By Karla L. Miller
Special to The Washington Post
— Q: I work in a small field in ethics and compliance. Two years ago, I left Firm X to join a company where my career had more growth potential. One of my former co-workers, wanting to make a similar move, asked for my resume. I hesitated because I had worked hard on it, and I was concerned that she might just copy it (her work ethic had never been her strong suit). The requests continued for several months, and finally I gave it to her.
Months later, she told me she'd found a great job opening at Company J and asked my opinion of her resume and cover letter. She had copied verbatim the portion of my resume describing my job at Firm X. I replied that the resume looked "awfully familiar," and she responded: "It should. We did the same job." I said I wasn't comfortable with her copying my resume and asked her repeatedly to change the Firm X portion. But she would not confirm that she had changed the resume.
I am considering letting Firm X know about this exchange, in case Company J calls them for a referral. She has used a stolen resume to apply for an ethics and compliance job. Not only do I find that ironic, I believe she should be held accountable, and her prospective employer should be made aware. Is it reasonable to relay this information to my former bosses?
A: Well, she performed consistently with your expectations, so you can't say you weren't warned. Next time, don't cave to someone you have reason to mistrust, on the first request or the 20th.
So much for the obvious-in-hindsight advice. I'm more ambivalent about your future course. If you know that she falsely claimed some of your accomplishments as her own, snitch away — but copying a straightforward job description, albeit lazy, barely registers a "meh" on my outrage-o-meter, and I'm not sure that Firm X or Company J will see what she did as a hangin' offense. Furthermore, you don't know what was in her final resume; if she did change it, you would be maligning her. Finally, your personal investment in this matter belies your purported pursuit of justice. I don't know who would come off looking worse: her for cutting corners, or you for trying to take her down.
I understand. She's looking to profit from your hours of effort without shedding any sweat of her own, and you hate to see her get away with it. I suppose you could mention it, if your copycat's name comes up while you're chatting with a Firm X colleague. Word does get around in a small field. Just be warned that the word may not be any kinder to you.
Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers. Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office.