Ask the Headhunter: The oldest ongoing racket in the career world

Photo by Flickr user huppypie.

Photo by Flickr user huppypie.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: One of the vendors at the last job fair I attended was a “job-seeker marketing company.” I met with the representative a few days later. He gave me a rehearsed presentation about the benefits of using his service. At the conclusion of our meeting, he wanted to meet with me again. I asked questions about fees, contracts and guarantees. He stated that all those questions would be answered at our next meeting. I have discovered that the fee for the service is approximately $5,000, paid in advance. Is this type of service valuable? What about the large fee? How does this company compare to headhunters?

Nick Corcodilos: Headhunters don’t charge fees to job candidates. Their company clients pay all fees. I wouldn’t spend five bucks on a “job-seeker marketing company,” much less $5,000.

Many of these firms target executives (See “Executive Career Management Scams”), but all of them prey on desperate job hunters, and they provide little more than you could learn for free at your public library or on the Internet.

There are legitimate career counselors out there. (But don’t confuse them with headhunters. See “Career Counselors Are Not Headhunters.”) They charge by the session, not all up front. That’s how you distinguish the legit ones from the hucksters. Check any firm carefully. Many such firms started out as a branches of Bernard Haldane, which have been shuttered by attorneys general around the U.S. (See “Bernard Haldane: Busting The Bad Boys.”)

Your story reveals another sure signal of a career scam: Everything will be explained at the next meeting. It’s the oldest psychology trick. If you attend several meetings, you’re more likely to rationalize all the time you have invested by signing up. Another tip-off: They’ll ask you to bring your spouse along because they’d rather deal with both of your objections at once. They don’t want to risk “selling you,” only to have you go home and get talked out of wasting your money. (To see how this works, in a hidden-camera expose, see “Rip-Off Edition: Who’s trying to sell you a job?”)

My advice: Never pay that kind of money up front. A legit practitioner will charge you as you go. That way, if you’re not satisfied, you can stop without risking more money.

Be very, very careful. This is the oldest ongoing racket in the career world. There are many free resources you can use. Look up your local chamber of commerce. Attend the next breakfast. Then join professional and industry groups in your area related to the field you want to work in. This works whether you’re a lawyer, programmer, marketing executive, secretary, or production line worker. It’s not hard to meet people — just find out where they hang out and go there.

Dear Readers: Have you ever paid to be “marketed” for a job? Have you ever encountered scams that purported to help you find a job? Share your experiences with us and help save other readers the cost and trouble.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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