Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Scam Artist All-Star List

As we all know, there are top 25, 50 or 100 lists for almost everything such as the top 50 NFL players of the decade or the 25 Best Costumes for Lady Gaga, Most Important Inventions of All Time, Best Political Scandals of the Decade, etc.

As we all also know, it seems that whenever something awful happens, be it large or small, man-made or natural, there are always some folks lying in wait to take advantage of people when they are down and at their most vulnerable.

We read about it every day: con artists scamming seniors, sub-prime lenders, quacks selling phony cancer cures, or those who think of ways to take advantage of people whose lives have been shattered by Katrina or, of course, the Bernie Madoffs of the world be they on Wall Street or, as we hear about almost daily, another elected official who has betrayed the trust given to them.

The list is dreadful, long and always makes you wonder how or why it is that one person would do something like that to someone else. Even more depressing is the fact that lots of these people are actually parents!

At any rate, what got me going on this subject was a question that one of our members asked on a teleconference I host every week in which members can ask anything they want to on any subject be it about ExecuNet, executive job search, executive search, headhunters or whatever.

In this case, the question was: “Are professional career marketing services effective and worth the cost to assist in landing an executive-level position?”

Every time I am asked about this topic I have to take a deep breath before responding and compose myself so that I don’t sound quite as angry as I feel.

Indeed, I posted some thoughts on this subject a few years ago in a post I called: There’s a Reason They Call it Caveat Emptor and given that title it is pretty obvious what my feelings are about how some of these executive marketing firms operate.

Talk about taking advantage of people when they are most vulnerable! As they say, “I could tell you stories…”

Technically we may be out of the recession but when you are still trying to find a job, it sure doesn’t feel like it, and given the current economic environment, many of these outfits have re-surfaced as hundreds of thousands of people try to fight their way back from the recession.

In any event, in trying to pass along a few tips to the caller in terms of “red flags” when it comes to services that claim they can work magic for you, it occurred to me that while some of it was still fresh in my mind, maybe posting a few things to keep in mind here, might be of help to others who weren’t members with us but who certainly are as vulnerable as anyone else.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind if before you sign a check:

Beware of firms that “guarantee” placement, promise an astoundingly high success rate or a job in certain period of time. Of course, they won’t really put it in these specific terms, but it will be implied and you are going to think that is what you heard.

Real world: There is no one better at selling you than you, and therefore no one who can get you a job but you.

Be careful if asked for big bucks up front. Outplacement services and executive recruiters are normally paid by companies and not individuals so these scam career firms sometimes will often have names that suggest they are in the same arena and might explain their services as “retail outplacement” or “reverse recruiters” to try to legitimize themselves in the prospect’s eyes when, in fact, they have no intention of providing the sort of help that the legitimate career services firms and practitioners do. The fact that the career services industry is unregulated, makes it very easy for the unethical firms to pass themselves off as legitimate.

Go to the company's website. Is there easy-to-find contact information with names, addresses and phone numbers? Are there pictures and bios for the management team? Research them online too.

Conduct thorough due diligence. These firms are masterful at initially creating positive search engine results but once a steady stream of complaints build online and/or with the Better Business Bureau or sites like RipoffReport, they go out of business and change names. They are all-stars at walking the legal line to the edge.

Worse, they know that most of their "marks" are in transition and therefore don't have the money to take real legal action and/or are too embarrassed at falling for the scam and just want to move on. Point being, they know their risk is very slight at best.

Watch out for the bait and switch. These low life outfits have lots of ways to get leads such as: posting bogus positions on job boards, watch the résumés stream in, and then they’ll make contact with some sort of pitch to get you into their offices: e.g. “This job has been filled but your background makes you perfect for…” They also scan résumés on public job boards and reach out to those whose backgrounds look like they were in jobs that paid well enough to get someone to write fat five figure checks.

Find out what they’re promising. Break down and quantify the list of services they’re providing. You’ll find some you can do yourself, some are free, some are less expensive, and some aren’t worth it at all.

They are exceptionally strong sales closers. Every contact – email, phone and in-person meeting – is to draw you closer to writing a check or handing over your credit card. They will often invite you to bring your spouse or significant other to the office with you so as not to delay your financial decision or give you too much time to change your mind.

Don’t be tempted by an “easy” solution. Job search is not an easy road, and there is certainly a tendency for most of us that once we have paid for a service, we can sit back and wait for the service to be delivered.

Better yet, when we give money to someone and are expecting them to do the work, the candidate is thinking that they now don't have to worry about dealing with the inevitable rejections that comes along with the process of a job search. Outfits like these make it sound like an “easy” answer because of all their “contacts” and access to the hidden job market, etc.

Bottom line: As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.” Full stop.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oxymoron of the Week: Working With Recruiters

So just for the heck of it, I googled working with recruiters and back came nearly 5.2 million hits give or take.

That was almost enough to make me think that writing about what was wrong with the Mets and Red Sox might serve a more useful purpose. But before cashing in my chips, I took out my Google user's manual and tried "working with recruiters" in quotes and felt a bit better when only 11,600 hits showed up.

Of course, even with that I knew I was only kidding myself that whatever my thoughts were on this subject it was hardly going to break new ground and more importantly probably wasn't going to change anyone's mind on the subject be they on the candidate side or the recruiter side.

Idealist that I am however, I thought what the hell, at least I can share an opinion because even with all that has been written about this subject, the sheer volume suggests that there continue to be lots of folks remaining who still go into a career change thinking that one of their prime strategies is going to one of "working with recruiters."

For sure it's a logical thought; unfortunately it just isn't reality. While it is true that recruiters whether they are internal to a company or hired by a company do, in fact, "recruit" it does not follow at all, however, that a person who would like to be hired simply decides to contact the recruiter and "work with them" in order to achieve the candidate's objective of being hired.

On the remote chance that you are not aware of this already, here's news:

Recruiters work for clients not candidates. Why? Simple: They get paid by the clients. Indeed, and to further rain on the parade, a fair amount of what they are being paid for is to screen candidates OUT, not screen them IN.

I know, maybe that sounds harsh, but most people I know who have been in the business world for more than a few years really do know this and probably have hired a recruiter to do exactly this, but somehow when all of a sudden they find themselves on the candidate side of the job changing desk their memory disk gets erased and they become incensed when they reach out to recruiters and hear nothing.

Too boot, if that outreach is made by responding to a posting somewhere (as is often the case) and silence is all they hear it just makes people even more ticked off. No surprise there either.

Unhappily and from my own personal experience along with being a part of ExecuNet for the past 22 years, it doesn't look like that experience is going to change any time soon.

So, why bring all this up yet again?

Answer: Because even though I thought everyone on the planet knows all this already, I keep getting reminded daily, if not hourly, that just because I thought that to be the case, the fact of the matter is that there are still thousands if not tens of thousands of poeple in an executive job searche who either don't know it or at least, don't want to believe it.

For sure I can understand their frustration. I've been there.

Both by phone and email (and sometimes in person) I talk with ExecuNet members who are PO'd beyond belief both at what they feel is an outrageous lack of professional courtesy not to mention the anxiety that comes from not knowing where to else turn.

Aside from trying to help them understand what's going on from the recruiter's perspective (and I emphasize "understand" as opposed to "condone") I offer up statistics in terms of the percentage of openings filled by the search world (maybe 12-15% tops) vs. networking where the numbers are more like 70%+ vs. the inordinate amount of time invested in "working with recruiters."

Of course building and effective network is a lot harder than "clicking and praying" or firing off emails and/or resumes to recruiters, stats notwithstanding.

So, if you still think "working with recruiters" is the most critical piece to the puzzle, then at least you owe it to yourself to get the best information and insights available on the subject.

If you are a member of ExecuNet then hopefully you already know that we have a special section of the site dedicated solely to this area. We call in Recruiter Connections.

If you want more info (along with additonal answers and ideas) then I know of no better resource to point you toward than checking out Nick Corcodilos and more specifically his book How To Work With Headhunters.

The book's tag line is 62 Myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters and believe me when I tell you he is not afraid to "break the myths."

Given his background as a recruiter coupled with his "tell it like it is" style, you will have no difficulty whatever in understanding his point-of-view and why he feels as he does.

All of which is to say, if you are going to invest precious time and energy in "working with recruiters" then arm yourself with information that can give you the best shot at a decent ROI but also which will help you channel some of that extra energy that comes from anger and frustration and apply it in directions that will shorten the "hunt" as well as lower your blood pressure.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The New Job Security

"When it comes to the hard work of finding great work, Pam Lassiter is the consummate pro. She has the experience, the common sense, and the proven track record. My advice: Take her advice."
The foregoing is what Alan Webber the Founding Editor of Fast Company had to say about the newly released and revised edition of The New Job Security by career management expert Pam Lassiter.

The book was originally published in 2002 and so well received that Ten Speed Press asked Pam to revise it with today's environment in mind and that she has.

Anyone who follows this blog with any degree of consistency knows that when it comes to books I put a very high premium on advice that is "real world" aka practical. I am not big on stuff that waxes philosophical or doesn't spend as much or more time on the how as it does on the what.

As was the case when the book first came out, it is filled with practical and actionable advice just as Webber's comment suggests.

I wanted to bring this book to readers' attention not just because I thought it deserved it, or even because Pam has used some ExecuNet data in the book, or even because Pam led our networking meetings in Boston for many years but because I was very happy that through the book she is able to share her expertise to an even wider audience.