Job-Search Scams that Target High Performers

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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.

Résumé Services

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

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.).
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Guest's picture

My husband was targeted by a company called ITS. They found his resume that he had posted online and invited him to a nearby city to attend an information session with a few other select people, where they implied that they were a placement service with access to unadvertised jobs. They said their goal was to have him in a job within 6 months. It was very hard to find anything about them on the internet (ITS is a pretty common letter combination), but by doing a "scam" search like the one mentioned above, I found a site with a whole litany of complaints. The company (which operated under several names) would charge an upfront fee, give the client a limited time to back out, but then give no refunds if the client was not satisfied in the end. When my husband next spoke to the "recruiter", the man admitted that his prices started at $6000. We didn't have that much money to throw away, so I'm glad we didn't get caught up in it.

Julie Rains's picture

Thanks for sharing your story. Being "targeted" is a great way of phrasing the approach that some of these companies take. Glad you went a different route.

Having to deal with aggravation of trying to get results from a company that may not deliver what's promised is extremely difficult at any time, especially when someone is under stress from job searching and unemployment, not just to mention the money outlay.

Guest's picture

Job search are really a tool for a faster employment. Though the search costs a lot for the job, it practically provides a more accessible search that is bound for a performance level search. Through an online search, companies can choose the best out of their resume's without the need of taking a very tedious job. It just takes a very reliable service providers that ensures a quality work of employment search for you.

Guest's picture

I want to mention an amazing FREE resource that I wasn't aware of until a year ago when I was hired for my current position. I work at a job center in Wisconsin. We are a collection of government and non-profit organizations that help people get jobs and often help them receive training/education. The state runs a job search website ( where employers post jobs similar to careerbuilder/monster etc except that it's free for the employer and the potential employee. Job Centers exist across the country but may be called other things depending on the state (Workforce Centers for example).

The national site is

Guest's picture

try this site... This is the only legit site ive found to make money, research it if you like but you will make money no one will ever dispute that and its all free, this site isnt going to make you a millionaire over night or anything but then again that just goes to show you this is real money, all done through pay pal.