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Early in my career, I encountered unethical recruiters in the tech industry. In the worst case, a recruiting firm sent my resume to dozens of companies without my consent. This resulted in a double presentation scenario with a interested employer (and the loss of a great opportunity).

Since then, I've tried to protect my resume, making sure to limit the number of recruiters working on my behalf and keeping close track of where my information is submitted. I also strive to send a PDF version of the resume where possible. It helps preserve formatting and minimizes editing.
The number of applicant-tracking systems requiring Microsoft Word submissions is decreasing.

I understand that some recruiters will request a Microsoft Word resume so that they can add notes or remove applicant contact information before submitting to an employer. I've recently had such a request, and I'm reluctant to do so, given my past experiences. (they already have the PDF version)

Is there a good way to ensure that my information only goes where I want it to go?

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Most PDF viewers, Adobe Reader included have Note tools for readers to attach notes to a document. I find the "i want to add notes" excuse tiresome. –  maple_shaft May 2 '12 at 15:09
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Can you explain what 'double presentation' is? –  user606723 May 2 '12 at 18:56
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Double presentation is your resume being received by a prospective employer multiple times. It generally looks bad; it indicates that you are unorganized, or that your representatives are. In the extreme it can result in you being scheduled twice for an interview, which is a waste of everyone's time and an opportunity-killer on par with outright lying on a resume. –  KeithS May 2 '12 at 19:18
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Early in my career, I encountered unethical recruiters in the tech industry Wait, there are ethical ones? ;P –  Yannis May 2 '12 at 23:38
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Actually the issue of double representation may be far worse that 'it looks bad'. The 3rd party agency that submitted your resume may even sue the employer if they hire you directly laying a claim that the employer first discovered you from the agency submission, so the potential employer may opt not to not even call you at all. –  Remus Rusanu May 2 '12 at 23:57

7 Answers 7

up vote 31 down vote accepted

I addressed this 8 years ago by ditching the Word Resume.

Although many recruiters will insist that they need it, or that the client needs it, this is rarely true.

In fact, the more "important" it is "in order to proceed at all" the more I know that I'm an unlikely match or that I've been added to 'increase the number of candidates that don't match the job, in order to make one that does, stand out'. Not the worst practice in the world but not great.

Most folks in the technical realm today are more concerned about your skills, evidence of your actual code, github, your SO profile and SO careers profile, linkedIn profile, etc. These have greatly diminished the value of the traditional resume for highly technical jobs.

I've never had a 'good match' for a position really require the Word Resume.

It's also frequently uploaded into recruiters own systems so that they can call you again in 6 months. If you like them that may be what you want. Otherwise maybe not. Or it's added a massive stack of other Word resumes - is that what you want?

So get an SO career profile, a good linkedIn account, github code and your own website for your version of your resume and you'll stand out in the crowd.

Please note - this is not a rant against 'all' recruiters. There are really good ones out there, they do all the right things and are ethical and I have used them, so I didn't want this to be perceived as a 'blanket statements' for all. In fact doing the above items and using a GOOD recruiter can be a great option. It's much more likely that people will look to your efforts to gauge your skills with the recruiter doing the initial very basic match, so it's what you've put together than will come into play at point.

One last note - having your own website that includes your resume is also good because you can make the point that you don't customize one for each job as is commonly the practice and you don't need to have different 'versions' for different job applicants. There's just one for all to see. This also makes a nice (integrity/ethics) statement on your part.

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+1 - Also if you do submit a traditional resume, submit it in PDF format. Like ewwite said in the question it is (pretty much) guaranteed to look the same for everyone, can be searched/annotated using tools in any PDF viewer (as maple_shaft noted), and it doesn't break if your version of Word is different from the employer's. –  voretaq7 May 2 '12 at 19:34
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@ypercube, it (realistically) only breaks if you use a more recent PDF file format version than the recipient's software can open. Using the lowest version PDF format that you can get away with lets you mitigate the problem greatly while retaining the benefits of using PDF files. If your resume is also available on the web, if there is any place to provide comments (such as an email body or a comment field) you can also write "should you have any problems opening the resume, please see URL instead". –  Michael Kjörling May 3 '12 at 9:27
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But that you can do with Word, too. I send rtf file when they ask for Word. No complaint yet :) But yes, you don't have the other benefit of PDF (not easily modified). –  ypercube May 3 '12 at 9:29
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With regards to the ethics of tailored resume's, I think that a full career CV on your website could be an excellent addition to a tailored per application resume. One to get your foot in the door, the other to give them the full details of your career to date, if they want to research further. You can still make the implied statement about not hiding anything, but still present the most relevant experience for each application. –  Mark Booth May 3 '12 at 11:16
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@MichaelKjörling, a good thing to do is to embed the fonts in the pdf you distribute. Font issues are the most common screw-up in pdf documents. If one can generate PDF/A-1, that is the best choice. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDF/A) –  Angelo May 3 '12 at 12:47

You can't stop recruiters being unethical, at most you can frustrate their efforts.

Ditching Word documents for PDFs was a good first start, but even if you use PDF's there's nothing to stop them ripping the text out of it and creating their own Word document of it's contents. Also, if they have the right software, they can even edit your PDF before sending it on.

One approach might be to digitally sign your PDF CV and use the option to prevent text being copied from it, this may make life more difficult for prospective employers too though - if they want to copy particularly relevant details for quick reference.

The best option might be to tailor your CV for every application, which is common job hunting advice anyway. That way, no one recruiter has all of your CV and double presentation might be less of a problem because there is an obvious difference between the generic CV and the tailored CV.

Combining these, you could provide signed, tailored CV's which can still be copied from. If a prospective employer asks why two CV's have been presented to them, ask them to check the signature so that they can see which one is the genuine application and which is the fraudulently presented one. This might even make the company think twice about using the unethical recruiter again in the future.

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While I disagree on the point that it's impossible to stop recruiters being unethical, I'll admit it's difficult. If a recruiter modifies your resume and in so doing changes any material fact contained within it, you can sue for false representation. What they are doing is pretty much libel, even though in the majority of cases they make you look better; they are making untrue, damaging statements. Now, the difficulty is that you have to prove the resume was indeed changed, that they changed it, and as a result you suffered damages (the loss of a job opportunity). Harder than it sounds. –  KeithS May 2 '12 at 19:12

Unfortunately once you hand information to another person you really lose control over where it goes -- the best you can do is try to keep track of who is spreading it around (this is often done by inserting a few known typographical/factual errors into sensitive documents). One option nobody mentioned in that regard is that if you're using a digitally signed document (like a PDF) you can include who you provided the resume to, either obviously in the document, or in the digital signature.

An unobtrusive "prepared for $_recruiter, void after mm/dd/yyyy" at the bottom of the document or invisibly in the signature may not avoid double-presentation situations, but you can explain to companies that are put off by the double-presentation that the recruiter is/was no longer authorized to represent your resume to companies.
In reality I don't think it would help - having been contacted about you by a recruiter "taints" the application in that the company may feel obligated to pay the recruiter their fee to avoid potential legal messes - but at least it doesn't leave you looking like the disorganized one, and might help knock a sleazy recruiter's reputation down a bit...

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ARS Technica had a story on doctrackr's "cryptography applied to document management" solution.

Now, if you can open a document in Word, PowerPoint, Excel or Adobe Reader, then you can track its use—and it doesn't require any additional software to be installed on a user's Mac or PC.

The process works something like this: your boss has an important document he or she wants to share with you and the rest of your team. Your boss uploads the document to DocTrackr, and sends each of you an invite over e-mail to view the file. Using what Cazalot calls "cryptography applied to document management," Microsoft Word or Adobe Reader checks with DocTrackr's authentication server to confirm whether access is allowed.

I have not used this but when I read the article I immediately thought of this question.

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You can add a legal clause in the email that your information is only for apply for that specific job. That can be used in some circumstances and is ok for legal documents and private information. A kind of small Non-Disclosure agreement and should be respected.

Other idea is to have different emails for different documents, this can be easily implemented if you have your own domain with a catching all configuration so wherever email that you use wherever@yourdomain.com is redirected to your main email.

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I am a technical recruiter and it is very frustrating when you encounter these agencies that do " double submit" you. I have run into competitors who submit someone without their knowledge resulting in confused candidates on the phone with me who have lost control of their own resume, the result of their skills, hard work, and experience.

As a practice, you have to wonder what those people are thinking--if you get caught applying for candidates without their permission and have to explain that with them don't these people realize how badly it makes them look?

I recommend to any candidate who works with an agency to be firm about double submittal and discuss with the recruiter who the end client is and the duration of the project so YOU can determine whether you have been submitted to anything similar. While in most cases clients are understanding that a candidate may unwittingly get submitted twice not realizing it is the same opening, when you get to three and four submittals it seems indicative of desperation.

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use an alias name when communicating with recruiters. i do not give recruiters my real name until I decide who will submit me. I have had my resume submitted to a place I used to work and people who knew me, knew it was my resume with a false name and thought it was funny. I had no idea it was submitted. They will even take your resume right off the web and submit it without talking to you. some vendors will submit you just to block you (I was actually threatened with this by a contract company, but they did not have my real name).

i have an email set up just for dealing with recruiters.

when dealing with end companies who actually hire, use your real name.

this kind of garbage has happened to me repeatedly over the years. It is not uncommon for the exact same job either to be advertised by by 5-10 different recruiters. I have seen $100k difference in compensation for the exact same job.

another example... I referred a friend of mine for a job at a company I worked at. he got offered a job. after he got the job a recruiter called him and lied. He said that he had formally agreed to be his sub-contractor. he wanted to pay him $20/hour less than he would make without him. The recruiter tried to get him thrown out. It failed because he was submitted by me.

this garbage happens all the time. its not just the difference in rates. there are differences in terms. the ones that tend to just mass submit you, generally have horrible contracts. I have found that the honest vendors don't care if they don't have my real name. There are a number of contractors who for years have had me in their DB under 2 names since they have submitted me after I gave them my real name.

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