Me, squinting at it “nope, I barely recognize that this is actually danish.”

    6. Nonke John*

      I think a lot of people who are pretty solidly bilingual think that that’s all they need to work as translators, and it just isn’t. Depending on your specialization, you don’t necessarily need to go to translation school (I didn’t), but you do need to have a feel for a certain kind of pattern recognition, or else you’re going to need to double-check most of the words and search for phrases using Professor Google. I suspect that it’s common for applicants to know that they can’t produce a serviceable translation in the time limit for the test but to figure that they’ll be able to do okay when they have hours or days for an assignment.

      1. LunaLena*

        Yes, this was exactly what I was thinking. I’m bilingual enough that I worked as a bilingual customer service rep once, but written language + knowing business-specific words is different, and I would never dream of applying to be a translator. I can easily see someone thinking “I speak [language]! I can do it!” without realizing that being conversational is not the same as fluent.

        There’s also the fact that a lot of people tend to think that any art field, including language arts, is easy to pick up and anyone can do it if they try (isn’t that what Rosetta Stone and all those other language-learning programs promise?). I see that a lot in my own field (graphic design), where people equate “I Photoshopped some pictures once when I was a kid” or “I like art” with being a graphic designer, and there are plenty of people who think the designer simply presses a couple of buttons and the computer pops out a finished design. I can think of three times in my career – all at separate places – where I met or heard of people who faked their portfolios or skills to get the job, but had absolutely no clue what they were doing once they got there and ended up in a big mess. They simply think that, given the right software and a bit of time, they can figure it out, all they need is someone to give them a chance and they’ll rise to the occasion.

        1. Jess*

          Yep to this. I did a diploma in translation; my first 300-word assignment took me about 8 hours. It would take me less than an hour now. And there are a lot of sneaky grammatical issues that I wouldn’t have picked up on before I studied translation – I still see people make those mistakes when I review other people’s translations now. Just being bilingual doesn’t mean you’ll be a good translator.

      2. Artemesia*

        You can read a lot of reviews for international sites in Trip Advisor that are obviously written by employees pretending to be American or British tourists and yet who give it away by using expressions that native speakers would never use. e.g. Gentile gets translated as gentle and they talk about the tour guides ‘gentle service’ which is not English.

        you see the same thing on sites vending Chinese goods and with tons of reviews that are similar and just slightly ‘off’ all attached to western names.

        1. Quill*

          Sometimes you can even figure out the first language based on grammar construction – adverbs and sentence tense agreement are common issues, as is, with some of my chinese colleagues, a complete hash of which pronoun is chosen in any given circumstance. (from what I understand most of east asia has a very different approach to what a pronoun tells you than english, which basically only asks ‘male, female, unknown gender, or not human?’ until you get into neopronouns.)

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Ha. I was reading a novel once and one of the characters was supposed to be American (from Nebraska, I think. Somewhere in the Midwest). But the author was British and slipped a few phrases such as “trod upon” into that character’s dialogue. While Americans will certainly understand something like that it’s not really the go-to phrasing in the US.

          1. LunaLena*

            Was it an Agatha Christie book, by any chance? I love her books, but it always cracks me up when she wrote American characters and what it says about how Brits saw Americans. Like, Americans almost always travel with a revolver, they say “gee” and “gosh” and “sure” excessively or chew gum, and tend to be overly friendly or chatty (though she often also acknowledges that Brits are too reticent in comparison). The dialogue she gave Americans in particular always gets me, because it’s so off it’s more of a caricature than reality.

      3. allathian*

        Yeah, this is pretty much my pet peeve. I didn’t go to translation school either, but it is a skill that’s pretty separate from general language skills.

    7. Smithy*

      I do think that often when it comes to “cheating” or “pushing the rules” – very often the assumption of “everyone does this” gets manipulated.

      In job hunting, the perspective of fluffing vs padding vs plagiarizing a resume varies from person to person. When it comes to written assignments/tests that sliding scale may be might be thought of as reviewing vs editing vs plagiarizing. Say the OP puts on the assignment “work as all your own” – someone who has a colleague review and is told “hey the second sentence sounds weird, I might use another word/phrase/tense instead” would likely still be able to competently do the work. But from an ethical standpoint, I’m sure there would be mixed feedback.

      1. Quill*

        Based on what I’ve seen, I think the modern approach to getting into college trains more people to cheat than might otherwise. Because EVERY paper and EVERY test is the ONE THING that will determine your future!

        God I’m glad to not be seventeen anymore, my gen Z cousins probably wouldn’t have had it any easier in a couple years if the pandemic hadn’t just taken a massive bite out of everyone’s plans.

    8. Esmeralda*

      They aren’t thinking about it at all.

      When I was a new college English instructor, I used to get really angry when students would plagiarize. “How stupid do they think I am?!” I’d fume.

      Then a more experienced teacher said, Get over yourself Esmeralda, they’re not thinking about you at all. They’re not even *thinking*.

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      I wonder the same thing about marketers. I work in a small law office. I am usually the backup person to answer the phone. (Nowadays I am number one, since I am the guy who comes in every day.) I end up fielding a lot of marketing calls. The people calling correctly identify me as a barrier to speaking with the practitioner, who is the one who makes buying decisions. So they want to get past me. A surprising number try to accomplish this by lying to me.

      For example, I might get a call from someone who says he is a lawyer from some other state, looking for a local lawyer. This is an entirely plausible call. Lawyers are licensed on a state-by-state basis, and you might end up with a case needing a lawyer in some other state. If you don’t know anybody in that state, you take a stab at it and start cold calling. But since you are offering to send revenue their way, it isn’t at all like a typical sales call. Except when it turns out that you are actually a referral service, looking to sign up clients. That is, in fact, a typical sales call. So when I buzz my boss and tell him I have a California lawyer looking for local counsel, and it soon turns out that it is actually a referral service, my boss knows that this guy lied to me to get to him. Is this actually a winning strategy? Do they think that my boss will be impressed by his creativity and gumption? In reality, they have given my boss a strong warning that they are untrustworthy. I get the feeling that these guys think that the short-term goal of getting past me to my boss is entirely unrelated to the ultimate goal of persuading my boss, as if we don’t talk.

  3. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Too late now, but it seems like it would have been a good time to deploy the rejection form letter within about five minutes of receiving the application, and let the applicant wonder what happened. Lol

  4. many bells down*

    I agree that many plagiarizers simply double down on the lie when called on it. I’ve seen it happen, more than once.
    Once, in an online forum that was hosting a wtiting contest, about 25 people submitted the identical piece … which was the first result of a Google search for that topic. At least 20 of them then claimed to be the original author of the piece. Some of them would have been 3 years old at the time.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Yeah if it was me, I wouldn’t bother with the “gotcha,” personally. Flat rejection as quickly as possible. If they have the nerve to follow up, I might not be able to resist but yeah, people like this never admit it in my experience. You should also privately blacklist the other rejected candidate.

      1. JSPA*

        The other candidate may well be making good money selling the “correct” answer. Definitely a “do not hire.”

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          It seems like an oddly niche market though. Selling the correct answer would only work if he had a list of people applying to THIS one company. I’m just trying to work out his business model on this. I wonder if the first rejected client was actually a career coach or placement agency that was trying to get a cheat sheet for his clients…

        2. Firecat*

          Since OP mentions it was provided as an example, is there any reason to think that the other candidate didn’t pass it along to a friend in the same vein?

    2. Wendy*

      This… plus they may very well just take the heads-up as “be better at not getting caught” instead of “don’t do this.” All a warning might do is make them sneakier at their deception next time.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Knew of someone in college who took the conversation that way. They were totally flabbergasted when they were caught a second time the very next semester and expelled from college for cheating.
        This was also a state school, and it was marked as expelled for cheating and lack of academic integrity on the file – so they couldn’t get admission to any other state school in that system. We all thought that was karma in action, as this kid had complained that they didn’t get into any of the prestigious private schools in our area and were “slumming it” at the rinky-dink state school instead.

        1. Diatryma*

          I am so glad to hear that there were consequences for plagiarism. I am of the ‘set them on fire’ school of plagiarism– I view it as worse than cheating because it can happen outside of tests and school.

        2. Quill*

          Ooof, I’ve met (and mocked) that person too. Though in my case it was someone in my high school, who was trying to commiserate with me about not getting into any ivy league schools… when I’d only applied to one and my first choice school which I got into on scholarship, was actually a local private college, and they were complaining about having to go to the third largest (and third most desirable for my graduating class, given that it was on the far side of the state and NOT known for parties or city culture) state school.

          It was petty as all heck but I had a grudge against her because she broke up with one of my middle school friends on valentine’s day for “spending too much time with me” when we were literally trying to plan how he could surprise her with his valentines day gift. So I took great pleasure in that one. :)

    3. anon just to be safe*

      I edited an online journal about 15 years ago and we had someone submit a piece we’d already published to us. The editor who called him on it said he wrote back with some kind of pretentious blather about how he was trying to prove that journals like ours published the same kind of piece all the time, without apparently any recognition that his scheme had failed with us so his point hadn’t been proven at all.

      1. Artemesia*

        Decades ago when teaching high school I had a student submit a term paper where the first and last pages were in different type face and the middle was already marked up with red pen. From that time forward I always made sure whether working with high schoolers or PhD students to construct writing exercises that were not easy to acquire. (the original incident was before PCs and so he would have had to actually physically retype the copy he was plagiarizing and was too lazy to do so; later of course students could pull and copy things on line). The assignments involved them doing things with material from the class with new content. It is possible to have someone else do your work for you but you won’t find a bunch of canned answers on line.

    4. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I had a college professor meet with me and ask if I’d plagiarized my essay in class*

      I was a writing major and my writing skills back in college were just way better than my speaking skills. AKA, the way I came across in person was NOT how I came across on paper….which is why I enjoyed writing so much more.

      *I didn’t plagiarize.

      1. LunaLena*

        You’re in good company… best-selling novelist Neil Gaiman has a story about that too. He said one of his school teachers gave him a bad grade on a creative writing assignment when he was a kid because the teacher simply could not believe that a schoolboy could be that imaginative, so he must’ve plagiarized it from somewhere.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          nice. I chose to take it as a compliment back then, even if it could be intended as the opposite.

      2. Agile Phalanges*

        I got accused of plagiarism by a college professor once, because (like the OP) he had checked the properties of my Word doc and seen it had originally been created before the start date of the class. That’s because I had documents saved in MLA format and APA format, with title pages and without, with bibliographies and without, or whatever, to use as templates, from all my college classes throughout the years. I would sub out the information each time, but keep the template with all the margins, fonts, and formatting of the references as they needed to be, to make my life easier rather than looking up all the required specs each time. So I explained that to him and invited him to please run the actual content through a content checker, and he would see it wasn’t duplicated from anywhere. I was just too lazy to set up each new document each time. And I still do this a TON in the working world. As do most people, I believe.

      3. Quill*

        Oh god I had one of those in elementary… no, ma’am, I am PERFECTLY capable of writing 10 pages of horse and dog and fairy themed bullshit, I’m nine. I just have a stutter!

        Meanwhile any teacher who had actually spent time with me was like “yeah, she does this, often instead of doing her actual schoolwork.”

    5. Telly Lace*

      I was a TA for a computer science source when I was in college and I basically just graded papers that students submitted every week. The papers were summaries of presentations given by guest lecturers from different CS areas and were super simple to write and put together and graded very generously because they were just used to make sure the student was there and paying attention and learning something. In fact, most people in the class would take notes in paragraph form during the presentations and submit them at the ends of class and the instructor was fine with that. I ran every paper through a platform that identified potential plagiarism, and one week a student submitted something they had copied and pasted from the presenter’s actual website and then tried to submit as his own work. Even when the professor talked to him about it, he insisted he had done the assignment and said that maybe the presenter had taken his work for their website! It was one of the wildest things I have ever seen.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        As a TA, I used a website during class to illustrate how to describe specific kind of effect and gave the assignment that students use a similar approach to describe effects that they came up with. One student printed out a page from the website and submitted that. So lazy!

        On another assignment, someone cut-n-pasted several paragraphs from a published article into the middle of their paper. The contrast between writing styles plus the sudden use of numerous citations (not included as references) and the occasional mention of Figures not in the assignment was a pretty obvious giveaway.

        I didn’t bother to provide feedback on why they failed the assignments and no one ever pushed back. At some point it has to be obvious enough to a cheater that they failed because they’re bad at cheating.

        1. Mel*

          Yes…so many bad cheaters! My favorites when I was a TA were the people who copied their classmates answers…including the spelling errors.

          1. Quill*

            In my organic chemistry lab it was theoretically possible to cheat… by giving the ancient, manually recording gas chromatograph a solid smack at the right time (so the pencil would swing away and record a “spike” in the readings.

            So our professor had one TA stationed right next to the machine at all times, bored out of their gourd, to prevent instrument-smackage.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I suppose if you’re too lazy to do the work, you’re too lazy to cheat properly too.

  5. I am a translator (but not the one in the letter)*

    I wonder if the two candidates might be the same person using two pseudonyms. I’ve seen fraudulent (or, at least, incompetent) translators using multiple names/pseuds.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Actually if it’s most online, as the translator bank I’m familiar with is, that is could be quite likely TBH. I did wonder how the two apparently unrelated applicants knew each other and why the one would do the other this favor. But I suppose if it’s an uncommon language it might be explained if they’re classmates in the language program or something. Perhaps applicants do often know each other in a smaller field.

      1. Annony*

        It wouldn’t hurt to do a quick google search and make sure it hasn’t been posted somewhere.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That was my thought as well – better check for that test online.

          May also be time for a new test piece OP.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          As an aside, we found out at my work that all of the certification tests we gave were compromised on a popular flashcard site used by high school students.

          We were displeased, and yet there was nothing we could do about it.

          1. Rosalind Montague*

            I used to give my students a weekly current events quiz written by a journalism teacher friend of mine and distributed via a listserv…EVERY YEAR she would have to remind the listserv not to post the questions and answers online because teachers across the country used it, and depending on how teachers used it (I used it as a game/scavenger hunt/group activity, not very high stakes, more of a conversation starter) there was always someone who would unthinkingly post the questions *and answers* on their open teacher websites… One time I had a group find the answers online obviously during class and I switched quizzes mid-stream to the NYT quiz and….they told me *I* wasn’t being fair…!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        We would typically advertise only at the one translation school so the various applicants would have been in the same classes. It’s a pretty small world.

  6. Annony*

    I don’t think telling her why she was rejected will achieve anything. Someone who submits a plagiarized skills test isn’t going to suddenly become honest because they were caught. Most likely she will think she was unlucky and got caught. Possibly she will try to be a little sneakier next time and change a few word choices. She almost certainly won’t think she was in the wrong.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah, this isn’t someone who unknowingly committed a faux pas, and therefore it would be a kindness to alert them to it: instead, this is someone who deliberately did something unethical, so the chances are pretty low that it would do any good to let them know.

      1. Aphrodite*

        It might work to tell them that if you also tell them that because of what they did that you will not accept any applications from them in the future, that they are, in essence, on a blacklist at your company.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Agreed. And I would most definitely blacklist the person who turned in the assignment.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      It will achieve a moment of “ha, thought you got away with it, you scoundrel.” Or maybe I’m the only one who likes that kind of stuff.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        But will that really make you feel better? Someone who has the balls to submit something within a short period of time that is clearly plagiarized is not going to be affecting by someone telling them they were caught. It will more than likely lead them to be sneakier about it next time. I find that a stock rejection would be better, because it might leave them wondering why (if they really even care). Of course, if they respond and ask for details, I’d be honest.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Nah, I wouldn’t do it. I prefer the idea of checking every.single.application from now on to see who else is working with the original guy. But it’s just an answer to the question “what will this achieve.”

  7. MissDisplaced*

    It will depend on the policies of your company, but if you have the ability to let them know that you know it was plagiarized, I would tell them this was the reason they were rejected. They know they did it.

  8. Translator Too*

    Oooh! Translation is my line of work. Now I am curious to see the document and the plagiarized translation. And if anyone is thinking that it could be coincidence, I will tell you that it is not likely. You can give the same document to five different translators and get five slightly different valid translations.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      When I was reading the letter I was hoping to hear from someone in the field to tell us whether some variation should be the norm or not. Thanks!

      1. Roja*

        Backing up Translator Too, I’m not in translation but I have worked in transcription and captioning, and you will 100% have variations. Even if it’s worded similarly (obviously for my work, it needs to be straight from the video), the punctuation will give it away. I simply cannot picture a situation where two editors/translators/transcriptionists/captioners punctuate an entire document exactly the same. Nope.

        1. Anita Brayke*

          I’ve always wondered; do the “captioners” (I’m thinking you mean captions on TV shows/movies/etc.) type the captions ahead of time? Or as the video/show/movie is playing (or being broadcast or whatever)?

          1. Beth Jacobs*

            Yes they do. They get the original script and translate, sometimes without seeing the audiovisual work itself (which is not ideal, because you miss a lot of context that way).
            Simultaneous interpretation is really really hard – it’s done for court hearings, important press conferences, negotiations, etc. – but it’s not something you do if you can prep ahead of time. I’d say most translators can’t do simultaneous interpretation, it’s a whole different level of skill.

            1. Kage*

              This explains so much. A lot of times when we watch tv, we’ll also keep the captions on (volume usually lower to avoid waking kids). It has always bothered me when the captions will be vastly different from the actual dialogue. Like “how did they get that from what was said?!?!” different. It never occurred to me that they might be doing the transcription from the original script and not from actually watching the final product. Fascinating. Thanks for the info!

              1. allathian*

                There’s also the problem that you can only fit so much text on the bottom of a screen and expect viewers to be able to read it. Closed captions are not a literal translation of dialogue, it’s intended to convey the most important parts of the dialogue to viewers who don’t understand the original language. Closed captioning is definitely not my skill.

            2. allathian*

              Yeah, I can’t keep two languages in my head at the same time. In a pinch, I can do consecutive interpretation when the vocabulary is very limited and I’ve had time to prep. As in the speaker says one sentence and pauses so I can say it in another language. But it’s way, way out of my comfort zone and I’ve only had to do it a few times in my career.

        2. Lizzo*

          Sidebar: we’ve had live captioners cover some of my organization’s in-person events (back when that was a thing), and I’ve been incredibly impressed by the speed and accuracy of the professionals we’ve worked it.

          Thanks for doing the important work you do! #accessibilitymatters

      2. JSPA*

        This may change if people rely more on machine translation, and then just massage the awkward bits. (There are better tools out there than google translate.) But if you’re looking for translators, not software wranglers, it’s still a “tell.”

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          No matter how much you massage something, it is incredibly easy to tell when someone has done a machine translation. There are certain tells in grammar and word choice that stick out like a sore thumb.

          Like there are tells that someone has bad [language] skills, and there are tells that someone has used machine translation.

          1. Kimmybear*

            Yes. So when I need to crank out translations quick and dirty (like a staff email) I throw it in Google Translate and then ask a native speaker to edit. Much faster than using a professional translator (which I do use for important documents).

            1. Arvolin*

              Quite a few years ago, I was assigned to set up the framework to translate a program we used on the shop floor to Japanese. I wanted some visual indication that I was getting it right, so I translated all the phrases using Google Translate. While I know a very few words of Japanese, I absolutely cannot read any of their normal writing systems (katakana, hiragana, or kanji). Sometimes, Google would offer me several translations, probably because the English words could have different meanings (think “lead” as a metal or as something a person can do), and I pasted in the first one.

              A while later, my manager told me, rather diffidently, that they’d had to change a few of my translations some. It sounded like my manager was trying not to imply that my translations were at all bad. I found that funny.

      3. Quoth the Raven*

        I’m also a translator, and I absolutely agree. It’s never exactly the same; there’s always small (or large) changes depending on several factors.

        1. GerryL*

          Years ago in a college linguistics class, I did a project comparing several different translations of the first few pages of Madame Bovary. It was a challenge to present the analysis on the page Because the samples were so different. Literary translation is not the same as translating business writing, but all types of writing some level of creativity.

      4. Owler*

        I’m probably dating myself, but hearing two translators battle it out for which phrase should go in the translation memory file is a fond memory for me. It made me realize that translation and localization is more of an art than just word substitution.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I used to work at an agency and another translator proofread all my work. She was a stickler for keeping it as close to the original as possible, I was a stickler for making my English prose sound as English as possible, and if possible add in a creative twist like an alliteration. We could argue for hours! and I loved it, I think we both learned a lot.
          The best was when I was translating some blurb about a new night-club on an African theme. The text was waxing lyrical about the sensual music, I called it “Afrodisiac” music. My colleague said no, there aren’t any puns in the original document, so we mustn’t introduce any, that would change the style too much.
          I argued back but gave in to her because the time to pick my kids up from school was looming. Then at the last minute, just before sending the file to the client, I sneakily changed it back. Within ten minutes the client wrote back to thank me for my delivery, and gushed about how great my pun was and they were going to rewrite the original to include it (since it would work in the source language too). They sent their gushing response to the general email address so my colleague saw it too and realised I’d changed the text back, but of course since the client was thrilled, she couldn’t exactly tell me off. It was never clear who was to have the final say, and we both brought a lot of passion to our work so arguments were epic, I loved it.

      5. Cassie*

        I would imagine variation would be the norm. Even if you give 5 English speakers the same prompt (like summarize Cinderella in a paragraph), you should get different paragraphs. Some words may be exact matches (stepsister, ball, prince, glass slipper), some short sentences might be very similar, but the paragraphs as a whole shouldn’t be exactly the same.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      It even says in the letter that the document properties list the original candidate as the author, so even the “thousand monkeys writing Shakespeare defense is out”.
      But yes, as someone who has done some translation work: the chance of getting an identical translation on anything over 50 words is zero. And if you’ve ever read a foreign work in two different translations, it can make a huge difference. For example, with Master and Margarita, I’d consider the Glenny translation to be superior to the one by Kabulson.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        It even says in the letter that the document properties list the original candidate as the author, so even the “thousand monkeys writing Shakespeare defense is out”.

        That was the part I was coming to comment on. The candidate is not only a fraud, but an incompetent one to boot! I would definitely tell the person why they were rejected and that they will no longer be considered for any position with my company ever again in life. Someone that unethical, sloppy, and just plain dumb shouldn’t be working.

    3. Nonke John*

      I agree. Even for highly formulaic content (legalese, technical documentation), if you’re giving translators full paragraphs to work with, the probability that they’ll all choose exactly the same punctuation, conjunction equivalents, and phrase order is essentially 0.

    4. Observer*

      In this case, it’s even worse. The metadata on the document shows that it was the actual document that the OP had sent out. The person was so sloppy and lazy that they didn’t even bother to copy and paste the text!

    5. allathian*

      Yes, this. I’m a translator and I’ve been a part in hiring other translators and in evaluating translation agencies for outsourcing. There’s more than one way to translate a text “correctly”. Often it’s a matter of house style. There can be more than one way of saying something without fundamentally changing the meaning, but the org has a preference.

    6. Alternative Person*

      Not a translator, but a teacher and same. I’ve worked with translators and there can be a lot of variation, especially in levels of formality and sentence structure.

  9. anonymous 5*

    I have a handful of questions that I’ve built up over the years that reliably reveal who looked online. In one extreme case, I’ve been getting copies of the same (not even correct) answer for a decade. And the amount of doubling down I’ve heard is…stunning.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I really wonder how the professors deal with this in the academic setting, where it’s actionable. The students are not likely to ever admit fault especially knowing it may lead to expulsion.

      1. Mike*

        My nephew got hit with a plagiarism charge. Not as complete and egregious as this but still a no-no in an academic setting. He admitted it, lost some financial aid, but got to stay in school. A group mate that fought it got expelled. So, owning your mistakes can still be beneficial.

      2. WiscoDisco*

        The students don’t need to admit fault. Usually, they cheat/plagiarize in ways that are very easy to discover; a professor gets pretty good at discerning when a student’s writing style or comprehension level changes suddenly. From there, it’s usually a matter of a quick Google search or looking at other students’ submitted work. The cheaters can be comically sloppy and brazen in their attempts!

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My brother teaches off and on (he has a job that is hosted by a university but he is not technically a direct employee of said university) and on more than one occasion he has used the phrase “lit up like a Christmas tree” after running something through Turnitin. He deals with a lot of disadvantaged first-generation college students so counseling them to do otherwise is always his first step, but after that they’re toast. Most of them shape up.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            That’s why I fall on the side of telling the applicant they were rejected because they submitted a plagiarized translation. Yes, the applicant could absolutely be someone who doesn’t care and doubles down, but they could also be from a disadvantaged background where they weren’t aware plagiarism isn’t acceptable.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I wouldn’t, not for a professional gig.
              College, where your professors have an obligation to help you grow and to help you transition to the new “universe” you’re in? Yes.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                That’s fine in a world where everyone can afford to go to college and therefor have the opportunity for professors to teach you those lessons. It’s also fine if OP or anyone else doesn’t want to add “for plagiarism” to their form rejection email, but I fall on the side of adding two words because at worst they double down and you get a laugh and at best you gave someone a wake up call at practically no effort to you.

                1. Trans-later*

                  If you plan to work as at translator, you shouldn’t need things like “must speak language” and “must translate things themselves” to be explained to you. This is like “cashiers shouldn’t steal from the register” level basic ethics-in-the-field stuff.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I’m going to assume that most translator job require a college degree and at that point, they should know better.

              I mean, I would probably tell the applicant, anyway, but I wouldn’t hand-hold them the way I might if I were a college professor. They shouldn’t need that kind of teaching any more.

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  Needing to be told not to plagiarize the *literal purpose of the job* seems pretty hand-holdy to me.

                  If somebody applying for my job plagiarized a translation it would be embarrassing but not crucial since ability to translate is a nice perk but not at all a requirement for what I do. Plagiarizing a translation for a translating job is a much bigger deal.

              1. Jackalope*

                I’ve done professional translating and interpreting and never needed a degree for it. One of the languages I did study in college but not the other one. So that’s not always true.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  I started out without any kind of degree, and later got one on the strength of my professional experience. However, I was the only one out of 20 on that scheme to actually end up with a diploma.

                  I’ve never managed to get good translations out of people without a degree. Even some with a degree can’t hack it. It is really rare, especially nowadays, for someone to be able to produce a decent translation without having studied the languages and possibly the subject.
                  It also depends somewhat on the subject matter: hard-core engineering/legal/medical texts are often best translated by a bilingual engineer/lawyer/healthcare worker than by a professional translator who has all sorts of translation techniques up his sleeve but knows practically nothing about engineering/legal/medical.

              2. allathian*

                Translation is a profession. While working as a translator doesn’t necessarily require a degree in translation science or linguistics, most organizations that hire translators do require at least a Bachelor’s degree, in some cases a Master’s degree.

            3. mark132*

              It’s a cost benefit analysis. There literally is almost zero direct upside to tell them, and more downside.

              And tbh I find it rather condescending on your part that you would think someone from a disadvantaged background isn’t aware plagiarism is wrong. I suspect the vast majority are well aware of this disadvantaged or not.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, I agree. And I must admit that I have very little patience for people who say that if something isn’t explicitly forbidden it must be permitted. It’s OK to expect ethical behavior without spelling out what isn’t considered ethical.

          2. Yvette*

            Do they then check to see if the material was sourced within the document? What if someone’s writing style was to include famous quotations “I have but one life…., …a far, far, better thing…, I regret that I have but one life…” etc. with attribution?

              1. Casper Lives*

                I had to use in high school and it absolutely does check for quotations. Plus the teacher sees what’s highlighted and where it matches, so they can look into it.

                1. PeanutButter*

                  That’s if they check the highlights. I had one professor in college accuse the whole class of blatant plagiarism because our assignments were all ~50% identical, word for word.

                  The instructions on the exercise specified we were supposed to include the original questions verbatim on what we turned in.

              2. Rosalind Montague*

                It’s not plagiarism if you are citing properly…most academic writing uses quotes on purpose to support points and build arguments.
                Services like flag anything it perceives as “unoriginal.” It does not make the value judgement whether the unoriginal material is plagiarism; that’s the job of a human brain. Plagiarism can be intentional cheating, desperation, or honest lack of writing or organizational skills. It’s the teacher’s job to discern and decide what steps to take next.
                In my career teaching high school English I saw, among many other examples: paper that was pretty honestly written but borrowed all its examples and arguments from a collegiate paper found online…paper written for another class and about 95% repurposed for mine…paper with “chunks” imbedded into it borrowed from online sources because the student kept all of their research and writing in one file and forgot what needed to be paraphrased…paper fully bought and paid for that a friend had written for another class…Which of these was an F-earning offense, and which of these were teachable moments?
                I found turnitin to be a wonderful teaching tool because I could upload examples of all of the above and ask the students how they would instruct the writer to solve the problem.

            1. KittyCardigans*

              If a professor is using something like Turnitin, it has features that include or leave out quoted material. But also, Turnitin just highlights the “plagiarized” parts; it doesn’t do the grading. It’s still the teacher’s job to actually look at the highlights, see if the program is overzealously catching quotes and common phrases, and treat the paper accordingly.

        2. mark132*

          > Usually, they cheat/plagiarize in ways that are very easy to discover;

          The ones that get caught likely do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean most cheaters do.

      3. Chinook*

        I cauggt one high school student who did a copy and paste. I just returned it to him and thanked him for doing his research, noe he needs to write it with one more source.

      4. nm*

        The students who I have dealt with for cheating were not the double down type. Instead they were more likely to cry about how stressed and scared they are and how they’re so sorry and will never cheat again. In fairness, none of them ever did cheat again during my class.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          Same here–this is the most common type. I like to think they learned a valuable lesson.

          I had one student plagiarize one paragraph, not a whole paper, and he admitted it at once and argued with me about why it wasn’t a big deal. It was really strange. I was not able to convince him and he did it again later.

        2. Red Tape Producer*

          My friend is a professor and has this situation all the time… with post-graduate level students. One plagiarized my friend’s own publication and then argued that it was so stressful being an international student, supporting her family and being relied on to get everyone immigration status. My friend did understand, she’s a immigrant herself, but you can’t just copy (word. for. word.) your own professors work and expect to have zero repercussions.

          1. Paulina*

            Yes, I see this a lot. And I understand that they’re not very good at writing in English, and are looking at the original and can’t think how to write about it any differently… but I also teach them how to approach the situation, and staring at an original and rearranging a few words isn’t it. Their writing is supposed to be based on their thoughts. Even if their wording isn’t very good at first, that’s fixable; plagiarism isn’t.

            1. Alternative Person*

              Same. I wish more schools integrated Academic Style courses into their programmes because so many people (native and non-native speakers) struggle with it.

              I’ve taught quite a few Academic English/Study Abroad Prep courses and they’ve been some of the most fun I’ve had with students, but damn, some of the early one-to-one feedback sessions are brutal.

          2. Dr Rat*

            Oh, dear. This reminds me very much of an office I worked in where we hired someone who had a friend at the main office. She showed up late every day, including her first day, and spent all day on the phone talking to friends. When someone pointed out she wasn’t doing any work, she said maybe she would switch to a different position. When the boss called her in to fire her, she started complaining that everyone was discriminating against her because she was Filipina. Apparently she had never noticed that the freaking boss was ALSO Filipina. She got fired in Tagalog.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, in college. By the time they’re applying for jobs, they should know not to do it.

      5. Gingerblue*

        Yeah, I’ve dealt with about equal numbers of plagiarizers who admit it and ones who don’t, and schools have very little problem imposing penalties on the ones who don’t. If your paper is cut and pasted from Wikipedia, we don’t really care how you try to explain it away.

        Some places where I’ve worked have slightly different resolution processes for students who admit wrongdoing versus those who don’t, generally leaning towards a faster resolution and a bit more leniency for the ones who do. At one university, for instance, I could impose a fitting penalty on a student who showed remorse, but one who insisted they’d done nothing wrong had to be turned over to the dean, who was usually going to be harsher than I was.

        A first offense is very unlikely to lead to expulsion, however, at least at most US schools. I’ve only seen repeated, flagrant cheating lead to consequences that severe. It’s more likely that you’ll fail the class or an assignment in the class, have a mark on your transcript, get to have a variety of embarrassing conversations with professors or deans or peer mentors, have to appear before a school honesty council, etc.

        Anyway. This job applicant is a good demonstration of why we try to hammer these things into students.

        1. Hillabear*

          It really depends on the school. During my time at Uni, an acquaintance of mine turned in an old homework from a student who had taken the class previously. She got an f in the class and suspended for a year.

      6. anonymous 5*

        Personally, I give an immediate zero and report to the dean. I have zero tolerance for the bs

      7. JSPA*

        I had to tell a very weak student that if she chose to plagiarize, she should

        a) not steal someone else’s homework off the turn-in pile while my back was turned and then turn them both in the next day with the apology that they must have gotten stuck under her binder and
        b) not plagiarize from the A+ student, whose responses to even routine questions tended to be groundbreaking and unique (and draw on his very unusual past field experience).

      8. lemon*

        Not a professor, but I was an academic writing tutor and it is very obvious when students plagiarize. Like, I can tell when I talk to them that they do not know what “deontological ethics” means, or when a sentence is written in a totally different tone/style than their normal writing. Plus, most universities use a digital service like Turn It In, which automatically scans papers and gives a plagiarism probability score. It is very, very easy to discover plagiarism.

        The trickier part of things is that a lot of students don’t intent to plagiarize– they just have no idea how to write an academic paper, or how to properly cite a source, or how to put what they’ve read into their own words. And some don’t even realize what plagiarism is. I had one student who thought that it was okay to turn in a paper that someone else had written if she had paid them to do. “I paid them, so I own it, so what’s the problem? You can do that in the business world…”

        And yeah, people in the business world do. After tutoring, I moved on to editing health articles written by SMEs (nurses and nutritionists), and they would lift entire paragraphs from sites like Web MD, and had no idea that what they were doing was plagiarism– they thought that was just “doing research.”

        1. HR Bee*

          When I was getting my MBA, my professor had me resubmit my final paper with SELF-CITATIONS because Turn-It-In or whatever system they used was flagging my own work from previous milestones. I thought it was ridiculous. I can’t even imagine trying to actually plagiarize with so much technology out there to detect it.

          1. cyanste*

            The funny thing that I found out during my master’s is that it really is considered plagiarism when you self-cite with no citations — never thought that was even a thing but makes sense in hindsight.

          2. Artemesia*

            I have seen academics get in big trouble for plagiarizing their own work. Once it is published, you can’t just copy it into new articles without citations; it is still unethical, even if you were the original author.

          3. lemon*

            Haha, yeah, I’ve gotten dinged this way too. I dropped a class after turning in the first paper due to scheduling conflicts. I took the same class again the next semester, and the first assignment was exactly the same, so I turned in the same paper. Turn It In flagged it as plagiarism (I guess technically it *was* self-plagiarism). Thankfully the prof was understanding.

            Self-plagiarism is an issue (or so I’ve been told by professors) because it can mean a student is turning in the same paper (or parts of it) for multiple classes. For academics, it’s an ethical issue because it can be a way to game the system by inflating your publications.

        2. Fancy Owl*

          When I studied abroad in the UK, the students at my uni had access to the same Turn It In type software that the professors used, so we could check our papers for potential plagiarism before we turned them. I loved that, wish all universities did it. For non-cheaters like me it gave me peace of mind and it might have deterred some plagerisers if they bothered to check their papers with it and saw most of it get flagged.

          1. Nope, not today*

            My school (online) ran all papers through Turn it In when you uploaded it, so you could see your score and what was flagged before hitting ‘submit’. Still super frustrating as a score over 10% or 15% or something was not allowed, even if all the bits that were flagged were properly cited (and in a 750 word paper you were required to have at least X sources, etc, so a large percentage of your work was alwayss cited research). There were a few times where my cited info that was in my own words and cited had to be rewritten multiple times to pass the TurnItIn threshold…

            1. allathian*

              That’s insane. I hope that the software is advanced enough these days that it can tell the difference between properly cited material and plagiarized stuff.

          2. TiffIf*

            I could see the Turn It In flags before I turned stuff in too! It helped me because I read a lot and will sometimes mimic exact phrases from something I have read without realizing it.

        3. old curmudgeon*

          I got my degree later in life (in my 40s, at a university that had a pretty decent non-traditional-student program), so most of my fellow students were well past typical college age and into professional careers. It was a mix of online and in-person classes, and while I prefer the in-person variety, there were a few required courses that could only be taken online.

          One of the online courses required students to submit a research paper on a topic related to the class at the end of the 13-week semester. I don’t recall exactly how long it was supposed to be, but it wouldn’t have been more than fifteen pages at most (it wasn’t one of the more rigorous courses on offer), and with 13 weeks to research and write a paper, it was one of the more enjoyable requirements in that class for me.

          The day before research papers were due to be turned in, one of the other students in the class messaged me asking if I had finished my paper, and if so, what subject I chose. I replied that I had indeed finished it, and briefly described the subject. His response was “I am having a really hard time getting started on this, could you email me your paper for inspiration?”

          Right. It’s the day before the paper is due, and you want to read my lengthy, detailed, exhaustively researched paper with inline citations and a list of references nearly two pages long, solely for inspiration. INSPIRATION. Suuuuure, I believe you there, Spanky.

          I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered that he thought I was the best writer to steal from or insulted that he thought I was stupid enough to fall for a story that lame. Either way, he got bupkis in response from me. Though I don’t doubt that someone else in the class was gullible enough to fall for it.

      9. aliceintheacademy*

        I work on academic integrity (plagiarism, etc.) at a college. Most students do admit to their bad behavior, though some are certainly as shameless as Alison describes. Our bigger issue is that students think admitting to their error means they shouldn’t be punished, or should be given just a slap on the wrist. We have a process by which students can appeal after they’re confronted with a violation, and our rate of appeals has gone WAY up in the last few years with students admitting fault but insisting that their punishments (think: a zero on an assignment, an F after a second occurance) are just too harsh.

      10. Cassie*

        I would guess some (not all) professors look the other way or simply give the student an “F” – reporting it to the Dean of Students or academic integrity office probably leads to a lot of paperwork and some profs may not see it as worthwhile.

        Univ of Toronto’s Governing Council regularly publishes case reports of students (or alumni) who have been brought up on violations of academic integrity (minor violations are worked out between the student, prof, dept; these are the “big” cases). At least a few graduates have had their PhD degrees revoked after plagiarism in their dissertations was discovered. It’s quite an eye opener!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      “I’ve been getting copies of the same (not even correct) answer for a decade. And the amount of doubling down I’ve heard is…stunning.”

      It really is my work, honest. The problem is that so many of these people have either never been called on their cheating or have never had to suffer a serious consequence for the cheating. So of course they’re going to try and bluster their way thru it. Some people are just stunning in their ability to “fail upwards.”

      1. Artemesia*

        Decades ago teaching high school I had 160 students across 6 classes and some years they were all the same subject. When I would grade 160 essays I would first skim and sort them into 5 piles by quality and then go back through and grade them reading similar quality papers in one sitting. It was one way of making sure I was fairly consistent even with the fatigue or so much reading. (I had 160 essays every week to 10 days on top of all the lesson planning)

        So inevitable two mediocre papers, one from the second period class and one from the 5th period class ended up in the same pile. Presumably the students had assumed I would never notice they were identical because they were in different classes, but there they were, word for word. We had weak cheating consequences in the school, so I just gave them whatever points the paper earned — say it was 78 and then split the points between them. I had two sheepish students show up and the one who copied his friend’s paper asked me to give the friend all the points. It seemed to be an effective lesson and it put the onus on them to figure out a solution.

    3. Phony Genius*

      The best story I ever heard about this was from one of my science teachers, back in the days before the internet. One of his classes was mostly remedial students. He assigned them to write a one-page paper on a health-related topic. While he was reading the handwritten papers, one stood out. It was written by a student who had such difficulty reading, that he wrote the notes from the blackboard very slowly, looking up at one letter at a time to copy it. This paper was written perfectly at a level that seemed much above this student’s ability. The teacher couldn’t believe what he was reading until he got to the last paragraph. That last paragraph was a perfect transcription of the copyright information of the pamphlet that he was copying from.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – that makes me feel sorry for that student. I wonder if he was struggling in more areas than what was easy to spot and just needed some accommodations/help but had no idea that they were possible. Or no idea that accommodation was something that had to be asked for?

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. Although in the times before the internet, I’m not sure what accommodations would have been available, if any. Or if the students were doomed to fail the course.

  10. Sled dog mama*

    Alison your person who submitted multiple paragraphs copied from the internet reminds me of a student I had one time. I was teaching a high school (junior/senior) science course and as part of the course students had the semester to write a 3 page paper on a topic relevant to the class (there were mini deadlines along the way, and the point was to give some of the more humanities minded students a way to shine in the class). I had a student who, when first draft day rolled around (and first draft only had to be 1.5 pages) turned in a copy/paste from Wikipedia on his topic. It wasn’t even a good copy/paste he only copied enough to get the minimum length so it ended in the middle of a sentence and at least one paragraph was cut off partially. I called him on it and (this was a private school) his parents withdrew him from school the next day.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Love it when they leave in the weird formatting, inappropriate line breaks, font changes etc from the copy-paste. Most of these types are not very clever.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Unfortunately all that kid learned is that Mom and Dad will fix all my problems for me forever……

      Good for you on calling the copy-paster on the stunt though.

      1. Annony*

        I don’t know. Being pulled from the school sounds like a punishment depending on where they sent him next.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          What a great story for future students. “I had a student who plagiarized an assignment once. After I caught him, he disappeared. No one here ever saw him again.”

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends, we don’t know that he didn’t get yanked from that school and sent to a military academy instead. If my parents were to make me disappear from a school after being caught for cheating, you could probably start looking for some fresh holes in the back acreage! I’m kidding, they wouldn’t have murdered me because they’d prefer I live to keep suffering ;)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          True. I guess I was basing it off of my experience with parents that over-react like that are the ones that “fix” all of their kids problems for them. He may also have been yanked to a worse school in punishment for what he did.

          (Reason number 7,000 that I left teaching.)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          That reminds me of an episode of Welcome Back Kotter (wow I’m old) where a high school student turns in an essay, and his teacher says “I turned in this very same essay 15 years ago.” There are repercussions, but not as harsh as they could be. When the teacher’s wife eventually asks why he’s not more angry about his essay being plagiarized, he says “I said I turned it in. I didn’t say I wrote it.” :-D

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            LOL, you’re not that old, it was on TVland when I was a kid and I’m not quite middle aged, dammit ;)

            I’ve got a note from my mother!!!

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I also remember that episode (and I’m definitely not middle aged yet). I remember loving summer when I could stay up late enough to watch Welcome Back Kotter.

      3. Observer*

        You don’t really know that. It could be, but it could be that they took some other action(s).

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      My senior year of high school we had to write a massive research paper for English class. The internet was still relatively new, but cheating websites existed so our teacher told us to take notes on 3×5 index cards as we did our research, and we had to hand in our stack of 3×5 cards along with the paper as a plagiarism deterrent. What the teacher *didn’t* tell us until after we handed our papers in was that the department had added a requirement for teachers to do a web search for a certain number of random sentences in each paper, to verify that the work was original. So the guy who bought a paper online thought he had covered his tracks by going through it and making fake 3×5 research cards, but he got caught anyway and almost didn’t graduate.

    4. Environmental Compliance*

      I had a college student turn in a lab report that was very obviously copy-paste from Wikipedia. It was a digital submission, and they kept the blue hyperlinks.

      I’ve also had students attempt to copy-paste lab reports from previous semesters. We did change the base numbers, so you could not do that. Not only that, maybe don’t copy-paste from your own lab notebook when you failed the class before, hmm?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Hand smacks forehead.

        At least remove the hyperlinks and try to be sneaky about it.

        I did have a psychology prof in college who knew that there were lots of copies of his former tests circulating in the school interweb. He solved this by constantly mixing up his question order. He didn’t mind you using resources from outside to study – but he didn’t want cheating.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yeah, they were very confused when I called them out on it. Especially obvious too when it’s written at a level significantly above a 101 chem student course.

          “But how did you know????!”
          Listen, I was a college student too – and at the time, still in college. I know about inserting white text in really small font to blow up word counts. I can tell what you’re doing when you include 5 extra descriptive words (“auburn colored, like the color of a brick” versus “brick red”). I can see when you changed the spacing to 1.5 instead of the required 1 in order to get a longer page count. No, cover pages (that aren’t required) do not count as pages, as is specified in the syllabus. I know that you’re probably going to start with Wiki and then (hopefully) use their citations to get more info. At least don’t insult *my* intelligence by including the clickable hyperlinks.

          1. Eva Luna*

            Wow, my problem in grad school was always editing so my seminar papers were short enough, not long enough!

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              To the surprise of possibly no one but them, they would also get offended when their classmate with a much shorter (read:concise) lab report would get a better grade, because they didn’t spend 3 pages fluffing it up and inevitably missing half the points in the rubric, and instead chose to spend their time solidly working on the actual results section. We didn’t even have a minimum word count for lab reports. We asked for about xyz pages on this section, xyz on that section, etc., but it was very specifically stated that Quality is better than Quantity, and good scientific writing is concise and clear.

              They learned, but it was a little amusing/bemusing watching them completely ignore the syllabus/rubrics that were there specifically to tell them what we wanted.

              Similar to the individuals that would pop into my 7:30AM sections with vodka in their water bottles. How do I know? Buddy, you smell like a distillery. No one wrinkles their nose like that when they sip water. And again, you smell like a distillery, and yes, I do know what alcohol smells like, I’m not sure why you’d expect a chemistry TA to not know what alcohol smells like.

            2. Alternative Person*

              No lie, I have cried over this.

              I once took a course where one of the teachers told us that basically the only way to include all the required components without going over the word count was to put everything that wasn’t absolutely central to the topic, but still needed to be noted in the appendices. And, also to include a ‘read but not directly referred to in the text’ list.

          2. allathian*

            And one problem of requiring a certain length and all that padding is that when these people eventually get out of the school system and their professional jobs require concise writing, they’re left with a lot of bad writing habits that need to be eliminated…

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Yup!! We included a specific writing section of the class just because of this. I ended up offering additional mini seminars for it as well for those who really struggled. It’s hard relearning how to write papers when bad habits have been drilled into your brain!

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Translating from French to English, my texts are consistently shorter than what I translated it from. Anyone who produces a test translation that’s longer than the French is eliminated. In English we have to be concise, in French flowery convoluted prose is not considered to be a problem and is indeed used to prove that the writer knows their stuff.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Very memorable, since it’s been a few years, and I can still picture the student’s face during the 1:1 when I told them I knew they copied from Wikipedia.

        2. londonedit*

          I’ve had authors do this in books they’re being contracted and paid to write. Leaving all the Wikipedia hyperlinks and everything. I once asked an author to review some information in a particular section of their book and add more detail, and when the manuscript came back they’d literally copy/pasted paragraphs and bullet points wholesale from a particular website, complete with hyperlinks and everything. When I told them they’d have to go back and present the information in their own words, their response was ‘But you asked me for more detail and I’ve given you more detail, I don’t know what more you want’. Seriously.

      2. Artemesia*

        We had creative and unique assignments in a program I worked in – so students would not find them on the internet — and often the subject matter changed although the analysis structure didn’t e.g. apply a particular theoretical model to an organization that the student was currently interning in. While students couldn’t copy someone’s work per se, the ethically challenged learned that they could go through a previous paper and just sub in the specifics of their organization. They often fumbled this a bit and got caught.

        I have also seen grad students go to tremendous lengths to cheat on the quals when with the same or less effort they probably would have done fine and graduated instead of being expelled from the program as they were. One had failed the first round and was doing a retake. We had him do it on a clean computer. After the first day I reviewed his answers and it was obvious to me that he had used a disk loaded with material and then downloaded it and tweaked it. So the next day, I had the admin go in a half hour before the end of the exam period and confiscate whatever disc was in the machine. And there it was.

        The director of the program was so risk adverse that when I presented him with the evidence asked me ‘well was he told he couldn’t do that?’ Gob smacked I was pleased to discover that yes, each student had received in writing very clear instructions about not carrying any materials into the exams. And so we were able to throw him out. (He should have been expelled for ethical violations earlier in the program but when faced with threats of law suits, the director always backed down)

    5. Narise*

      Does anyone remember the high school that caught 70% of the class or some large number cheating on a project? Instead of failing the kids they lowered the value of the project. Kids who worked hard on their project earned a B so that the cheaters could pass. Many colleges reached out asking for a list of names of the students because they wanted to black ball them but the school wouldn’t provide the names.

    6. blackcat*

      In contrast, I will offer two tales of high school plagiarists:
      1) Freshman (14yo): When confronted, broke down sobbing, admitted everything, showed me the website he had found (I can google, but thanks, kid), admitted to being panicked and confused. I had him redo the assignment. 6 years later, his best friend gets kicked out of college for plagiarizing. He emails me, expressing gratitude that I caught him young and compassionately helped him learn his lesson so he wasn’t in his best friend’s shoes. Kids, they screw up. And then they grow up!
      2) Sophomore (16): Shared her paper when a friend asked for an example of how to structure the assignment. Was HEARTBROKEN when both were referred for discipline (it was explicitly in the syllabus that they were not to share writing with each other outside of structured peer editing sessions). It slowly comes out that copying girl had done this to TONS of other kids. Copier gets expelled. Copyee learns a harsh lesson about how sometimes friends suck.

      Plagiarism isn’t always *the worst* thing. I appreciated kids making the mistakes young, so they learned their lessons before it really matters.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yes – there is a huge benefit to learning this lesson still in school, so that when you get that chance to learn and grow from it, rather than facing real disciplinary action, job loss, etc. Obviously, a lot of students learn to not plagiarize without plagiarizing, but I’d much rather have that discussion early on for a more low-stakes homework than have to walk someone out of a job several years later.

        The students that I caught were 99% of the time panicked and had a moment of irrational decision-making rather than coming and asking for help. Those students I got to watch grow by leaps and bounds over the semester I had them. There was only one that I ever had that refused to learn that lesson, and they retook that particular class about 4 times before finally getting expelled for a variety of reasons, including blatant, rampant plagiarism.

        Can you tell I miss teaching just a teensy bit? The nice parts, like getting to help them learn more how to navigate classes and scheduling and independence and possibly learning that they shouldn’t drink that much on a Tuesday before a lab, definitely not the parts where parents would attempt to shoehorn their way into their kid’s academics or suddenly getting nominated to catch up a rogue TA’s grading and needing to spend 8 hours of grading the day before the grades are due like I don’t have classes myself to get done.

        1. blackcat*

          I miss it, too. I still teach college, but I miss high school kids a lot, particularly coaching. There’s something so amazing about the transformation between 14yo and 18yos, and it’s so rewarding to be a part of that.
          But then I remember their parents. *Shudder* Thank goodness for FERPA in college.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I loved my freshmen. I was asked to move up classes a couple times and declined. Give me my 103 students hands-down every semester. They’re so excited to be there and want to change the world and have all these big dreams, and it was so refreshing and rewarding to watch them adapt and grow and learn. I had a lot of students come back to visit me years later. The weirdest one was seeing a prior student in a bar and going WHAT ARE YOU…. well crap, you’re actually 21 now, aren’t you. Hell’s bells. But I have a few of them on LinkedIn and they’re doing so well.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, I felt almost relieved when I was teaching Academic English and Study Abroad Prep and had students like that, because the students were learning important lessons then with someone who could guide them in the right direction rather than later when it could be a matter of getting kicked out of school.

          (Sure, some of the students thought I was a hardass but better that than getting soft-served and finding out the hard way later)

    7. Wordnerd*

      I teach a freshmen orientation course, and I asked students to write a quick reflection on some involvement experience that was a minimum of so many words. One students who apparently could not bring herself to write one more sentence about the volleyball game she’d attended added a sentence that was not related at all to the topic of the paper but in white font so I wouldn’t be able to see it* to reach her word count.
      *Except she formatted it incorrectly and Microsoft Word put a blue squiggle under the “invisible” text, indicating to me what she’d done.

      1. allathian*

        Just another reason why I wish there was some flexibility in word counts, say an approximate 5 percent margin either way. So if the word count was 200, it would be OK to have 190-210 words. That would also penalize the ramblers but would not force students to try and think up another sentence to get over the minimum.

  11. becca*

    In my little drama-loving head, OP sends the applicant a generic rejection notice, and the applicant inquires as to why her Super Awesome Definitely Correct translation didn’t pass muster…and then the OP lets them know that they know that the document was plagiarized, and that they are a lying liar who lies, and JUSTICE IS SERVED FOREVER.

  12. Tertia*

    If you keep files on rejected applicants, I’d stick a note in the files of both the plagiarizer and the person who gave them the work. You don’t want to hire either of them if they apply for a job in the future.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s a good point. You may not always be at that org/company, and this same applicant may apply 5 or 10 years later. Not that you can’t become a better person in 5 or 10 years, but it’s still something good for the org/company to know.

  13. Lexi*

    Ok, reaching real hard, but is there a chance that the applicant attached the wrong file? Since Alison recommends reaching out to people who skip a interview just to be sure they weren’t hit by a bus, maybe checking that the submitted file was the correct one would make sense. I’m less concerned about the turnaround time – this person might have completed the assignment and then asked for help to confirm that they understood the ask.

    1. Alli525*

      Careful, if you reach much harder you might throw your back out ;)

      OP says it’s not possible to turn around the assignment in 15 minutes — which makes sense for ~150 words, from what I can recall from translating work I did in high school and college — so therefore it was suspicious. And how would the applicant have had the “wrong” file in her possession (which looks exactly like a previous applicant’s file) in any way that wasn’t underhanded?

      1. LDF*

        OP sent them the original solution at the boss’s suggestion. I could totally see attaching the wrong file back if you gave them similar filenames names. I guess I don’t have all of OP’s info but I don’t see why a 150 word translation couldn’t be done in 15 minutes by a fluent candidate.

    2. PollyQ*

      How did the second (plagiarizing) applicant even have the file that was sent to the first (unsuccessful) applicant? Given the very short turnaround time between the two applicants, this looks an awful lot like a coordinated plan to me, either with two people working together, or one using a fake name for the first application.

    3. Observer*

      Well, the turnaround time here is key. Because it means that they don’t have another file.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not even a little bit of a chance. These were 2 different people (or at least appeared to be). Translation was sent to person A, and 15 minutes later, the translation was sent in for the job by person B. There is no way on this earth that was pure coincidence. So either they are the same person and tried to pull a fast one, or the 2 people are friends.

      I wouldn’t tell the applicant at all. Use a form rejection letter and keep them wondering. And I’d also blacklist both of them from the chance of being hired again.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Sure and if she then does the same when sending a translation to a client it’s not going to look good there either. Nope, fail.

  14. nm*

    I once had a student who cheated by submitting a screenshot of an online answer key (a chegg type service). I can’t for the life of me understand how he thought I wouldn’t notice. He practically broke down crying when we confronted him on it.

    1. irene adler*

      Had an on-line class once where our midterm answers (multiple choice, T-F, 100 questions) were to be posted on-line. As one of the first to post, I did not realize that we could view all the other student’s responses.

      The on-line grading of the responses indicated two individuals who each missed something like 35 questions- the same exact 35 questions. And, those who posted later on had near perfect scores. Go figure.

      I went to the dean on this one. So many issues….

  15. SomebodyElse*

    Sounds like the interns that applied during my last recruitment. 2 identical resumes. Not going to lie, we brought them both in and the first question asked was… “So do you know a Fergus Featherwhipple?” “Do you know a Wakeen Witherspoon?” and the second question was “How much of this resume is actually true” We ended up taking a chance on the honest (ha) one because the other swore up and down that they didn’t know the other other one and their resume was all true.

    I’d love to tell you that the intern just needed a little tough love and turned themselves around to be intern of the year… sadly they did not. Their attendance was atrocious, they produced little to no actual results (paid internship), and we are pretty sure lied about their covid exposure to get out of coming into the office before widespread wfh.

    Oh and after multiple coaching sessions they were shocked(!) shocked(!) I tell you when they got a honest evaluation from their manager and begged for a different one because their class credit and graduation might be in jeopardy.

    Now I’m sure you are asking why we went with either candidate with all of the red flags… what can I say, our HR kind of dropped the ball getting this posted and we were getting all the “Oh shit I need an internship in 2 weeks candidates” we were never going to get a great one, but we hoped we’d be able to at least get something out of the one we hired… that was sadly not the case (unless you count the experience for a new manager in coaching and what red flags to run away from)

    1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Oooh, too bad you couldn’t have hired both and seen if the other one matched their resume! Or was it too much of a dead giveaway for the other one that it wasn’t their resume?

    2. JSPA*

      If intern candidate 2 hacked intern candidate 1, or stole their resume off the printer, intern 1 could indeed have no clue who candidate #2 was.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        I’ve given my friends and family my CV at times, sometimes to ask for feedback/proofreading, sometimes for them to use it as an example if they were just starting out themselves, sometimes for them to pass it on to someone who might have an opportunity. I *hope* they wouldn’t pass it on without checking with me, but it’s easily what could have happened here.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          It was a pretty obvious copy/paste. Including typos … I’m all for benefit of the doubt… but there was no doubt on this one.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        Possible… but not very probable. The one who didn’t fess up couldn’t answer basic questions that would have indicated they knew what they claimed they did. For example “Tell me some of the functions you are familiar with in Excel” (Deer in headlights was the answer we got.) Not even the tougher “When or how do you use function X in Excel” We’re happy with knowing that that interns have heard of a function, that means they know what to google to learn how to use it in real life :)

  16. rubyrose*

    This brought back a memory.
    In sixth grade I was in a gifted and talented class of 20 students. The teacher gave us a science quiz (fill in the blank) and left us alone to complete it. Mind you, this was back in the day before collaborative work was the norm.
    So we all started the test and things slid downhill. The vast majority of us started sharing answers with each other by passing our written answers around.
    The next day, after the teacher had found that 12 of us had miss-spelled the word “skull”, we were all given a stern lecture. She never left us alone again during a test. The thought of plagiarizing work to this day sends me back to sixth grade and the shame I felt.

    1. irene adler*

      I had high school teachers “test” us via the same method.
      Sometimes they’d come back to the classroom mid-way through the test.

      1. rubyrose*

        Speaking of coming back to the classroom mid-way through the test…..
        This was a college final, all essay. Healthcare Law. There was one student who had only come to 3 of the 16 classes. The professor hands out the final, gives people a minute to look over it and ask questions, and leaves the room. About 10 minute in, this one student PULLS OUT THE TEXTBOOK AND IS LOOKING THROUGH IT. Some of us see this, but we are too busy with the test. After she has been thumbing through the textbook for 5 minutes, the professor comes back in. He quietly asks her why she has the book out. She tells him she wanted to check some things before she wrote down her responses. The look on his face was priceless. In a calm voice he tells her to gather her things and come with him, which she did. We never heard of her again.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I had to explain to a (college) student once why they needed to put their laptop away for the exam. Their explanation was that their notes were on it. Well, that’s great, but this is a closed-book exam. We discussed this explicitly, many times, prior to the exam, and also it’s printed at the top of the exam in the instructions in big bold letters – no book, no phone, no computer, the only allowable extras were a calculator and your notecard (of specific size, with units this time because shoutout to the student who realized we forgot to say 3×5 inches not feet).

          1. TiffIf*

            shoutout to the student who realized we forgot to say 3×5 inches not feet
            I love that story –not sure how many times it has happened but still hilarious.

            1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

              I always assumed professors who did not specify dimensions were checking to make sure we were paying attention. I had more than one do the foot stomp on things like this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          2. AGD*

            I always go dramatically overboard when specifying things like this – mainly because I know that if a student decides to go for the “cheekily exploit the loophole” strategy, I’m sometimes so charmed that I accept it.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              My favorite was the student who brought in 3D glasses, because they wrote basically two notecards on top of each other – one in blue ink and one in red.

              We allowed it because it was brilliant but then had to specify for future classes that no, that wasn’t technically allowed.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      We had a group of kids in high school get in a lot of trouble for plagiarizing history notes. Our homework was that we had to read a chapter each night, and outline the chapter, and hand in the outlines to the teacher for proof that we’d done our reading.

      We used a college textbook, and this took HOURS. Most of us were up until 2 am. So a cluster of kids split up the chapters, each outlining one chapter, and swapped notes. Then they’d change the font, so that all of Fergus’s notes were in Arial and all of Tangerina’s notes were in Comic Sans, etc.

      They got busted, got a failing homework grade, and the class was no longer allowed to submit typed notes.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        It’s a stupid way to cheat… but also a pretty stupid assignment in the first place. Effective note-taking is highly personalised to the learner and really shouldn’t be graded. Instead, set an assignment showing whether the student understood the material.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I agree with you, but this was the way my high school AP History teacher worked. After a while, I just stopped doing the outlines because it was bad enough I had to read a million pages a night – no way was I going to sit there and outline it too! I had other classes that were equally as important, and I wasn’t wasting anymore time since I don’t learn things by outlining like this.

          1. fhgwhgads*

            Wow. That’s not at all how AP history courses are supposed to go… They’re supposed to mimic college courses. My entire grade was based on 2 papers and an exam.

          2. Idril Celebrindal*

            Did we have the same AP history teacher?

            Everyone had to outline the chapter and she graded them, but she graded on a curve so the one who wrote the longest notes got the best grade. In my brother’s class one person basically copied the whole chapter in outline form and ruined the curve for everyone else. My classmate’s older brother started including color commentary and musings about dinosaurs and robots and the teacher never noticed. And then she was still requiring it in my class but by that time no one took it seriously anymore and just wrote whatever. Sigh, at least she didn’t ruin history for me and I managed to emerge intact. Although having to argue with her that the Apache were indeed a Southwest Native American tribe, not plains, and yes I knew that for sure because I used to live there was a bit scarring….

        2. mark132*

          that was my thought, is this history class or a wear your hand out writing notes class. I always detested classes that ignored the fact I had several more classes.

      2. D3*

        My teen had that same history teacher last year, for APUSH, I swear. Insisted on handwritten notes. 50+ pages of reading per night.
        She wanted *detailed* notes, too. At the beginning of the year, my kid submitted 10 handwritten pages of notes for 45 pages of reading and was scolded for having incomplete notes. Told to be more thorough or have no hope of passing the AP test. Well, turns out since this teacher didn’t ever have the students practice writing from original documents, and due to COVID that was the entire test this year, not a single student in the class passed the AP this year.
        And that was not the only homework assignments for that class. It was awful.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          Wow, that stinks.

          My APUSH teacher (omg, 15 years ago . . .) gave us short open note reading quizzes of 3-5 questions. If you could read and retain, you could go that route, but you could also take as detailed notes as you wanted. I think it was a good way to help people figure out the level of detail they needed for themselves rather than meet some arbitrary metric.

          I had a World History teacher that gave us 100 terms (people/places/things) that we should study for our final, and gave us extra credit if we turned in all terms defined. I liked her rule that you could split up the list in any way you wanted (10 people could look up 10 words and share), the only mandate she had was that everyone had to handwrite it (because she thought it would stick in your head better that way). It worked for me!

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            My AP history teacher (both US and European, different years) also gave us practice documents to read and then do essays from. I honestly though those were incredibly valuable when I wrote my exams almost 23 years ago.

            I also got the big list of terms and people – but it was his personal list based off of what he’d been told by students was on the test over a span of almost 15 years of teaching those classes. I passed both tests with flying colors, but don’t remember what his overall pass rate was.

        2. Observer*

          The teacher is an incompetent twit. And the administration that allows it is falling down on the job. I wonder what their pass rate is in a good year.

    3. whistle*

      I remember cheating on a spelling test in 4th grade. I looked at the test next to mine and wrote down the same spelling for one word. When the test was over, the teacher had us grade our own tests (why? no idea). I was so ashamed that when we got to the word I had cheated on, I crossed out the right answer that I had written down and marked myself wrong for that one. I am so not cut out for a life of crime.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Self-grading is pretty common for low-stakes tests in elementary. After all, the purpose of 4th grade isn’t to rank the students, it’s for them to learn how to spell – and often, correcting one’s own work serves that purpose because the student actually pays attention to where they made a mistake. When you get a bad grade from a teacher, it’s easy to just feel stupid and not really bother reviewing your work.
        Kudos to you for being honest :), I don’t think many 10yos have that kind of integrity.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      In middle school we had a class (I think it was religion) and we used our own paper for the quizzes. I don’t remember the format, but whatever it was we knew the specific things we needed to answer beforehand. So a bunch of us would write everything down on a piece of paper and press really hard so you could see the indentation of the writing on the next piece of paper, which we would then use for the quiz. The teacher figured it out and made us pass all of our papers to the front, mix them up and pass them back out.

    5. What the What*

      My plagiarism trauma also stems from grade school. Fifth grade French. Our French teacher wanted us to right a 10 page research paper. I really wasn’t a talented French student, and a 10 page research paper was overwhelming (but seriously… that seems like a lot for fifth grade anyway). I did most of it myself, but had trouble finishing by the deadline. So the last page or so was pulled straight from whatever French document about harp seals I was using for research.

      It wasn’t even intentional plagiarism. I figured that it would be easier if I just copied it, since they were saying what I wanted to say anyway, except better. No one had ever told me what plagiarism was, or why it was bad. When the teacher asked if I had copied, I said I had. She gave me a 0. She said it was plagiarism, which was clearly a bad word, but didn’t tell me what it is. I also had a serious sense of shame – that was probably the first time I’d been is real trouble. My mom, who was a professor at a University, explained it to me. The only tough part of the explanation was that I really just couldn’t understand why I had to put something in my own words when someone smarter and better than me had already said it.

      1. Gingerblue*

        Anyone who assigns fifth graders a ten page research paper and doesn’t talk about copying vs. research has failed on multiple levels. That was in no way ten-year-old you’s fault! Did she think you were born knowing this?

    6. Jackalope*

      I only had one test like that where the teacher wasn’t around for the test (it was the week after Daylight Savings happened and she forgot to reset her clock!). None of us cheated, though, at least not as far as I know; she’d given us a copy of the test beforehand and it was open book (which made sense for the subject), plus you’d only be taking that class if it was your major, so we all knew what we were doing (and there were only 8-10 of us in the class so it would have been super obvious to everyone if someone tried to cheat!). So sometimes this works. We were college students though so a better age for being self-sufficient.

  17. Canadian Yankee*

    The most obvious plagiarizer I’ve ever seen was a resume that our sales manager received that included a fictional summer internship *in my department*.

    I must admit, we double- and triple-checked this person’s information because it seemed like such a bizarre and brazen thing to fake (and the description of the internship had enough specific details that it was obviously based on a real intern’s experience). But we were absolutely certain that not only had we never had an intern by that name, we also never employed an intern from that university.

    I can only think of two possibilities:
    1. They knew that we were a large-ish company (7,000+ employees worldwide) but not that our local branch was tiny (40 employees) and didn’t realize how easily we could verify every intern record for the past few years.
    2. They copied this information from someone else and spammed out a bunch of applications without realizing that they were applying to their fake internship company.

    1. irene adler*

      Might have been fun to bring this person in for an on-site interview.
      Tell them that “we’re so excited to see you again!”

      We can’t wait for them to re-visit their old stomping grounds, reconnect with the folks they worked with during the internship, reminisce about the intern’s experiences.

      Watch them squirm.

  18. Just Sayin'*

    I’m of the opinion you don’t tell them. Giving them the information just lets them refine their scheme so they don’t get caught the next time.

    1. Jenna*

      Yes, this is how I feel, too. I could see the argument for kindness, but at this point, this person should know not to cheat. And if they are going to cheat, it’s great that they’re doing it in such a spectacularly transparent way.

      Warning the candidate might actually hurt other employers, sadly.

  19. EnfysNest*

    I have two thoughts:

    1) Could the second candidate actually be the same person as the first and they used false information for one of the applications? I suppose it could be friends who are in the same field or maybe they offered up the sample online somewhere, but if they’re going to lie about such a basic requirement, part of me wonders if they’re just the same person taking a “second go” at the application with a false name.

    2) My petty side really wants the OP to send the rejection letter rewritten in the language they were supposed to be translating.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I feel like it could be either scenario. I would black list both names at the company for all eternity. And I love your suggestion for the rejection!

    2. rudster*

      Re. no. 2, it’s quite possible to understand a language reasonably well yet still be a poor translator into that language or out of it. As a professional translator, I see this all the time. In this case, it doesn’t sound like the candidate doesn’t know the target language at all, just not well enough to pass the translation test.

  20. MsChanandlerBong*

    We have applicants plagiarize all the time, to the point that one of my favorite tasks is “Spot the plagiarism” when I am screening applications. The best is when we reject someone and then they just make up a different name and apply a week or two later…using the SAME SAMPLE. Maybe if they waited a year, I’d forget that I had read the sample before. But not a week later. I’m like, “Didn’t I just read this?” and sure enough, a quick keyword search brings up the exact same sample with a new name on it.

    (I hire freelancers, so this isn’t job applicants doing this–it’s applicants for independent contractor positions.)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      … and they don’t consider the fact that the sample wasn’t up to scratch first time, so it won’t be second time?
      I’ve hired plenty of freelance translators in my time but I’ve never noticed this!

  21. Jen*

    As part of a test we gave to prospective technical writers, we asked them to describe the rules of a game of their choice. Someone (with a senior title and significant job experience!) just copied the first paragraphs of the first page that came up on google when you searched for the name of the game… Needless to say, she was not invited for an interview.

  22. Lifelong student*

    I recall there was rampant cheating in one very difficult math class I took during my MBA program. It was particularly difficult for me as, although I am a CPA- accounting is not mathmatics!! I spent time with the professor for coaching- went to the university tutoring center- did every thing I could to try to get this material into my head. On the final exam, which was given under rather strong security and which had multiple versions – the last question just left me totally in the dark- I never answered it. In the end, I had a respectable grade in the course (one had to have a B for a class to be acceptable for the program and this was a required class.) I now suspect that the last question was designed to be unanswerable to catch cheaters- because I honestly don’t know how I could have gotten a B without completing the final. I had a few days of feeling I would wash out of the program- but I bet a few others did because of cheating.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I can attest to the fact that the opposite is also true…being good at math does not mean accounting will be a breeze. I’ve always loved math and had to take 2 semesters of accounting as part of my degree in college. My dad thought I should go into that field…until he saw my first test. I passed the classes, but it was definitely not for me!

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes! For sure. I am an accountant and I HATE math with a passion. Algebra is okay, but calculus and beyond….. It’s utterly baffling to me. People seem to think that math and accounting are somehow related. Umm, no. I always tell people that you only need to be able to do basic math for 90%+ of the accounting out there.

      2. AGD*

        I love math and my track record suggests I’m really good at it, but I can tell this is mostly with regard to abstract stuff. Applications of math, and/or hardcore number crunching, not so much. Economics and chemistry both felt like a bit of a slog, and physics I could barely grasp. My job (academic, social sciences) has me gradually learning statistics, which I’m absorbing a little at a time; I’m getting it, but not as immediately or intuitively as I grasp geometry or algebra or calculus. I do like doing the data visualization, though!

  23. Mediamaven*

    Please do tell them and then please send an update to Alison so we all know what happened. :) This is more for me than you of course.

  24. Cautionary tail*

    I teach graduate school. You might think that students who are gunning for a master’s degree wouldn’t blatantly cheat. Most students are great but I still change one or two minor items in assignments: 75 becomes 80, the name of a department changes from Logistics to Planning, these are secondary items buried in the assignment. Every semester I’ll get one or two papers out of 25 that uses 75 and the term Logistics. When I give the students a Zero for plagiarism, some accept it and others try to argue. Some deeply apologize that I caught them. They cheated so they get a Zero and that’s it.

  25. Butterfly Counter*

    I’m a college lecturer and I’ve just stopped confronting them because, so far, they’ve all doubled down on the lie.

    The first time, I wondered why the student wasn’t addressing the topic in the essay I had given to him and was prepared to give him a D for the assignment, but then I realized it was plagiarized off of the internet (related topic, but talking about completely different aspects that I was asking them to address). I confronted him with the plagiarism fully willing to let him redo the assignment for a C. He swore up and down that he wrote it himself and had no idea why it was word-for-word the same as a website discussion. I said a) it’s plagiarized and you have to redo it in order to pass and b) it wouldn’t pass even if it wasn’t plagiarized.

    He redid it and LITERALLY reworded it so that it wasn’t 100% the same as the website, but was still talking about the incorrect topic ( eg. “The characters in the movie showed…” vs. “Those in the movie seemed to show…”).

    I gave him an F.

    No other confrontation with students has gone any better, so now I just give them the failing grade and tell them they can complain to the department chair with proof they were the original writers of the documents if they have a problem with it.

    Explaining the accusation seems only to invite a discussion or argument. A failing grade (or in OP’s case) a rejection just ends the whole interaction. I dislike plagiarism. I HATE liars. It’s not like there’s anything the applicant can now do to change OP’s mind about hiring them and discussing the reasons why they were rejected might let the applicant think there is some wiggle room.

    1. Lifelong student*

      Does your school have an honor code? In several similar cases, I made Honer Code referrals. Where I taught, the first one did not result in severe penalty, but a subsequent one could result in expulsion. I suspect in at least one case, the student should have been reported previously.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        No, I wish there was a very clear process that was mandatory for everyone. Though they do have a Disciplinary Board that hears plagiarism cases, but referrals to that is up to the professor. My issue is that often these cases are at the end of the semester and going to the Board with them eats into our own vacation time with the process involved.

        1. Lifelong student*

          I would approach your faculty senate to create a more efficient reporting process. I taught as a part time adjunct for around 10 years and then full time as a non-tenure track instructor for 2 years. Our reporting system was not mandatory. In that time, I filed Honor Code violations for 4 students. In at least one case, I am almost positive the student had made a practice of such behavior. The student was a senior and as a result of receiving a failing grade on the paper, failed the course and did not graduate. None of my cases involved a second recorded offense so as far as I know, none of the students had to deal with a Board. It seems to me that part of teaching and training students is making sure they understand that actions have consequences. If others had reported events, perhaps the students would have changed before the consequences became dire.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            I will consider this, but I doubt it will go anywhere. Tenured professors at my university bristle at ANYONE telling them how to teach their classes. For real, we couldn’t even get one to stop teaching his research methods class as a purely statistics class or his intro class as a theories class. I might bring it up at the department level, though.

        2. AGD*

          Where I am, I’m required to meet with the student to discuss the incident and then write a big report about it to send to the department, and if they think it’s serious they’ll send it to the Dean. One semester I was teaching a big fall lecture class and there were 40 cases of plagiarism in December. I did not take a winter vacation.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            That is ridiculous. This is also why I stopped having any papers due at the very end of the semester.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I’m curious as to what the letter writer might possibly gain by saying “We rejected you because you plagiarized.” Is the applicant going to respond, “You caught me. I didn’t think I’d get caught. But now I know better, and I won’t do it again”? Is the applicant going to respond, “No, I didn’t”? Either way, it’s not that great an outcome. How sincere would the former be? What would the letter writer do with the latter?

    3. Rosalind Montague*

      oh no, the dreaded “right click and replace with synonym” plagiarism. In which the text is not only stolen but completely incomprehensible! I used to curse the name of Bill Gates for adding a thesaurus to Word when I got one of those.

    4. Cautionary tail*

      I had a student that purchased a paper and like yours it was on a related topic, but not the topic itself. The person/company that actually wrote it was so proud of their work that they advertised it all over the Interwebs. It even included my customized semester-specific directions. After I gave the student a Zero/plagiarism, like you stated, the student lied and then doubled down on the lie that it was their own work product and that they worked so hard on it. So long student.

  26. Former Adjunct*

    I had two students turn in identical essays that they copied word for word from the textbook. You didn’t think I might have read the text? It was laughable – first, wow this student is so much more articulate in writing than they are in person; then, why does this sound familiar? Then finding the other identical essay. Either they were testing me to see if I’d figure it out, or they just thought I was stupid.
    Also had a student ditch class, but was so worried about getting attendance credit that he asked two friends (with obviously different handwriting) to sign him in.
    These students didn’t even try.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I had a student plagiarize from two sources—one part of the “essay” was a sentence lifted from a sample I gave in class, and the other part was wholly lifted from another student in the same class section.

      A co-worker’s student submitted a three-paragraph assignment that was one paragraph copied and pasted three times.

      If you are going to plagiarize, at leasst be clever about it…

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        That’s always my issue. If you’re smart enough to plagiarize well enough I can’t find it, you’re smart enough to just do the stinking assignment! I promise it will probably take less effort and you’ll actually learn the material for the test!

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          If you’re smart enough to plagiarize well enough I can’t find it, you’re smart enough to just do the stinking assignment!

          That may be why most of the plagiarism cases are so silly. It’s too much work to do a convincing plagiarized assignment… almost as if you have to create something… original.

          1. AGD*

            I overtly tell my students that some of the more elaborate cheating I’ve seen has come with a lot of creativity and resourcefulness and careful thinking – all of which would have made for an excellent original assignment.

      2. anonymous 5*

        FYI at least chegg has a provision that they will assist with academic misconduct investigations if you report that students are using the site inappropriately. Might be worth checking the flashcard well…

        1. anonymous 5*

          Uh, whoops. Nesting fail.

          But while I’m here: I have had *many* students over the years fall hook, line and sinker for the trap of their next-door neighbor’s test having different questions. In one case, I had an exam for which one version had a reaction (I teach chem) involving lead and the other version involving gold. Sure enough, one of my students actually did alchemy! ;)

  27. Llellayena*

    First, you definitely need a new translation exercise (or a couple to rotate through), since your current one is now out and available. Second, consider creating a different, shorter sample translation so you have something you CAN hand out if you get asked for an example again. Maybe only 50 words so it’s obviously different? That would probably eliminate the possibility for the same thing to happen again.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, a really simple way to stop this model translation from circulating is to just change up what the exercise is. I still agree with Alison that giving out model submissions isn’t a good idea.

  28. HS Teacher*

    I am going to use this letter in my HS classes, where plagiarism is rampant. It is a really big problem, and I like the idea of showing a real-world example of how it can bite you in the butt.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I wish it would just bite them in the butt in high school, but I’ve worked in too many schools. I know, sadly, students rarely face real consequences for plagiarizing…

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        Yep, my high school valedictorian was a known blatant cheater but nobody ever did anything about it.

        Now he’s a surgeon :-/

        1. blackcat*

          My experience teaching college was that the premeds were the worst cheaters :/
          The engineers sort of expected to get bad grades as a general thing, so they rarely cheated.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          All our top students were involved in cheating rings. All the people I knew who went to medical school were involved as well. The only top student that wasn’t involved went into a career in the military. Go figure.

          But honestly, you can’t cheat when you’re preforming surgery, so that says a lot. It also goes to show that a lot of routine work is just about getting something done, it sucks but until school’s are fully funded and refocused, it’ll continue.

          I say this as someone who felt so bad about cheating, I retook a class the following year to do it right. I wasn’t caught, nobody knew that was why. I cheated enough to get a passing grade but I wanted to actually learn the stuff so I signed up again to have a do-over with a teacher that could actually make it make sense. This is probably why I went into a career with strong ethics required, I suck at bad behavior and stopped in my teens LOL.

          1. anon for this*

            I am the same way. One time when I was in fifth grade, I blanked out on a question to a test question. All I could remember was that it started with S. It was agonising, and I quickly peeked at a classmate’s test to get it.

            I was deeply ashamed and disappointed in myself, even though it was just a couple of points on a geography quiz. I decided it would never happen again. It has never happened again.

            Now I’m an academic and do need that well-developed sense of ethics for doing sensitive research (and all the protocols and paperwork required), so just as well.

      2. boop the first*

        Especially since, well, around here, it’s all the college professors who are doing the plagiarizing now!

    2. Kathlynn (canada)*

      yeah, plagiarism and cheating in HS is a problem. (I do admit to doing both, without getting caught in HS. Loved one site for part of it not appearing in search engines. Didn’t do this in college). My problem was always “how the heck do I reword this information, when it’s already worded the best way possible” in various classes (I did read the books or do the research. but my ability to summarize a character is lacking for example. And my spelling at the time was horrendous.).

  29. Mike*

    Yeah, I used to be a senior legal translator. For my translation tests for Mongolian hires, I would just randomly choose several clauses from the UCC and then find a US Department of the Interior contract or two to select important boilerplate articles from. (By the same token, my probation was basically translating the latest version of the Company Law into English. Fun times!)

  30. TootsNYC*

    Don’t tell them.
    In fact, let them keep that thing and pass it on to other people–it’ll be a GREAT filter.

    I used to hire proofreaders and copyeditors. I was often torn about whether to tell people about errors on their resumés or tests.
    I decided against it, because I thought my fellow chiefs at other publications would want that information too.

    If I really liked someone’s credentials, and they failed the test, I might give them a category: “There were some errors that made me worry you didn’t understand the structure of the sentence” or something. But rarely.

  31. Roxie Hart*

    Several years ago a former co-worker and I were applying to the same role, and one of the hiring tests was to create a pivot table (via Microsoft excel) for a data set. I found out later on she had gone to dinner at another former co-workers house the night before it was due and actually had him help her with it (aka him likely doing all the work).

    So odd…I wonder what her plan was if she was actually hired on and they found out she didn’t have the necessary Microsoft excel skills.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


      I work in the computer field. She might have acquired enough working knowledge on Microsoft Excel Pivot Tables in one day to pass the test and then continue to build on that newfound knowledge and go forward. And YouTube has instructional videos to help you do nearly anything from changing a lawn mower blade to , well, developing a pivot table in Excel.

      Some people pick up on these things quickly, some don’t. And some have a special gift for it.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      … and I also might add – if someone can pick up those skills in a day or two or three , he/she is just as valuable as someone who’s worked with that stuff before.

  32. TootsNYC*

    and let’s all dwell for a moment on the folly of sending out anyone’s answer to other candidates.

    The “what sort of thing are you looking for?” question should probably just go unanswered, or be answered with an explanation: “greater vocabulary, smoother use of transitions, more idiomatic language.”

  33. aliceintheacademy*

    I work on academic integrity (plagiarism, etc.) matters at a post-secondary institution. The shamelessness Alison describes is SO real—it would be laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn’t so dispiriting. Some of the excuses I’ve seen students use have truly been breathtaking, like the college-aged equivalent of a toddler with chocolate all over their face insisting that they don’t know who took the cake.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      This blows my mind. I mean, I get intellectually that it’s true, but I don’t get it. My freshman year of college, I handed in a paper without in-text citations, just a bibliography. That was how it had worked in my high school and I didn’t read the assignment directions carefully. It was a stupid mistake, but I would think it’s a pretty common one for freshmen to make. The professor gave me a zero and a Very Serious talking-to about how this was a plagiarized paper and I was lucky he didn’t turn me over to our campus equivalent of your department. I was mortified and sure never made that mistake again. But it colored my perception of plagiarism on campus and I never took another class with that professor, even when his sections were at more convenient times.

  34. Van Wilder*

    Send her the form rejection and then wait for her to come back and ask why. I had a student who clearly paraphrased a fellow student’s paper have the nerve to question her grade.

    1. AnotherName*

      And the appropriate answer at that point is “we only accept a specific translation once,” and the dead-eyed stare.

  35. Batgirl*

    I’ve had high school students tell me quite seriously that they plan to plagiarise job letters and fake their CVs when I tell them they’ll need competent English skills in the future. They don’t really understand why anyone would bother when the internet is just sitting there ripe with all the goodies.
    “That is a terrible plan. It’ll be obvious”
    “No, it won’t miss”.
    So of course I set them a trap where I leave them alone with Wikipedia.
    “Miss, how did you know? How?”
    “It’s obvious to anyone who has bothered to learn for themselves. Want to try it and see?”

  36. AMT*

    This happened in my classroom. A student turned in an essay that I’d used in class as an example of essay structure. She was absent for that class, so I guess she didn’t see it. I take some blame for Googling “five paragraph essay example” and using one of the first Google results!

  37. Bad Hare Day*

    My cousin works for a (specialized professional) who was writing a book on his area of expertise. The day before he was supposed to turn in the manuscript draft to the publisher, he casually asked my cousin to “run it through one of those online search-engine thingies” to see if he had accidentally plagarized any of it.

    This person has TWO graduate degrees from internationally-famous universities.

    1. What the What*

      I think that’s really smart. He probably spent a lot of time studying other people’s work and who knows what your brain might regurgitate. Think of all the songs that have gone to court because some part of the tune is close (or the same as) an existing song.

      1. AMT*

        I think the crucial difference would be whether he was (a) just worried that he’d accidentally memorized someone else’s words, or (b) such a sloppy note-taker that he’d mixed up his own writing and others’ by carelessly copying and pasting. The first one is normal. The second needs to repeat some crucial undergrad courses.

    2. Gingerblue*

      I wouldn’t consider that alarming at all; just due diligence. By the time you’ve read a bunch and written a bunch over a couple of years on a narrow, specialized topic, it’s easy to unconsciously absorb someone else’s phrasing and repeat it, and most of the academics I know fret that they might have inadvertently done this. I have myself: I had a two-word phrase I was rather pleased with in my dissertation, and about six months after finishing, I was rereading my advisor’s book on a related topic and realized he’d used it first. Dammit.

      1. allathian*

        I honestly don’t see the problem here. Just as well people don’t reinvent specific terms or phrases with a specific meaning. In this case, it might have been a genuine “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” type of thing, even if unconscious. Apparently your advisor didn’t object.

        1. Gingerblue*

          The point is less that it’s an actual problem than that I hadn’t done it deliberately.

  38. pcake*

    I’m not a translator, but I am both a writer and a long-time editor for one of my clients. A few years ago, we were hiring writers and asked for three samples of their work from each writing candidate. Imagine my surprise when one guy sent in three that I knew were plagiarized from within our field as I was familiar with all three previously, one because I actually wrote it LOLOL

    We didn’t bother to tell him why we didn’t hire him, btw – he already knew his work was stolen.

    1. jenkins*


      I used to commission writers in a previous job. Unbeknownst to me, two of our writers were married to one another (they didn’t share a last name, we only sussed it out afterwards). The husband was extremely late delivering his work to me, I chased him up yet again, and he eventually sent me…the text his wife had submitted to me a few weeks before, but with his name on it. I did explain to him that we would not be using it twice. Or paying him.

        1. jenkins*

          I truly have no idea what he was thinking. Though it was lucky I’d been the one to proofread both texts or it could have got a whole lot further through our process before anyone caught it!

  39. Firecat*

    Eh that’s a bit different. If you are an expert in something it’s possible you can recall knowledge without having to check the source. It them becomes difficult to not miss those citations.

  40. Kathlynn (canada)*

    When I was working afternoons at my job we would get people coming in to drop their resumes off together. And soo often they’d be almost identical from formatting to word choice. Where the only difference was the names and schools attended. Or only one of the people would speak. For a retail job, being shy or nervous isn’t a good trait (And I say this as a person who has anxiety, and used to be really confident). Sure come in together, but drop them off “separately”. Do not answer for your friend.

  41. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Did you purchase this test as part of a commercially available package? If you did, then it’s out there on the web someplace and probably easy for anyone to find with a Google search. If you developed your own exam, then you have to re-create it – probably best to do so from scratch.

    Here’s a true story (subject and some names changed)

    Quite often, lazy high school teachers will give the same test, in the same course, year after year. Let’s say I was a junior, and had a girlfriend who was a senior. And I needed help with chemistry -which she had taken the year before, and she agreed to help me study. And did some “concentrated bookin'” – studying, and she
    gave me a practice test – and I go over it three times until I ace it.

    “Congrats, anon-2, now go home and get some rest. 10 am tomorrow comes awfully quickly.” (kiss) “we’ll talk tomorrow at lunch.”

    Then 10 am comes – 2nd period , Miss Lazybones, the chemistry teacher, starts yelling in her irritating nasal voice (think Fran Drescher), hands out the test, and guess what? It was the same one my lady friend had taken the previous year , and we had used as a study guide the day before !!!!

    Am I cheating? No. Absolutely not.

    Do I have an unfair advantage over the other students? Likely, yes. And if I was a C student and aced it – she might accuse me of cheating, but since high school teachers are busybodies, and know who everyone is dating in the school, she’s suddenly going to realize what likely happened, it was her fault for giving the same test (laziness on her part) , knows Anon-2 is spending time with SeniorWhiz and has no choice but to let it ride.

    So be careful if you use a canned exam.

    I’m reminded of the instance around 15-20 years ago, where the New York State Regents’ exam (high school) was published in one of the NYC papers, and the school had to cancel the test. And the school department was quick to blame the newspaper for compromising the exams – except, the paper retorted – IT ALREADY WAS COMPROMISED – copies were floating around the street at $10 each and the school department knew that full well.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My younger brother and several friends were accused of cheating in a chemistry class under similar circumstances. The difference was none of them understood the teachers methods, so they were all getting group tutoring on weekends from my dad – a licensed chemical engineer with at that point just under 30 years in the field. Nope, they weren’t cheating – they just lucked into a tutor who knew the subject better than the teacher (from a practical/applied standpoint anyways).

      Teacher ended up with a ton of egg on her face, and lost the right to teach AP Chemistry – apparently the accusation was the last straw in the principal’s mind – she also had a very low pass rate apparently.

      1. WS*

        Same here – my uncle is a chemistry teacher (and has a PhD in chemistry as well as teaching qualifications) at a famously academic high school, but he’d been teaching at the overseas campus. Then he came back and I suddenly had access to specialist tutoring and went from a solid B to an A+ chemistry student. That probably would have been okay, but the chemistry teacher was a maths teacher who had been drafted in to teach chemistry so having a student who would now confidently dispute answers on tests that the teacher had devised did not go down well.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Cheating in any way, shape or form in an academic environment is a highly serious offense.

        (Needless to say.)

        But even worse than that is a false accusation of cheating, and, often, it’s difficult for someone to prove he WASN’T cheating…!!!! I was never accused of cheating – and if, in the above not-so-hypothetical example I had been accused of it, I had an effective defense. I did feel guilty about it, but after having “ethics” discussions with others (friends and parents), it was like, eh, it wasn’t your fault and you’d cause more of a maelstrom by volunteering for a re-test. You’d only serve to get Miss Lazybones in an embarrassing situation. Dad – probably trying to assuage my own self guilt =

        “Best to let it go, and you probably would have done it well, anyway, didn’t you and SeniorWhiz hit those books and go over every formula with a fine tooth comb? Kick back, relax, and spend some NON-study time together, you earned the grade and the time away from the books.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So very true. My brother and friends didn’t feel like they had cheated – only that they had found by luck a very good tutor. They hadn’t called for the meeting – the teacher had demanded the meeting to denounce them all to their parents as cheaters (and probably also accuse the parents of lax moral standards – this teacher was known behind he back among the whole student body as “the queen of bastards”). I think the main reason it was do definitively stated that those kids weren’t cheating was because of how the teacher went into the meeting.

          The principal certainly didn’t think they had cheated – just took advantage of a good tutor (who had no problem with the ever increasing number of kids in the class that were coming and asking for help).

  42. Trans-later*

    I’ve given and completed translation tests before. It’s not hard to find a 150 word sample of the kind of thing you’d want candidates to translate–I would make a new test for each applicant, or if you hire very frequently, have several samples and overhaul them periodically. Not only is it good anti-plagiarism practice, it refreshes your brain from being stuck in one way of translating certain words/phrases, and lets you evaluate candidates with a fresher, clearer mindset.

    And I don’t know if I would bother telling someone why they were rejected. I’m not sure what it would accomplish. Someone who is so lazy and unethical they apply to a translation job and use someone else’s work for a translation test hasn’t earned the professional respect and goodwill you’re extending to them. They’re not qualified to be a professional translator. This is like using someone else’s resume or claiming you’re fluent in a language you’re not. Why engage with this person? What do you want from them? It’s like helpfully running spellcheck for email phishing scammers.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I guess, I’m for giving such people a chance to own their mistake, know it was wrong (no matter how desperate they were for the job) and that they learn not to try it again, because it will never get them that job by doing so.

      I wouldn’t engage beyond telling them you KNOW they plagiarized though.

      Sadly, I’ve seen many, many high-level people in my working life who do these kinds of things all the time, and do get rewarded and promoted for it. Whether it’s campaigns, copy or taking credit for the work of others. Sigh.

  43. V*

    You should be checking all submitted work against existing examples online/Google translate results as a matter of course.

  44. Angelinha*

    I’m confused by why the person needed an example of a translation. The example is right there in front of you, the English version! Translate it using the exact same format!

  45. felty345*

    I was hiring for a junior position and a candidate I knew and had worked with applied for it. During the interview, he flat-out lied about working on a project that I led (he did very little work – things like drafting templates and editing). I was so shocked that he had the nerve to do that. Sadly, when I brought this up to the other interviewers and they decided it didn’t matter, because he had demonstrated he knows what he “should” do in a similar work situation.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      This kind of thing happens at my work between departments all the time!
      Example: I lead the marketing for a particular division. I create all of the campaigns, write the social media posts, and create all the graphics for them. But I am blocked from doing the actual posting, so must turn my work over to the Social Media or Email team for the actual deployment of the content.

      The Social Media person says he “creates” all of it and gets the recognition for doing so.
      Makes me ‘effin burn. They haven’t a clue what my division even does.

  46. 2 Cents*

    Ah, coincidence. My friend is a teacher and once had a student turn in an Amazon book review as their own work. When the parent asked why the student received a zero and was told it matched the book review, the parent retorted “how do you know [student] didn’t write that review?” Seriously!?

  47. boop the first*

    I’m just a little surprised that it’s impossible to translate 150 words within 15 minutes. That’s barely even a paragraph! :O

    1. a translator's perspective*

      It’s certainly possible for a skilled translator working in their comfort zone and area of expertise, and if no terminology research or study of client reference material is required. For a fully checked, reread and polished final delivery that you would want to be perfect, it’s not likely. If nothing else, it’s always smart to set it aside for a bit and check later with a fresh perspective (though for regular projects the brutality of translation deadlines usually makes that last one impossible).
      For some perspective, though – translators HATE translation tests. They are virtually always unpaid, and demanded by agencies that require them for all candidates, even those with decades of experience and impeccable references and credentials (citing “ISO requirements”, “it’s procedure”, etc.). The graders of the tests are often not even native speakers of the target language, or most often the assessment is farmed out to the agency’s other translators, who have a vested interest in people failing the test, in order to keep competition for the increasingly dwindling volume of projects down.
      Even if you pass the test, that does not guarantee any work, you just get on “their list” along with several other to several hundred other freelance translators (depending on how common your combination is). Usually you never hear from them again, or they only want to discuss rates after you’ve “passed the test”, only to reveal that their rate is half of what you charge…
      None of this is meant to condone cheating, of course (and if the candidate was cheating, they were really dumb about it), just offering some perspective after 15 years in the business.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Translation is not as easy as most people think. It’s not just a matter of finding the French (or German or whatever) equivalent of the words in English. There are never any exact equivalents, so each slight difference has to be taken in to account. This is why Google cannot produce the same quality of translation as an experienced translator with knowledge of the text subject.
      Right now I’m working on a translation for a ballet school. There’s a description of a training course, and then there’s a list of various admin procedures to follow if you want it to be paid for as a vocational training course. To translate it properly, I need to know or learn about ballet, for the course description, and also about admin processes in vocational training. Not to mention that you need strong writing skills to be able to craft sentences that don’t sound like you just translated them from another language.

      In fact, short texts can be harder than long ones, simply because you don’t get enough context on which to base your research. Just imagine translating the comments here: if you don’t know about the acronym BEC for example, you won’t understand someone’s pithy reference to crackers (e.g. “OP you need to lay off the crackers”). A more loquacious commenter might spell it all out or at least give you enough text for Google to produce something (“OP I think you’ve become this colleague’s BEC, it’s now got to the point where you can’t do or say anything without raising her hackles”).

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