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If you need help during your job search, find a certified counselor rather than using an executive career marketing company, Nick Corcodilos writes.

Ask the Headhunter: Should I pay a firm to find me a job?

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: I just spent an interesting hour talking with an executive career marketing company. They’ve been in business for 50 years. For $9,600 they will help me find a job in my current geographical region, in 90 days, with an average of 25 percent raise in pay. They do personality stuff, interview taping, and set you up with some CEOs. Their marketing philosophy is to not look for vacancies.

I was fortunate enough to go through a lot of the interview skills training with my present company. (I’m losing my job due to a merger, not any failure of my own.)

Are these types of companies worth it? It hard to let go of this kind of cash right now.

Nick Corcodilos: Save your money. I’ve heard only horror stories from people who’ve signed up with such firms.

If you read the fine print carefully, all those promises are irrelevant in light of the typical disclaimer: They won’t guarantee you a job, any particular salary level or a refund if you’re dissatisfied. If you don’t find a job, the guarantee usually promises “all the additional counseling” you can stand.

I doubt that’s your goal.

Another common ploy of these firms: The impressive point person who sells the service isn’t who does the counseling. Too often, the counselor is someone you’ve never met or spoken with who delivers a rote “program” that you can find in any of many career books.

You can get most of what these “executive marketing firms” deliver for free at your library and online. If you want to try some personality/aptitude tests, your college alma mater probably offers them at no cost or for a small fee. Contact your alumni association.

A local community college may also administer tests and interpret them. But I’m not a big fan of such tests. Too much depends on the quality of the interpretation. They can be fun and interesting, but they’re not very practical in terms of guidance. (See “An insider’s biggest beefs with employment testing.”)

No one can guarantee you a job, much less a particular salary. Don’t fall prey to an empty sales pitch. If these firms could really deliver jobs reliably time after time, the whole world would be standing in line for their services. Ten grand isn’t too much to pay for a guaranteed job. But I don’t see any lines forming.

My four suggestions:

  1. Ask for references
    Make sure you talk with a few people who’ve used the service; who found jobs in 90 days at higher salaries; and people who have used the service but who didn’t find jobs.Why should the counseling firm give you the latter references? Because no firm has 100% success, and it matters how the people they didn’t help were treated. If they won’t give you access to both kinds of references, I doubt you’re dealing with good people.
  2. Ask how they charge
    If the firm has good references and offers personalized service, make sure you pay as you go, not in one big payment up front. If you’re not happy, you can stop paying and walk away. My guess is they want all or most of the fee up front. Don’t do it.
  3. Find a career counselor instead
    If you really need hand-holding during your job search, find a certified counselor who will tell you up front what he will actually do for you. An honest one will not promise you a job. (That’s why they call it “counseling” and not “job delivery.”) My advice above holds for counselors, too. Pay only as you go and check references before you pay a dime.
  4. Start with “the basics”
    For a critical look at how job hunting works (and doesn’t work) in today’s fast-paced world, start with The Basics on Ask The Headhunter. It’s free.

Dear Readers: What is your experience with special firms that charge big bucks to “market” you to employers?


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 © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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