What is “fictionalizing” your resume samples — and how do you do it?
When responding to a request for a subcontract writer — or when publishing resume samples on your website, you should ficitionalize the samples first.
Fictionalizing means taking a real resume and removing any identifying information that may make it possible for a reader to determine the “real” identity of the client.
This allows someone to see the style of your writing while protecting your client’s confidentiality.
Here are some basic steps to follow to fictionalize a resume sample:
1) At a minimum, change the client’s name and contact information, including changing the street address, phone number, and email address. I recommend changing the city and state to an entirely different area of the country (and make sure the area code you use for the phone number corresponds to the “new” city). If there is a link to LinkedIn profile, you can change it to link to your LinkedIn profile (great marketing strategy) or just to the LinkedIn home page.
For example, you might change:
5050 Grover Street, Omaha, NE 68106
1111 Main Street, York, ME 03902
Laura Slawson, CCM, CPRW of The Creative Advantage reminds writers to change the footer (the person’s name may be there too!). She suggests using 111-222-3333 for the phone number and firstname.lastname@example.org for the email address.
Based on Laura’s advice, I’d recommend you check the document header too AND the Document Properties field in Microsoft Word.
2) Change the name of any/all companies listed. For example, instead of “Varian Medical Manufacturing,” you might change it to “ABC Medical Manufacturing.” Other “generic” or placeholder company names are: Acme, Ace, Mom and Pop, Sample, Widget, or XYZ
3) If the job title is really unique, you may consider changing it as well. (When in doubt, do a Google search for the job title. If it comes up with hundreds of links, you’re ok.)
4) Change the name of any organizations, clubs, or activities — and/or change the dates that the client participated. For example, if the client has earned a specific credential or designation, make sure that information would not be able to be used to trace the person’s identity.
5) Review the client’s educational history. It may not be necessary to change the name of colleges or universities, but you may want to consider changing a graduation date (or omitting it entirely) to avoid identifying the client. (An online directory of graduates for a small university, combined with a graduating year and job title could potentially be used to “find” a specific person.)
6) Consider changing some of the numbers in the $$/##/%% data so that exact phrases can’t be searched for on LinkedIn or Google.
Finally, review the resume one more time as a whole — is there any information that would potentially be able to be linked to the original client? If so, change it!
Q: Should you ask clients for permission to use their resume?
A: Yes. Most resume writers do this in their client agreement, asking clients to allow the use of the resume for promotional purposes if it is fictionalized to remove their identifying information. You can use a phrase like this:
Unless you request otherwise, your resume may be used for promotional purposes, with the guarantee that all information will be fictionalized to protect your confidentiality.
Q: Should I let people know the samples on my website have been fictionalized?
A: Yes. When publishing samples on your website, use this phrase, or something similar: Please note: All featured samples have been “fictionalized” — the client and company names and locations have been changed to protect the privacy of the original client.