I am an employee at a medium-sized tech company. I have no hiring authority, but somehow several recruitment agencies have acquired my company email address and occasionally send to me unsolicited messages containing CVs of contractors/consultants who work in my field.

Usually, I simply ignore such messages. However, recently I have been considering leaving my permanent employment to transition to freelance contracting/consulting within my field. I'm tempted to open the CVs I have received in order to gain insight into how others have structured the documents, and to compare my experience with people already in the market.

I'm quite sure there would be no practical downside for me, and I couldn't possibly be "caught", but I'm not sure if it's ethical.

Would it be wrong for me to open these documents purely for my own information?

P.S. Based on the emails (and standard recruitment practise) I assume the CVs themselves have been anonymised.

  • 1
    Depends if they ment to send to those emails to you, why not? If they didnt don't. You can also go to an application Website where People have put up their CV's for People to read and spread. I see no problem learning about how People write their CV. Dec 20, 2016 at 11:25
  • 5
    Just make sure that these are actual recruiters and not spammers who will infect your computer with malware when you open their attachments.
    – David K
    Dec 20, 2016 at 13:07
  • Good point @DavidK
    – Neo
    Dec 20, 2016 at 13:09
  • 2
    I don't see a problem with you looking at your own emails ...
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 20, 2016 at 16:12

5 Answers 5


It's perfectly fine for you to open these. While it would be wrong to read email that's not meant for you, these messages are addressed to you specifically.

There's no delivery-error or mistake involved here. It's your email, feel free to read it.

It would be different if they are addressed to someone else, but it sounds like these are just ignorant recruiters spamming out CVs to whomever they can find, so there's no reason to think the messages are meant for anyone else.


If these are coming from recruiters, then the CV's will be anonymised and amended by the recruiter.

The recruiters haven't sent you these in error. They are simply emailing all their contacts to try and get a contractor a role, and therefore a commission. As these haven't been sent to you in error, then there is no issue in reading the contents/attachments.


You're getting spammed by recruiters sending you unsolicited resumes. This is not a mistake , they're just shotgunning the company, hoping somebody will bite (many companies refuse unsolicited resumes on principle). If all you're doing is looking at how other people structure their resume, describe experience & getting a feel for the state of the local market, you're in pretty safe ethical territory.

You'd have an ethical problem if, for example, you were applying for a promotion and the manager accidentally sent you the applications of all the competition and you used the information there to make sure you came out looking like the best candidate. You'd have an ethical problem if you started copying the contents of other people's resumes. You'd have an ethical problem if you started publishing them.

Just reading them carries about as much ethical weight as jaywalking.


Would it be wrong for me to open these documents purely for my own information?

I think that it is not unethical. Lots of people actually post their resumes on social medias and especially on linkedIn for everyone to see.

However, I would advice you that if you can indeed get inspired by how they have arranged their resume, you should not compare yourself to them. Everyone has it's own special mark they can put in a resume to make it unique.


By implying that you have considered getting "caught", I think you already know that this is very unethical.

In addition, I'm sure many of those emails will have that standard disclaimer "if you are not the intended recipient, please ignore/delete this message", which further shows that you really shouldn't be looking if it is not meant for you.

That said, I would absolutely see how I stack up to my competition.

  • Wel the emails are being send to him more than once on which one could assume that he is supposed to see the email. Also he could possible give his Company suggestions for an replacement by reading those. Dec 20, 2016 at 11:27
  • OP is the intended recipient. Why is it unethical?
    – Lilienthal
    Dec 20, 2016 at 12:50
  • 2
    @Lilienthal Good point...
    – JohnHC
    Dec 20, 2016 at 13:10

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