Job-Search Scams that Target High Performers
Scams aren’t just for the unsophisticated. Even a reasonable job-seeker with an ounce of urgency might be convinced by polished, persistent schemers who are pros at overselling the value of job-search services.
To be semantically precise, these setups are more scheme-like than pure scams. Service providers don’t take your money and disappear; instead, they deliver a service that may be worthless or have value that is a fraction of its fee. As such, these schemes persist, especially when hawked by aggressive salespeople disguised as career-services experts. They prey on the sense of urgency and latent fears of high-achieving people who happen to be unemployed or underemployed at the moment. And, they exploit the idea that exclusive, high-priced services are better than readily available, free or lower-priced services. I’ve been around the career-services realm for many years and have seen variations of these schemes.
Comprehensive Search Services
Cost: $5,000 or more to design and execute a job-search strategy that may or may not be guaranteed to land you a new position but will position you favorably.
Pitch: You don’t have the resources or knowledge to launch a full-fledged campaign. These companies have inside tracks with hiring personnel and access to the “hidden job market.”
What happens: The services and support that you receive are minimal, generally a redesign of an existing résumé and cover letter, and subsequent mass distribution of your newly revised marketing materials to prospective employers.
Exclusive Position Listings
Cost: $99 for one-time purchase to $20+ for monthly subscriptions.
Pitch: You’ll have access to exclusive listings for great career-oriented opportunities.
Scheme: Listings are compiled from readily available public information, such as help-wanted ads in your local newspaper (formerly) or online job boards; there is no value-added editing of the lists to save time for job-seekers.
Cost: $600 and up for revision of existing résumé and cover letter.
Pitch: Based on a review of your current résumé (not a conversation about your professional aspirations and background), you learn that your current résumé grossly undersells your qualifications. You’ve been using a flat, old-school style and need to infuse the résumé with exciting, wowing verbiage.
Scheme: Your résumé is prepared using documents that you’ve created with little, if any, further probing regarding your industry knowledge, approach to doing business, etc. The résumé will be written by someone with a professional credential but not necessarily one who is privy to the original critique or your specific concerns.
Red flags for high-ticket, low-value schemes:
- exclusive services promoted through mass advertising channels and sold through high-pressure representatives
- focus on selling connections rather than showing clients how to build and tap professional networks
- purportedly fresh, proprietary approach to job searching
- nearly immediate gratification with lightning quick delivery of services.
Free Job Resouces
- job board aggregators like indeed ("one search, all jobs"), careers sections of your target employers, and position listings associated with professional or trade organizations
- university or community college career-services offices
- resume course from Blue Sky Resumes
- advice from Career Management Alliance’s blog
Of course, not all job services are scams. Some offer real, professional help at a fair price. Consider the range of services you may need and your budget: there are job-search strategists, career coaches, résumé writers, interview coaches, branding specialists, and more. When evaluating and selecting service providers, check these sources:
- The Riley Guide: Read about various types of schemes and scams (you'll find information on the types of schemes I'm referencing as well as pure scams that try to get personal information such as social security numbers and payment-forwarding requests).
- Search Engine: Do a search on "company name" plus "scam"; if you get lots of results, then it's likely that the service is a scam.
- Better Business Bureau: Make a phone call or check out companies using Business Reviews section (enter URL, email, or phone number).
- Your judgment: Keep in mind that schemers often change their names or new schemers start new businesses when they see potential profits.
- Referrals: Get referrals from friends and colleagues who have recently purchased career services and ask them how it helped them.
- Credentials: find providers associated with professional organizations such as the Career Directors International, Career Management Alliance, Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches. See if the provider is recognized in the career-services community (e.g., makes presentations to community groups, contributes actively on Twitter, and/or has been published in résumé books, etc.).