Ask The Headhunter: How Much Would You Pay for a Job?

BY Paul Solman  November 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM EDT

Nick Corcodilos

Job seekers wait on line When you’re out of work and desperate, paying for a job seems worth it, but it’s probably just more money down the drain. Photo courtesy of Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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.

It’s astonishing how readily even smart people fall prey to career scams. But when you’re looking for a job, scammers know that your normal defenses are down and almost any help is welcome. Perhaps it’s no surprise that when help costs a lot of money, desperate job seekers think it must be good help. Suddenly, they think they can pay for a job. Think again.

A reader asked:

Do you have experiences with [XXX Enterprises] in Atlanta? They are in the “executive marketing” business and say they can help me land a good job. They want $2,400 down and $2,400 in the next six months for a one-year contract, with a guarantee. They claim to have their own list of people that they have placed inside of local companies, and that for the most part they use these to get recommendations and, of course, interviews. And, yes, they will re-write my resume, put me through interview rehearsals and use their skill at going through the Atlanta business databases for companies that would hire someone like me. Sounds good, but…

I responded:

Get three references from them: people they have placed. Three more: managers who have hired their clients. Call them all. The firm’s claim implies the people they have placed in turn hire other clients from them. But it’s a kind of a Ponzi scheme. My bet: They will never give you references. It sounds good, yes, but check the references before you give them any money. (By the way, is the guarantee of the “money back” variety? I’m guessing they guarantee nothing but all the “services” you are willing to swallow.)

The reader did what I suggested and wrote back:

Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve asked for references and a copy of the contract with the guarantee. I am waiting for a reply. Meanwhile, I’m reading your advice online.

I offered a little more advice to this job hunter:

Talk to the hiring managers who are provided as references, then call the HR department at each company. Be frank with them. Ask HR to confirm the hires and their satisfaction. Sorry to be so cynical, but the career management business can be a real racket. It costs little to start one of these outfits. It seems the courts can do little to stop them from shutting down one operation and re-opening under another name just down the street. So the obvious other step is to Google the owners, not just the firm’s name. You may find the owners started their racket elsewhere, with bad press in their wake.

It was that last bit of advice that saved this reader $4,800.

He sent me this final note:

This was the reply I got from [XXX Enterprises]: “We will prepare an agreement for you to review tomorrow. Please take a look at the success stories on our website. Providing personal contact information would violate the rules of confidentiality and privacy which we provide our clients.” The “success stories” are listed by client number (0020100 and so on), hardly legitimate references. And the corporate managers or companies they worked with? Nowhere. The Better Business Bureau notes the business was started in 1977. The website states 1986. There were four consumer cases against [XXX Enterprises] with the local BBB. Three were closed administratively, as the BBB felt the complaints could not be resolved through them or through mediation. Although the [XXX Enterprises] website states the owner, (Mr. Z), has been interviewed by several national cable networks of note, I can’t find any references on Google or Yahoo. What did show up, interestingly enough, is that the address for [XXX Enterprises] is the same as a former business for one Bernard Haldane, with whom you are familiar. I then found an article that used a quote from “(Mr. Z), Atlanta-based regional President for Bernard Haldane Outplacement…” You’re right: They change the company name, keep the game going. Oh, well. Thanks again for walking through this with me.

I love it when the executive marketing rackets lose a customer. Don’t get desperate in this lousy economy, and don’t get taken for thousands. The idea that anyone can guarantee you a job in exchange for money is very costly wishful thinking.

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!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.