Online job boards rent, sell, trade, loan, and otherwise fully exploit resumes people submit to them. This was pretty well documented even several years ago. Today, unscrupulous “recruiters” use the job boards as their personal data bases, uploading people’s resumes without their knowledge, and downloading and submitting to their “clients” the resumes of other unsuspecting rubes. That’s why the job boards in general are a national disaster.

An Ask The Headhunter reader (who asked to be anonymous) suggests an interesting solution to the misuse of resumes. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this might be the first volley in a legal battle to protect your credentials and privacy. Look carefully at the disclaimer this reader places at the bottom of communications with employers and headhunters (and probably on resumes). The idea is intriguing, especially if you consider that some people spend considerable amounts of money to have their resumes written professionally. (I’m not a lawyer, but this seems to establish that a resume is a different kind of asset than some might assume — now it has a documented monetary value.)

Resume trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business. What would recruiters and job boards do if people invoked their copyrights and defended them in court?

Dear Nick:

I would like to share an experience with your readers. This is about copyright infringement on resumes. Unfortunately these crooks doing the job as “recruiters” don’t care even a bit about professionalism. They use resumes only in order to meet quotas or something for their exclusive needs, not the job hunter’s.

I am in the process now to serve to a recruiting firm a “cease and desist” order for improper use of my resume and refusal to confirm in writing that they destroyed any existing copy of it. As you can see in my signature, I already put in place a disclaimer. I am sure that no recruiter will read it (they are too stupid to do this), but in court it will be useful, at least in my humble opinion. I would like to see in your newsletter an article about it. I believe that job hunters must start acting in the “American way”: making them pay for recruiters’ idiocy. You are authorized, to publish the content of this email exchange; just please take out my name.

I am the only owner of my resume’s copyright. If you receive my resume YOU CANNOT FREELY USE IT. The purpose of a resume is to present it to the INTENDED EMPLOYER and any use of my resume MUST BE AUTHORIZED BY MYSELF IN WRITING. Any violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can be and will be prosecuted in a FEDERAL COURT and/or with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). I reserve the right to ask a minimum of $300 for each day of violation of this disposition. By receiving my resume you aknowledge my right to elect as the competent Court, the Court closest to my place of residence.

This brings to mind another suggestion made by an attorney and former Human Resources executive who believes that employers routinely waste job applicants’ time when recruiting and interviewing them. In The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement, Conrado Hinojosa puts a sharp point on HR’s failure to manage the hiring process responsibly.

My prediction: This economy is going to blow up America’s employment system, which has long been broken. Too many unscrupulous “businesses” are profiting from desperate job hunters, and many thoughtless employers have been mistreating and taking advantage of meek, anxious applicants. Get ready for class-action lawsuits and government investigations. Let the resume wars begin.

  1. Dear Nick, I am flattered that you have published my project for a disclaimer on your blog. I believe in honesty and integrity. Unfortunately the plethora of recruiters made me a renewed fighter. We cannot simply whine, we have to fight back. I am not sure that my disclaimer will put in a corner one of these rascals, but I am working on it. I am Italian and I had to fight against discriminations based on my national origin and age. Unfortunately for these people I am a veteran of Search Engine Optimization and IT in general, so their names go on Google usually in less than 2 minutes and normally on the first page of results (most often than not within the first 3 results). I had to cut out articles on my blog, because now I am publicizing my services in order to find a job as IT Director/Manager, and this kind of articles can hurt my chances.

    My disclaimer will be checked-out shortly by a specialized attorney and I will keep you posted about his findings. I recently started a battle against a recruiter who refuses to put in writing (via snail mail, not email) that she destroyed any trace of my resume and the same attorney I am talking about is designing a legal strategy to pursue her in a Federal Court.

    My next battle is going to be against Temp. Agencies. They feed companies with so called temporaries (I am now of them right now) while these positions are clearly not on a temporary basis. I believe to have found the key to turn around the trick; it’s called IRS. Al Capone was not imprisoned because he ordered the killings of many people, but because he did not pay taxes. IRS already acted against the so called contractors and now I believe I have some meat for them.

    Thanks again for your kindness,

    Angelo (yes my name can be disclosed now).

  2. Nick,

    Great article. I’m looking forward to the exposure of the shenanigans in the employment process.

    I few years ago a read an article about an American engineer working in Japan who lost his job and his journey towards reemployment. I was struck by the author’s description of the operation of Japan’s Employment Bureau (as opposed to our Unemployment Offices). According to the article, all companies were supposed to least REAL openings with them and could not turn down a qualified applicant the office found for them!

    Perhaps the recent down turn will cause use to rethink our ass-backwards approach to reemployment.

  3. Hello Jesse:

    Unfortunately here in the US this would be perceived as “communism” which is not. I call this, social justice. I experienced on my skin that staffing agencies list not existent jobs with the sole purpose of meeting a quota on their “resume collections”. Add to this some racism and you get the recipe for a disaster; no wonder the American economy is so much troubled. I come from Italy, I am a 100% legal immigrant, I respect laws and I have a crappy job, I am paid $12/hour (when her majesty the staffing agency decides I can work), no benefits whatsoever, no rights, no nothing. And I am a highly qualified IT Manager. In Europe this game would be criminally prosecuted, here is called “freedom”. I am seriously thinking to go back to Europe.

    When I went to the local ESC, I was referred to a few companies. I sent all the things they required and they did not even bother to answer. As you can see they use the system (for free I suppose), and the system does not care about unemployed people (but they are paid with our tax dollars).

    By the way I really appreciated your comment.


  4. This is the disclaimer I put on 2 of the major job boards (CareerBuilder and Monster).


    I am the only legal owner of my own resume. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects my rights in this matter. Any misuse of my resume or data contained in it, can and will be prosecuted in a Federal Court. The competent court will be the one closer to my physical residence. The fact that I publish my data on a public job board, DOES NOT give away my DMCA rights under any circumstance.

  5. Talking about subtle discrimination based on national origin …

    Why is it that when an IT recruiter contacts me after looking at my linked-in profile that says I am mid-level director for a hospital, still assumes that I must be really good at programming based on my Indian origin, and wants to talk about a “great IT programming opportunity” that would fit my skills … without even asking about my skills or interest. I used to get highly frustrated and spent time educating these “HR recruiters” on my interests but they just don’t get it. Instead, over time I have found another way to handle it since my time is too precious to spend on these dimwits. Now, I ask them to describe the opportunity in as much detail as possible, and when they do, I place the phone on the table and walk off. They can talk to my hand!

  6. GP,

    Not many recruiters are worth talking to. Most recite buzzwords, as you’ve found. The odds they’re going to send you to an appropriate interview are about zero. It’s pretty easy to tell who knows the business and who doesn’t. Talking to the hand is a good test :-)

  7. I am going to put a copywright notice on my resume. A few years back I was working in a managerial role and received an application that was a reflection of my resume. I tracked the situation back to when I had applied for a job at the place she had previously worked and clearly had access to my resume.

    When you apply for jobs you never know where your resume will end up, all it takes is someone to forward it to a friend or copy your hard work.

  8. @Kristen: An attorney explained to me that because a resume is intended as a marketing document to help you find a job, it’s not copyrightable. It’s “sent out into the world.” Another attorney might advise you otherwise.

    Believe me, I understand your frustration. I’ve wished resumes could be copyrighted, too!

  9. What’s wrong with resume sharing? You do it to get a job, to advertise yourself, so more resume is shared – more people see it – more offers you get. The ones who share your resume do the work for you for free.