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I'm evaluating some resumes, and I noticed that one of them has copied a company description directly from their website. It stood out because it was in much better English than other sentences around it, and a Google search confirmed this.

Is this an accepted practice, or should it be considered plagiarism?

It basically looks something like:

Company name

Description copied from the company's About Us page.

Job duties

  • List of skills/experience in worse English than the above.
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    Personally I think people should write their own resumes but may use templates, but if the description is correct, do not not elevate a perfectly good candidate's resume because what you confirmed on Google search. – Jared Burrows May 19 '15 at 18:41
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    I'm assuming this is in their work experience section... Should you really not be allowed to use a company's own description of what they do, when you've given years of work to help grow that company and you're trying to explain to others what they do? Presumably the site is copyrighted by the company (does that even stop employees or ex-employees?), but surely an exception is reasonable in this case? – Superbest May 19 '15 at 19:39
  • @Superbest Thank you for clarifying: "assuming this is in their work experience section". That is exactly what I was trying to get to. – Jared Burrows May 19 '15 at 20:23
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    Have you considered they may just be showing off their skill at copy and pasting from Google? In the tech industry, that's an important skill!! =) – corsiKa May 19 '15 at 20:39
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    Actually, I just realized that instead of plagiarism, you could ask about infringement of the company's copyright (which is illegal as opposed to just unethical). I don't know if this would be fair use by US law, since it does not stimulate creativity of the personal public and is done for personal profit (to get a job). As I said before, ethically an exception is probably warranted, but legally, I'm not so sure anymore. – Superbest May 20 '15 at 23:17
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This seems entirely reasonable to me. The purpose of that sentence is just to tell you who the company is if you've never heard of them before. Unless you can write a better description than their PR team did, it makes perfect sense to quote this; it's how they would like to be described.

This isn't plagiarism, just quotation, in a situation where an unattributed quote is entirely acceptable. As writing sins go, this hardly rises to the level of peccadillo.

It also isn't an attempt to mask the applicant's writing skills or lack thereof; if that had been the goal they would have had someone proofread the rest of the resume before submitting it. In fact, their failure to do so raises more questions for me than the quote you're worried about.

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    @HLGEM : if a company describes itself in a way (on their website), it means it is the way they want to be seen and described. Therefore copying their words instead of rewriting is not plagiarism. Also, a resume is not literature. It aims at providing a clear overview of the profile of the candidate. So I doubt it matters where the words on this resume come from... – Puzzled May 19 '15 at 14:40
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    @HLGEM: There is no intent to deceive. There is no assertion that these are all the applicant's own words. This isn't academia. Footnotes are not required on every quote. Or are you also arguing that every mention of any company's product absolutely must carry (TM) and (R) and other marking of their exact legal status? You're entitled to evaluate resumes on whatever criteria you like, but you're mostly harming yourself and your company if you reject folks on this basis. – keshlam May 19 '15 at 15:12
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    @zfrisch In this case, the resume comes from someone who is ESL who clearly believes their English to be better than it is. I get a lot of those around here. I'm kind of glad it's bad enough to weed out early rather than discovering it when I get handed a document that's unreadable. – Yamikuronue May 19 '15 at 16:32
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    @HLGEM your gross mistake in using the verb "stealing" would be enough for disqualifying you. – o0'. May 20 '15 at 10:46
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    @HLGEM you misunderstand the definition of plagiarism, it requires someone to be passing another's work off as their own, not merely repeating them. If an employ has been in the practice of using a company's official description whenever asked, by policy, it would be completely natural for them to repeat the official line rather than attempt to paraphrase it. Your kneejerk reaction to see this as a red flag seems like a bit of an error to me. – JamesRyan May 20 '15 at 20:55
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A company description is just that: a company description. The goal is to tell you what the company does, that's all. Usually companies spend time and much thought trying to define the purpose of their company in a single sentence - I don't see how it's bad for a person to use it as it is on their website. The goal here is to inform you about the company, not to write an essay.

If you received 100 000 resumés, well, maybe you can use it as a throw-away rule, but it's kind of sad because the person could be the most competent you'll ever meet... and you would disregard him for a small reason like that.

To me, bad grammar and spelling is way worse than this.

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    Yes, bad spelling and grammar is much worst than that and reason to trow away a resume. You clearly spent much time and thoughts on this. :-) – DJClayworth May 19 '15 at 13:52
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    @HLGEM I disagree with you. The author of the resume has no malicious intention by copying-pasting a simple company description : he is just trying to express something in the more efficient way possible. This is not like you asked the person to write an essay : the goal of the resume is to show what work experience he has. By copying-pasting the company description from the website, that is exactly what he is doing. – Emilie May 19 '15 at 14:02
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    Yeah, ultimately this guy's probably not a good fit due to the poor grammar in the rest of the résumé since the job will require documenting systems, but I was back and forth on the company description part – Yamikuronue May 19 '15 at 14:04
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    @HLGEM It is funny how our opinion differs! I would see copying-pasting the description, if it mattered, as positive. For me it shows a goal-oriented mindset, a person that will not try to reinvent the wheel for every project, but rather use all the available resources to spend time on what is actually to be done, that is the added value...Within the limits of the law, obviously. – Puzzled May 19 '15 at 14:46
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    Why is a company description even needed on a resume? – thursdaysgeek May 19 '15 at 16:53
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Is this an accepted practice, or is it as bad as my instincts tell me?

The example you show is pretty common/accepted practice, in my experience. In particular, non-native speakers often copy such statements. It's easy to see why.

I'm not sure why you judge this as "bad" though.

Unless extremely strong skills in original written English were a clear requirement for the position, I don't see anything bad here at all.

For me, this statement is pure fluff anyway. Even omitting it wouldn't be a problem for me when I'm reading a resume. Pasting in a good statement about the company which was copied from their website would be just fine - as long as it didn't waste too much space on the page.

For me, I don't consider pasting in a company statement as "plagiarism" any more than I consider pasting in the company name or address as "plagiarism".

Your mileage may vary. Perhaps for the position you are attempting to fill it would be important for the applicant to hand-craft the statement about the company. That's never been the case for any positions I've tried to fill.

  • Maybe if you work in PR, where the quality (not just the contents) of your CV gives a hint about the quality of your work. – gnasher729 Dec 2 '15 at 12:43
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Many companies have an "elevator statement" policy, where employees and ex-employees are asked to describe the enterprise and services in a boilerplate, verbatim fashion. This is as widely derided now as the "mission statement".

A copy and paste of the official line is generally OK. Copying and pasting from your supervisor's CV is a different matter.

  • The words of your supervisor's CV are probably not true when you paste them onto your CV. On the other hand, if he allows you to copy the company description that he wrote, that's no problem. – gnasher729 Dec 2 '15 at 12:41
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Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" Wikipedia for 'Plagiarism'

Does this occur to you as a 'wrongful appropriation'? He isn't writing an intellectual paper or stealing an idea from another author. It's just a description of a company on a resume.

Now, if you detect that his work experience is copy pasted from somewhere else or made up, than maybe it would be wise to verify his employment with that company's HR department. But it seems rather silly to ding him for using a company's description on his resume.

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    And it's a description that the company in question most likely wants distributed as far as possible. They would want whoever reads the CV to read the best possible description of the company, which to them is the one they wrote. – gnasher729 Dec 2 '15 at 12:39
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I'd rate the applicant's cut and paste of that paragraph as a minor offense,if it's two or three sentences. At any rate, the applicant implicitly admits that his ability to write in English can use serious improvement.

I am more focused on the job description which, if it is not written in the applicant's own words, would raise a red flag - While positions may be very similar, no two pplicants are doing exactly the same job nor have the same exact work experience.

How you react is up to you. If writing ability is important to the position, the applicant just screened himself out unless his other abilities are outstanding to you.

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    This doesn't imply limited writing skills. In fact, it implies good time management skills by using something already available that doesn't need changing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. – Xavier J Dec 1 '15 at 17:32
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Plagiarism in resumes can range from mildly detrimental, such in the case you cite, to a serious problem.

As others have said, the company description is something they've created for public use. That doesn't make it good to use on a resume. It is using valuable space where the applicant could use that space to show why they are a good choice for your job opening. The company name is needed, but why a description at all? In this case it is also providing a stark contrast in writing styles, making their own look worse than it would without the comparison right there. Still, if the rest of the resume makes them look like a likely choice, it should not be a disqualifier, just a point of information about them.

In other cases, plagiarism is a serious issue, and is worth discarding a resume over. Some examples of how it is bad are found in various AskAManager columns such as this and this. A person who can't do enough of the work to write a resume is probably going to be unable to do the work of the job, and also has unclear concepts of appropriate professional behavior.

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Unless the rest of their resume is also copied directly from somewhere else, this isn't a problem that should affect whether or not you hire them. It would be nice if they had included a link to the website to show where they got that quote, but it's not entirely necessary.

It does show that they are trying to put their participation in this company above their own achievements therein, and that might set off some alarm bells for you. But, consider that in regards to what position they are actually applying for. English composition might not be a requirement for the position you've advertised, and as long as you can still understand what they are saying, you should take this as a valid resume.

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I would personally throw out the resume. I would consider it plagarism. He did not cite the refernce. It is an indicator of lack of character.

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    You're missing the point of the ethical rules around plagiarism. Misappropriating someone else's work for your own purposes in a publication or product is not the same as describing a company in the same way they describe themselves. The company produced that description for exactly that purpose, and they are not harmed by such use. – Matthew Read May 19 '15 at 16:07
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    @HLGEM I can argue that your requirements for an employee whose first language may not be English is entirely too stringent, and that a single line of text from a company's website, set underneath the company's name, that is the company's own description of themselves, used to describe that company, is about as weak a case of plagiarism as you could manage - even if you're comparing a resume to an academic paper (which it is not). You seem to be placing too much weight on it being 'copied', when this is the text the company themselves want to use to describe themselves. – Zibbobz May 19 '15 at 19:02
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    @mcknz When a 63k rep user posts an answer that flies in direct opposition to what everyone else has suggested, giving dangerously narrow-minded advice, the signal that they are wrong should be a strong one. – Zibbobz May 19 '15 at 19:49
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    @HLGEM: You are aware of "fair use" rules, right? This strikes me as a perfect example therof. (I am not a lawyer, but I've had reason to research copyright to some extent.) – keshlam May 20 '15 at 4:33
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    Should candidates also seek permission to mention the company name in their resume? – Masked Man May 20 '15 at 11:53

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