(Following is a slightly modified version of my latest Personal Branding article at Job-Hunt.org.)
You see a beautifully written, branded resume – or maybe a LinkedIn profile – of a job seeker with similar qualifications to yours, seeking the kind of job you want. It sounds a lot like you, and you don’t write so well, so you see no reason why you shouldn’t use some of that good writing in your own resume or LinkedIn profile.
Somehow, because it’s right in front of you, and there for all the world to see (if it’s online), you don’t think of it as stealing. But it most certainly is stealing.
I’ve seen it more times than I can count . . . people copying parts or all of brand statements or other brand content I’ve written for clients and using it for their own. In other words, plagiarizing – known as copyright infringement, and in the social media sphere as “scraping”.
Copyright infringement can lead you into all kinds of problems. When you borrow someone else’s brand, you put yourself in a tenuous position. How will you come across in an interview – confident and convincing or floundering and failing? When you borrow content, you risk exposing yourself as “less than” what you intended and who you know you are.
Several times I’ve found content from the sample resumes on my blogsite in the resumes prospective clients have sent to me. I have to wonder, did they think I wouldn’t notice or that I’d be flattered that they thought that much of my writing?
Her intro was vaguely familiar. Then I realized she had copied it verbatim from a sample personal brand statement in a Job-Hunt article of mine. I responded to her privately, and gently, that it’s never a good idea to “use” other people’s content, and why she needed to start from scratch and write her own brand messaging.
Here are 7 reasons why borrowing content is a bad idea:
1. Copyright infringement has expensive penalties.
In the USA, the government thinks stealing content is wrong, too, and makes violating copyright law a serious, punishable offense, with fines up to $150,000 for each infringement.
ANY content you’ve found online, even if it doesn’t carry a “© Copyright” claim, is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is international in scope and consistent with similar laws in the European Union and most other parts of the globe.
2. A borrowed “personal” brand isn’t personal enough.
A “personal” brand is just that. It’s associated with a specific “person,” designed to resonate with their specific target employers, and crafted to showcase that person’s unique set of personal attributes, motivated strengths, passions, and value proposition. The content you’re stealing may sound like you, but it’s really not your brand story.
Employers are increasingly using the Internet to validate what is contained on a resume or in an online profile. If everything isn’t “in sync” it will look very odd, and will likely negatively impact your chances.
3. Not your unique personal brand.
Branding is all about differentiating yourself. It’s not about how you’re the same as the others competing for the jobs you want. In today’s highly competitive job market, you need to stand out . . . not get lost in a sea of sameness.
Identify and help people assessing you understand what specifically elevates you above the rest, and makes you the best-fit candidate for your target companies.
4. May not be appropriate for your situation.
The well-written content that’s tantalizing you may not do the job a resume or online profile is meant to do – aligning what you have to offer with the current needs of your target employers. You MUST research those companies to determine the key functional areas that will be important to them, and pump your resume and LinkedIn profile with your specific expertise, contributions, and value-add in those specific areas.
5. May cause you to be shut out by identity confusion and conflicts.
That resume you stole from may still be in circulation, being used by an active job seeker, or the LinkedIn profile you borrowed may belong to a job seeker who is pursuing the same jobs you are. What do you suppose happens when a recruiter or hiring professional notices the same content for two (or more, if others have stolen the content, too) candidates they’re considering for the same job? All of you get shut out. Nobody wins.
6. Puts your integrity in question.
If hiring professionals find out, you could be jeopardizing your chances to land the jobs you want. What does stealing say about your integrity? What kind of employee are you likely to be if you have no qualms about scraping copyrighted content? Even if you never heard of the DMCA, you should know that stealing is wrong.
7. Bad SEO (search engine optimization) reduces impact and authority.
If you create a web resume that duplicates more than 50% of someone else’s web resume (or any other web page), Google and other search engines will view yours as “duplicate content” and will place it further down in search results, below the “earlier” version done by the originator. Search engines penalize duplicate content!
You’re an original. Reflect that in your brand. Authentic branding doesn’t come from using someone else’s brand messaging. It comes from digging deep and differentiating yourself. Read my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet to learn how to develop your own brand content.