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Background

My partner is at a stage in their life where they need to enter the world of work, but they don't know what type of job they want nor do they have the drive to make their mind up and search and apply independently. She is quite content to spend the rest of her life on the couch watching TV.

Moreover, she's dropped out of higher education multiple times. This means that the student finance system is unwilling to pay for her education. She's expressed an interest in studying for a masters degree, but can't articulate why or what subject even if there were funding available.

Potential solutions

I've tried suggesting a number of areas where she could work. There are entry level marketing, finance and legal opportunities within a short commute that I think will be a suitable fit. She doesn't follow up on these suggestions, principally due to laziness.

I could just leave her to her own devices, but she will just rot on the couch for the rest of her life. If that's the choice she makes, then we're highly likely to break up.

Question

All of this has led me to the unconventional suggestion of applying for jobs on her behalf. The applications I intend to make will be accurate representations of her skills and qualifications.

My question is, is it ethical to apply for jobs on a partner's behalf?

Controversial Post — You may use comments ONLY to suggest improvements. You may use answers ONLY to provide a solution to the specific question asked above. Moderators will remove debates, arguments or opinions without notice.

closed as off-topic by Philipp, gnat, sleske, jcmack, Jenny D Feb 22 at 10:30

  • This question does not appear to be about the workplace within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 199
    If your partner can't be bothered to apply to jobs herself, why would she be bothered to go to the interview/work the job? This sounds like less of a workplace question, and more of ar elationship one.. – Jay Gould Feb 20 at 9:24
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    Quite a big detail missing, have you told her you're going to do it? – DubDub Feb 20 at 9:34
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    I would recommend removing the background for this question from the post because you're inviting answers that amount to relationship advice (which is off-topic here) while you have a good Workplace question here. – Lilienthal Feb 20 at 12:44
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    You might want to check out interpersonal.stackexchange.com – Martijn Feb 20 at 14:52
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we are dealing with a personal problem here, not a workplace problem. – Philipp Feb 20 at 14:58

14 Answers 14

117

I'd say highly unlikely. You wrote:

she will just rot on the couch for the rest of her life

if left to her own devices. That clearly shows she does not want to get a job. Job application says she wants to get a job. Thus, any application would be a lie on that single most important point.

If you apply for her, you will be lying and wasting resources of innocent company and people - how could this ever be ethical?

If you want to "help" her, you need to change her attitude and her wants. I'm not a specialist in that matter. If you are not one, either, you may suggest her seeing one. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can really do wonders these days.


Edit: we do not know what is the root of the problem. We cannot know it. We should not. There are specialists. We see effects that may be caused by something innocent or something mortal. We are not equipped to deal with it. Only qualified professionals are.

  • 10
    While I upvoted this for the part about how it wouldn't be ethical, since OP would be lying and wasting resources (not to mention your own time and effort), I disagree with the statement "you need to change her attitude and her wants". While OP may have some influence on her, OP cannot directly change her. While therapists, psychologists, etc. can certainly help, OP can't make her go to them either. – zr00 Feb 20 at 20:02
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    @zarose I meant that without such changes she won't have a job. I didn't meant it's easy or even possible. If it's depression it probably is treatable, for example. Who knows?.. – Mołot Feb 20 at 21:10
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    While I mostly agree, I would have one amendment: If she is just depressed, unmotivated to write applications, e.g. overwhelmed by the uncertainty what she should write and to which company, I'd say it might help to help her write the applications, sort out promising jobs in dialogue with her, then write up her CV and an application letter etc, BUT she needs to have the final say. It needs to be her that sends it in and she needs to be willing to take that job and see the interview process through. Maybe she just needs a little jump start like that. [cont] – Frank Hopkins Feb 21 at 13:46
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    @Darkwing depression is illness that can kill. Not something to treat lightly. If that's it. We don't know, We can't know. – Mołot Feb 21 at 13:51
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    @Molot We cannot indeed, OP needs to judge how much help may be needed and accepted and how much of a mental condition and how much of a situational "depressed state" just in regard to finding a job it is. I'm only saying that there could be cases where such help might be ethical and actually helping, but it indeed is a thin window within the range of possibilities the description we have represents. If you don't see it that way or don't want to incorporate that, fair enough. – Frank Hopkins Feb 21 at 14:08
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I would say that depends on how involved you are planning to get. If you are simply helping her construct a resume and sending it out on her behalf I don't think anyone could find fault with that.

It is a different matter if you are writing application letters on her behalf. The way that a person writes and structures such letters go a long way in informing a potential employer about the personality of the applicant. So not only are the ethics of someone other than the applicant writing an application letter questionable. It could also negatively impact any interview she gets because of your application.

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    "I don't think anyone could find fault with that." I can imagine at least one person in the stated scenario who is highly likely to find fault with that. – ceejayoz Feb 20 at 17:19
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    Application letters are pretty formulaic, many people just copy templates. And if you're applying through the employer's online offer site, you might not even send a letter, just upload your resume. – Barmar Feb 20 at 20:05
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    @ceejayoz I think the key phrase there is "helping her." If you're helping by doing the activity together, it's hard to see any problem there. If you're helping by just doing it while she's on the couch entirely uninvolved, then yes, there is fault to be found with that process. – Zach Lipton Feb 21 at 5:25
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    @Barmar That depends a lot on where in the world you are and what industry you are seeking employment in. The last time was looking for work I must have sent out a couple of hundred application over the course of a year and each time I wrote a unique letter addressing that specific job posting to accompany my resume and project portfolio. The few companies that had some kind of online form all included a section for you to write a free form motivated application as well. – Taurmin Feb 21 at 15:48
  • Even though they have a place for you to write it, they don't necessarily read it. If they get lots of applications, there's probably an automated system just looking for keywords in the resume and letter. But I agree that it probably depends on many things. – Barmar Feb 21 at 18:23
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While not exactly on a par with things like stealing this is certainly unethical. When a company receives a job application there's a non-zero amount of effort that goes in to evaluating that application, and they're going to be doing that on the basis that the application is in good faith. What you're proposing to do is at best a misrepresentation - the purported applicant has never applied so it's fundamentally dishonest to begin with. I can only speak for myself but I for one find expecting candidates to have the necessary work ethic to actually be bothered to apply for the job in the first place to be something of a bare minimum. Your proxied applications may be an accurate representation of her skills and qualifications but they aren't an accurate representation of her as a person.

Now pragmatically this may be a non-issue if the "applicant" was likely to pick up the baton of the hiring process and run with it but from everything you have said in your post (and I'm sorry if this sounds harsh) I can't see that happening. And if she doesn't follow up on the application (say she gets an interview and just doesn't go) then congratulations you've just wasted everybody's time, including your own.

PS: As a somewhat off topic tangent for Workplace SE - spoon-feeding lazy people rarely makes them less lazy. All you are doing is reinforcing the behavior.

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    +1 for the last sentence. – CactusCake Feb 20 at 16:47
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Unless you have her consent, you should not be applying to any jobs on her behalf. You may have the best intentions, but part of entering the world of work is being independent and responsible for yourself. Those are two traits that she will not pick up if you do all the work for her.

Another thing is that doing things on her behalf without her consent can hurt your relationship. I know someone who applied and interviewed for a position but the company was slow to respond after the interview. His girlfriend without telling him then started to apply on his behalf to other companies. He did land the job with the original company but after he started working he was being contacted by the companies that his girlfriend had applied to. He was not happy at all with what she did and they split up because of it.

15

Tl;dr: you're asking the wrong question. Don't do this, instead, help motivate her to do it.


It sounds like you don't need to ask the question about whether or not it's "ethical" to apply for a job on her behalf, and should not even do that to begin with, but should probably head over to Interpersonal Skills and see if a question over there, on how you might help motivate her to change her behavior to be more productive, would be a good fit.

This isn't a question of applying on the jobs — you know she wants to sit on the couch and watch TV all day, this is a question of motivating her to do something different (if that's at all appropriate, I'm not validating it one way or another here).

If you want her to get a job, start a career, or go back to school, you'll need to help motivate her to do it. I had the same problem with my SO (she wanted to sit and watch TV all day as well), so I took steps to motivate her to find something she enjoys (she likes science and math reasonably well, so we went that direction) and we started working on that. Now she wants to continue that direction.

You'll need to take some similar steps here, but keep in mind, your goal is not to:

  1. DO NOT: Boss her around: don't tell her she needs to do <X>;
  2. DO NOT: Tell her she's "failing": seriously, don't demotivate her, you should try to do the opposite here;
  3. DO NOT: Tell her what to go into: it sounds like she doesn't know what she wants to do, so don't say "you should do <X>", help her explore and find the appropriate paths;

I'd head over to Interpersonal Skills and see if you can find some related questions, or see if a question on how to do the aforementioned is on-topic, but you should try to encourage her to change her behaviour, if you truly feel that's the right path.


I want to end with an example anecdote of how doing exactly this can go spectacularly wrong: in the (seemingly) popular show Parks and Recreation episode The Fight (season 3 episode 13), Leslie Knope submits Ann Perkins name for a job in the Health Department for the city of Pawnee. (The exact same thing you are suggesting here, but for one job.) Upon finding out, Ann Perkins is infuriated, and she and Leslie get into some shenanigans, and end up having a significant fight, and almost part ways permanently. They reconcile later and things go "back to normal", but I don't believe your life is a situational comedic drama, and I would suspect that repairing said damage would be significantly more difficult in the real world.

Don't do this, seriously.

  • 6
    OP should get OP's girlfriend into the doctor for evaluation. Depression can work this way, and if it goes untreated it can get lots worse. – David Thornley Feb 20 at 16:23
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    Very good answer. I'd add a fourth point: "DO NOT: Go behind her back to find her a job because you feel she should have one". It sounds like the OP is trying to force the outcome they want (partner has a job) without confronting the problem or discussing it with the partner. – DaveMongoose Feb 21 at 15:51
  • If lazy is a core element of her personality, the very best thing you can do for her is break up. You aren't going to be able to change her and she'll come to resent you anyway. By breaking up, you'll expose her to the world where she could/might discover her laziness is a problem. And then might want to change. – wallyk Feb 21 at 20:32
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Next you will be asking if it is ethical to masquerade as her or to hire her cousin to attend the interview. Then if you can do the work for her as well after she is hired.

Your partner is dysfunctional. And you are her enabler. It is called a codependency spiral.

Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

You do not help dysfunctional people by enabling their dysfunction. You need to break the cycle.

Give her a reasonable amount of time, say a few weeks, not much more or less. Pick a holiday or a family event or something arbitrary in the calendar and set an ultimatum about some kind of first steps -- and not more college! The institutional enabler.

If she fails, you cancel the cable. Fails the next one, you pawn the TV. The next one you pawn the couch.

The final straw is you ask her to leave. If she cannot or will not, you cancel the lease and you leave.

This is not cruel. This is how you help people. Some people do not respond well to help. But there is no other way. Let's hope your partner responds well. She will thank you some day.

  • It's not clear to me she is dysfunctional. Things may be functioning exactly the way she wants right now and she may be actively keeping them that way. This may be dysfunction or deliberate. – StephenG Feb 21 at 20:35
  • fair point @AlexandreAubrey. David K added an appropriate link and summary and removed the unnecessarily flippant and quite possibly arrogant comment you rightly cited. – Milton Feb 21 at 23:27
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is it ethical to apply for jobs on a partner's behalf?

If by applying you literally mean "sending her CV and cover letter", then this is exactly what recruiting agencies do. If they can do it, you can also do it.

However, no job is assigned just upon submission of an application. The candidate will have to go through an interview/selection process. There you cannot replace her, both for practical and legal reasons. You don't want to go through the ordeal of explaining why they interviewed a guy with brown beard and now they have a blonde woman at their reception requesting to start her work day.

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    "If they can do it, you can also do it." - but that's a faulty analogy. Recruiting agencies do that for people who want to get a job, and here "candidate" in question wants to sit on the couch. Plus, recruiting agencies disclose they are recruiting agencies, and question does not suggest OP plans to do so or not, so that's an iffy point as well. – Mołot Feb 20 at 11:02
  • @Mołot, but then the candidate will be rejected after the interview or for not even showing up at the interview. That's not a problem of ethic, but about candidate's motivation. – L.Dutch Feb 20 at 11:08
  • Wasting someone else time and effort to prepare interview that's not going to happen is a matter of ethics. – Mołot Feb 20 at 11:18
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    "then this is exactly what recruiting agencies do". Exactly. – Fattie Feb 20 at 11:55
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    "If by applying you literally mean "sending her CV and cover letter", then this is exactly what recruiting agencies do." I would imagine that recruiters don't send a cover letter, and if they do, they clearly say that they are a recruiting agency. Sending a cover letter in which one represents that one is the person named in the CV is, I would assume, not something recruiters do, and would be unethical if they did. – Acccumulation Feb 20 at 17:10
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It is not strictly unethical. The key is that she is informed and she consents.


TL;DR

Write the CV for her. Ask her if it's good and if she wants you to send it to potential employers on her behalf. If she says yes to both then go ahead, if she says no then definitely keep it to yourself.


Sending documents on someone else's behalf is OK if they review and approve the document before it gets sent. It's common practice.

More specifically related to this question: you can hire people to help you write a resume or to wholly write it for you based on some information you give them. You can also hire people to send it out to potential employers. There's a whole market of recruitment agencies that's based on the fact that applying for jobs one someone else's behalf is OK.

So it would be OK for you to write her CV for her, but get her to read and approve it. Also make sure she consents to have that document sent on her behalf before sending it out.

With regards to the background and many comments that arose from it: stress can lead to procrastination, apathy and depression, and taking the first step towards the solution can definitely help someone get "out of the rut" they're in right now. With that in mind, if she approves of the CV you wrote for her and she lets you sent it to potential employers, I don't think that sending the resumes are a waste of time for the possible employer; I think it might be what she needs to get off the couch.

IF, however, once you show her the CV you wrote for her, she doesn't like it and/or doesn't give you permission to send it to potential employers on her behalf, don't send it.

Best of luck.

4

If this person currently has no inclination to get a job, but to sit on the sofa and live either off your money or off tax-payers money, then anything you can do to change this is ethical.

Many people get help writing CVs or hire professionals to do it. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve done it for others, and it got them the job. Write the CV, apply for them, and if there is an interview drive them up to the door of the company so they have no excuse. Ring the bell and push them through the door if they need it. Push them as hard as you can and as hard as they need. Either that, or look for another partner.

4

I would like to offer a frame challenge:

Why should she get a job? Does she actually need one? Why does she need a job?

There are a lot of people who are willing to live extremely cheaply. Some of these people do not need a job. For someone who is willing to put in the effort, it is possible to feed their self for dozens or hundreds of dollars per year. Personally, I like to buy cheap food in bulk, the best being food that costs less than a half-dollar per pound, and I have augmented that with a vegetable garden. Where I live, water is literally cheaper than dirt; if I recall correctly, I pay less than a penny per gallon of water.

If she does not need the money, why bother to waste her time acquiring it? If she does not live cheaply and expects you to pay for everything, then next time she wants something tell her you are willing to help her get it by paying for half of it for her.

However, even if she does not live cheap and expects you to pay for everything, that does not mean there is no value added. My wife has not had an income-generating job in years. We both still consider her to have a job though, just a job at home. Her activities at home, such as managing our supplies, cooking, finding good sales on things, ect., saves us a reasonable amount of money. A dollar saved is a dollar earned. Since you are looking at your relationship financially, you should take into account the value added as well as the finances consumed by her.

In our case, we have children too. Child care is very expensive here, and we do not trust the child care services anyway because there are too many reports (some confirmed) of child abuse at them. The non-financial benefits of caring for your own children are even more pronounced.

Adding child care savings to the already mentioned general savings means that my wife probably saves us more money than she would make if she got a minimum wage job, so she practically does make as much money as if she had such a job even though she earns no paycheck.

In your case, though you may not have children, you should consider the child care savings as well if you think you might have children in the future.

Summary

If finances are one of your big worries for your relationship, then think about whether the value added by your relationship with her (financial and otherwise) is worth the financial cost.


Frame challenge answers should also provide a literal answer to the question as asked, if possible, so here it is...

There is a problem with sending out applications on her behalf if she does not even know it is happening. That would be awkward to be hit with "Surprise! We want to interview you on Friday," especially when you were not looking for a job and may not have wanted one.

What you could do is talk to her about a job opening you have seen. "Hey, I saw a help wanted ad for that one place downtown." She might not do much about it, but then later you could say "Hey, I thought I'd help you by preparing this application for you. Can I send it to them?"

3

In answer to the title question, yes it is generally ethically permitted.

There is nothing inherently unethical in applying for a job on someone else's behalf. This is in essence what some job placement services do and not that different from what some recruiters do. It is not hard to find services that will write your resume for you and submitting the application is essentially an administrative step.

Writing a cover letter is a bit more of a grey area because people expect that to be something more of a personal statement. But while writing a cover letter for someone is pushing the boundary, providing advice and editing, even extensive advice and editing, on a cover letter after they write the core content is very common and generally accepted. It is also noteworthy that cover letters are usually optional.

Creating a writing sample for someone else if one is required would definitely be crossing the line and unethical. However, even there providing general advice and light editing is normally accepted unless the requester specifically forbids that. I normally use an excerpt from some of my publications as my writing sample. While the core of the work is mine, those have obviously been edited by skilled editors and the editor is thanked by name in the footnote of the first page of the published piece which is included in the sample.

Of course, if there is some sort of screening test you absolutely cannot provide any direct help on that test. That would clearly be unethical. But those normally come after the initial application stage.

In your particular situation, probably not, or at least not without your partner's explicit consent and cooperation.

The body text of this question gives me the impression that you intend to send out some of these applications without full, informed consent from your partner. If that impression is right, then it is both unethical and likely to cause problems from a practical standpoint.

It is one thing to provide assistance to someone who asks for it in finding a job, and another to act as an "officious inter-meddler" and foist your help on someone who doesn't want it. Sending out applications without your partner's full informed consent is improperly concealing information from your partner and the potential employer since the employer will reasonably expect that the application at least came from an authorized agent of the applicant.

Moreover, it will likely not end well at all. Your partner will end up with interviews for jobs they are not likely to be interested in or prepared for and that will waste everyone's time, at best.

  • An employment service or a recruiter specifically has permission to assist a candidate in trying to find a job. They also play an active role in the process. – PoloHoleSet Feb 20 at 19:54
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If you submit an application that asserts, or is designed to give the impression, that you partner submitted the application, then you are lying. It breaches an ethical duty towards the company, in that you are misleading them, and to your partner, in that you are making false assertions about her and refusing to accept her agency. As poor as you think her behavior is, it is her choice, and you don't have the right to override that. The term "partner" refers to equals, and if you start making decisions based on what you have decided is "best for her", then you're not treating her as an equal.

It is extremely unlikely to be successful, as your partner will still have to go through the rest of the process, and will not only not be motivated to begin with, but will likely be resentful of you for being dishonest. In addition, if she ever does regain her motivation, she is likely to find a lot of bridges burnt, with employers unwilling to accept further applications from someone who wasted their time previously.

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I think ethical/unethical is besides the point. It might not be legal (you don't have any kind of standing to stand-in for someone in that regard), but it's definitely pointless.

What company is going to hire someone so uninterested in working for them that they couldn't even be bothered to apply themselves?

0

As a person who conducts interviews, a job application represents:

  • The "best foot forward" for the candidate
  • An earnest interest in the position
  • Expertise at the level I'm expecting

Someone doing an application on someone else's behalf betrays my expectations of that candidate, and would result in neither of us being better off for it.

In effect, that harms your partner more than it helps; during the interview, their flaws would be laid bare to me and they would be unlikely to generate anything positive from this kind of experience, and I would feel genuinely cheated having had an amazing application from someone, to have it turn out to be a dud.

From your perspective, you should look into counseling with your partner and get help in that way. Doing this for your partner isn't going to get them past any of your barriers (and if they appeared to, it'd only be superficial); they have to want to do this for themselves.

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