Through a few friends I know who work as recruiters at some temporary agencies, for certain contracts the department was told to edit resumes (and heighten them so the pay rate is a few dollars higher). They noticed small edits to a few resumes submitted a day or two before being told (i.e. changing percentages from 60% to 75%, or 50,000 to 150,000, etc.) that would make the candidate appear to achieve outstanding results at their past/current employer. They said most of the staff treated the directive like common place (i.e. most were already doing it/have done it before). This made me worry as I do apply at some staffing companies, but I have not heard of this happening (but then again, who would know).

As I have been applying, I have my resume in Word format (.docx), and I have wonder if it would be wise to make it read-only to prevent those kind of changes from hiring managers or anybody (not that they would, but just to be safe). Would this be frowned upon or looked down upon by hiring managers? Would they assume incompetence or "sketchiness" if a document was locked for editing? The only reason I can think so is if someone just wanted to highlight or bold features in the resume for review upon interviewing the candidate.

  • So they edit to help you get the job and than is a bad thing? – paparazzo Jun 12 '16 at 3:22
  • I was not involved at all, I just know friends who do recruiting work (I used to work with some of them a while back) and they moved to some other recruiting companies. The candidates panned out like usual (some good, some bad, some so-so). They were telling me how they almost lost a contract due to an over zealous edit of someones's resume by not doing calculations correctly (ie someone talked to over 100 people day, and averaged 350 a week). The manger at the contracted company complained "[that] doesn't sound right or believable" and they just blamed it on the candidate. – B1313 Jun 12 '16 at 3:29
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    @Paparazzi From what I know, false advertising on your resume/CV can be EXTREMELY detrimental to a career/person as they can get blacklisted or even have legal action taken against them. AFAIK. I wouldn't lie on my resume and I would be extremely angry if someone edited without my knowledge or consent and fudged facts. This is why I was worried about applying to a few places - they could sell me as something I am not or paint me as someone I am not (good or bad). – B1313 Jun 12 '16 at 3:32
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    If you change what the person wrote without their consent, it's almost 100% certainly false advertising. – Erik Jun 12 '16 at 5:46
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up vote 16 down vote accepted

As I have been applying, I have my resume in Word format (.docx), and I have wonder if it would be wise to make it read-only to prevent those kind of changes from hiring managers or anybody (not that they would, but just to be safe). Would this be frowned upon or looked down upon by hiring managers? Would they assume incompetence or "sketchiness" if a document was locked for editing? The only reason I can think so is if someone just wanted to highlight or bold features in the resume for review upon interviewing the candidate.

I usually submit my resume in PDF - because this format preserves formatting, and as a side benefit also prevents easy editing. I mean, you can edit it but you need to have expertise knowledge and some serious software.

However, I find that most recruitment agencies often ask for a "Word format" (this is how they put it) file. I have never had a such a request directly from an employer. I assume this is to anonymize the information so that their client doesn't contact me directly and bypass the agency's fees/commissions.

Note that where I am based, there are almost no agencies that offer "right to represent" contracts, that is - the agency signs a contract with the prospective employee that they are the only ones authorized to represent them. I know in some places this is common.

I would really be surprised if an agency misrepresented my skills (no matter how generous they were being) because at the time of interview I am being interviewed against a resume that is not genuine - worse, I may be asked a specific question about some embellished data that I may have a difficult time answering.

An example of such a question would be; "I see you have managed a project in excess of 2 million - can you give me an example of how you managed any overruns on the project." - when I never have such a project in my job history.

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    I've done the PDF thing before with recruiters and have always been asked for "Word format". Being on the hiring side as well, I know it is common for recuiter to add their own letter head in addition to removing the contact info. – psubsee2003 Jun 12 '16 at 9:37
  • Aren't PDF's more versatile and somewhat smaller then .docx files? They don't require paid software to open, so they should (in theory) be preferred. Just thinking outside the box slightly. Does the format perturb recruiters? I would think it would force them to call you and make a mention of the fact they are doctoring the document in question (for whatever reason, but the knowledge they are doing so is very important). – B1313 Jun 13 '16 at 0:07
  • To be fair, .docx files can also be opened in free software (such as openoffice), and there is an online Word application that people can use as well (similar to Google Docs, but from Microsoft). Since PDF files are difficult to edit (and can be locked down with a password to prevent things like copy-paste) I find many recruiters do not prefer PDFs. – Burhan Khalid Jun 13 '16 at 9:47
  • @B1313: Why would it be a problem that paid software is needed to open a document? Most people also use a paid computer, and sit on a paid chair in a (monthly) paid office. – gnasher729 Jun 13 '16 at 23:10
  • @BurhanKhalid: Maybe you should bring your own copy of the CV. Obviously in the situation described you can still not answer questions about that project, but at least you can demonstrate that it wasn't you who cheated on the CV, and since you are there, the interview has a chance to continue. – gnasher729 Jun 13 '16 at 23:12

Don't do it.

Protecting your resume from editing is a horrible idea for several reasons:

  • it doesn't work: if I want to edit your "read-only" document I'm going to
  • you're trying to solve a symptom not a problem: the issue isn't recruiters editing your resume but them lying about your profile. Protecting your resume won't work (see previous point)
  • you are incredibly unlikely to ever encounter this: no reputable recruiter pulls this kind of thing and any that do won't be in business long. Do your due diligence about who you go into business with and this is no longer a concern.
  • it stops recruiters from doing their job: not all recruiters will edit your resume but those that do typically improve the wording or bring out experience relevant to a particular job. You're harming your chances by design
  • it stops recruiters from submitting you: many companies require job applications in a particular format or web form. If they can't edit your resume easily they're not going to work with you.
  • you're going to piss recruiters off: most explicitly request an editable format when you submit your resume. Those that don't will contact you again for an editable version if you send a PDF (which is counter to established practice). At that point you're either going to give them one or you'll have to explain how you don't trust them. Good luck working with them after that.

Recruiters are people who are meant to work in your best interest. Allow them to do so. Don't actively harm your chances of finding a job because there are a few bad apples out there. Even if you encounter this situation, you're only losing the time you spent interviewing and you can immediately end your agreement with the recruiter once you discover it.

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    I disagree. I have seen recruiters alter a candidate's resume and introduced embarrassing typos. Imagine a web developer resume with HTML spelled wrong. That has seriously happened. My resume is a first impression to prospective employers, so if somebody wants to edit my resume, I want to review it before they share it. – Brandon Jun 12 '16 at 15:41
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    I have worked with many different recruiters. The "good" ones tell me up front that they need to "brand" my resume with their agency. I completely expect this. I tell them to feel free to edit my resume, (rewording, dropping irrelevant data), but not change the particulars. I also ask to be given a copy of what was sent. Most have no problem with this. I look at them as marketing experts. Their function is to "market" me. As long as the resume is still truthful, I leave them to determine the "creativity" of it. – Wesley Long Jun 12 '16 at 16:16
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    @Lilienthal I have not been aware of any recruiters editing my resume. Some recruiters have given me feedback and strongly suggested I edit my resume. But I agree with the overall point. If you don't trust the recruiter enough to give them an editable document, then you probably should not be doing business with them at all. – emory Jun 12 '16 at 20:29
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    Making a file read-only does little to stop someone from editing it. All they have to do is copy all the text and paste it into another file, then edit that file. At the absolute worst case, they could print it out and type it back in with whatever changes they want. You're not stopping them from doing what they want, you're just making it harder. If a recruiter is changing your resume into a pack of lies, your real protection is to go to another recruiter, not to play games with "well let me send them a file that's harder to edit". – Jay Jun 13 '16 at 22:47
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    I disagree that Recruiters are people who are meant to work in your best interest. They're providing a service to a company and taking care of their own interests, which may coincide with mine in some respects, but I wouldn't bet my future on it. Regardless, you're correct that trying to prevent them from editing your resume is pointless and likely to be detrimental. I also disagree that you've only lost time when a recruiter does something fishy with your CV. Stories spread and you don't want your name in them. It's better to vet your recruiter beforehand than try to fix it afterward. – ColleenV Jul 9 '16 at 22:11

You are conflating two different types of recruiters.

  • Those who work for an agency and only make money if they can sell your services to another company.
  • Those that are an employee of the company you will work for.

In the first case they make some money by putting X number of qualified resumes in front of the customer, and then they more money by having one selected. Where I have run into the problem is when they want to use your resume to beef up the number of qualified candidates. Your resume will be tweaked to show you barely meet the requirements. They don't expect you to get interviewed, so the modifications will not be discovered.

In the second type they are a full time recruiter for the company their incentive to cheat isn't as large. They are generally trying to find the best person for the position and the company. We have filled slots with only a handful of applications, because finding the qualified person was important, not the number of resumes.

This is not to say that the second types doesn't make modifications. Companies have been caught tweaking their own employees resumes so they can bid higher rates on government contracts.

Locking your word document will not even be noticed by a hiring manager. because the recruiting agency will likely submit it as a PDF.

If you don't trust an agency of the first type. Don't use them. There are many other ways to find a job.

  • Any suggestions for how to find out whether one should trust an agency? – Patricia Shanahan Jun 12 '16 at 16:29
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    Recruiters who work full-time for a company also have almost zero need to put your resume on their own letterhead. – Blrfl Jun 12 '16 at 20:05
  • @Blrfl Absolutely. When I said recruiters, I meant in the context of external agencies. Most of the company specific recruiters are really just the HR department (just given a diminished title). – B1313 Jun 19 '16 at 19:07
  • You could make this very interesting bit of information bold: They will change you from "not qualified" to "barely qualified" so they can submit your CV with no chance that you would be interviewed, therefore no chance anyone ever finds out. – gnasher729 Apr 1 '17 at 19:05

At first you should never send .doc, .docx, or .rtf files via email, if you can avoid it.

  • you do not know how it is displayed (printed) on the others computer, if a different software version, font or (paperformat) is configured. It is the same mess with all office suits I have seen: Different versions, and computer settings let the text look sometimes differently.
  • the recipient must fear that a new macro virus is in the document. Many companies delete .docx attachments unseen.
  • usually you do not know which office software the company uses.
  • you send a lot of hidden personal details with your document.

It would be better to send a .pdf file without extensions like Javascript. Unfortunately there are many pdf standards and not all standards ensure that the document looks exactly the same, but PDF/A is a good start.

There is no effective write protection for files. The restrictions are usually strange hacks that do not work always and sometimes even prevent that the file can be opened at all. Even PDF files are easy to manipulate.

But you can sign a file with a (qualified) electronic signature. Technically it is easy to verify the file integrity.

You could provide your signed .pdf in a password protected directory of your website and send only the download link with individual credentials. The PDF/A standard has a built in signature support (X.509,PAdES), but you can also use external tools such as gpg (which can sign all filetypes) too. You can create your own self signed signatures for free, or ask a CA to assure the identity which is linked to your signature.

Besides the technical solution, you can arrange with the recruiter that changes require your permission.

I wouldn't feel comfortable with a recruiter editing my CV in any way. As was pointed out above, some serious typographical errors have been made by recruiters during the editing which will cost an applicant a much sought after job as the CV is a direct reflection on the applicant. If a recruiter was to embellish anything on the CV it would make the CV a misrepresentation of the client, which is illegal. I wouldn't give a recruiter an editable version of my CV, I would make it PDF. If the recruiter feels that any editing needs to be done they let me know & I'll do my own edits. If they are looking for an editable version of your CV, you have no control over what edits they are doing and goodness knows what changes they are making. I had this nasty experience where I used a recruiter to assist in finding me a job, I gave them a .docx version of my CV, it was sent to a prospective employer who called me for an interview. I was asked a ton of questions about my CV that totally baffled me. I was shown my "CV", which was a completely different document to what I had initially handed my recruiter. They changed everything bar my name and contact details. I swore NEVER AGAIN will I give anyone an editable version of my CV. They do not need an editable version of my CV just to attach it to an email for a job application, they only need it to edit it and as I've said, goodness knows what they're doing without you knowing about it.

  • this post is rather hard to read (wall of text). Would you mind editing it into a better shape? – gnat Jul 9 '16 at 19:36

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