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Ask the Headhunter: 4 signs that you should run from a job scam

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

In this special Making Sen$e 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: My son interviewed with a sales company. There were six applicants all interviewed at the same time. He was one of two offered a job on the first interview. When he questioned them on benefits, he was told that it would be discussed in training.

He showed up for his first day at work, where he was supposed to start training, and he asked again about benefits. He was told that no one was officially hired the first week, and that there were no benefits.

READ MORE: If you’re expected to jump through hoops to get an interview, here’s what to say

These people are a scam with deceptive hiring practices. I want to pursue some kind of action on this and I do not know where to go. They promised him the world and now his world is crushed!

Nick Corcodilos: If I published nothing but readers’ stories about job scams, I could do a daily column on the subject and keep it going month after month. The loosey-goosey behavior that online “recruiting” tools promote and enable has turned online job hunting into a very risky proposition.

You have no idea whom you’re dealing with.

When you respond to a tantalizing job ad, you’re on your own. And that can lead to trouble. It’s up to you to verify that you’re dealing with a legitimate job opportunity. Do not assume that because it’s on some job board it’s real — and that it’s not a scam.

Here are some clear signals that may reveal problems.

A company with no people
Do basic research. Look up the company or the recruiter. Does the website “About” section list the names of people who run the company or recruiting firm? Can you verify those people by looking them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other common social media sites? If the site lists no people’s names that you can verify, run.

Any legitimate business is proud of its owners, managers and employees and will feature biographies that are easily verified elsewhere online. Some of the biggest employment scams I’ve found online were readily identified this way.

Group interviews
Does the employer or recruiter tell you you’ll be interviewed along with several other applicants at the same time? Run.

A legitimate job interview is between you and a hiring manager. If a group of applicants are interviewed together, that’s usually a sales pitch. The “company” wants to efficiently do its pitch to as many people as possible at the same time. This is what happened to your son.

One-sided interviews
Does the interviewer spend the entire meeting talking about the business without ever asking you good, relevant questions to assess your skills and abilities? Run.

It’s a sales pitch. They don’t need to assess you because they don’t need workers. They need suckers who will “qualify” to part with their money when the “interviewer” gets around to explaining that you have to pay for training, special materials, or for the “opportunity to proceed.”

Oral offers
They like you and want to hire you and tell you you’re hired — without giving you a written, signed offer that includes full details about the job, the title, the pay and benefits? Run.

I can’t tell you how many people report they got an oral offer and assurance of employment, quit their old jobs, cancelled the lease on their apartment, and moved — only to learn the job offer was never finalized. See “Get it in writing.”

What your son should do

Even legitimate companies are sometimes guilty of promoting jobs without fully disclosing the job, the compensation or the benefits. It’s up to the applicant to check and verify each step of the way. If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions. If the answers are inadequate or don’t make sense, walk away. The suggestions above apply to any job situation—not just to obvious scams. Your son should have done due diligence. See “When job offers are bad for you.”

READ MORE: How to spot a job recruiter without standards

There are two legal approaches you can pursue for your son. (Mind you, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.) Contact your state attorney general’s office and the department of consumer affairs to file a complaint. Or, hire a lawyer who specializes in consumer fraud.

My advice is to talk to the authorities, because I think you’re going to have a heck of a time getting a legal remedy for your son’s poor judgment. In the future, please tell your son to use his best judgment, and to run when he encounters the tip-offs listed above.

Dear Readers: These are just a few tip-offs to job scams. Have you been scammed into an interview that turned out not to be what you expected? Did you bail out of an “opportunity” because you smelled a rat? Please share your job-scam stories and signals so we can all learn what to look for to avoid getting ripped off.


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,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

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

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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