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Posted: June 21, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Eight slimy job scams

Smart people get taken in all the time

John Heckers

You may think that you're too smart, as an executive, to be taken in by job scams. But we see very smart people get taken in all the time by these crooks. Here are some things to beware of.

1). People who promise to get you a job for a fee. The work of finding a job can be so stressful and time consuming that people will fork over tens of thousands of dollars to avoid doing it. Unfortunately, unless you pay $30K - $100K for a true "reverse headhunter" who will "shop" you to companies nationally or internationally, you're probably looking at a scam.

2). Outplacement firms that promise too much. The most common scam for executives is the outplacement firm that promises they'll do lots of the work and you'll get the job. Legitimate outplacement firms are very clear that they will train and prepare you to find a job, help you network and give you some resources (a very valuable service), but are also very clear that you'll be working your behind off to get that job. Dishonest firms play on people's essential laziness and fear of a tight job market to part them from their dollars and give little or nothing in return. Honest firms let people know exactly what to expect.

3). Résumé writing services. Most résumé writing services are honest people performing a needed service. But some charge thousands of dollars for a shoddy product. Get references before hiring a service like this. And, realistically, as I've said elsewhere, your résumé is probably useless if you're at a senior manager level or above.

4). Job Boards. Most are honest businesses, but some are outright scams. Beware of overblown "guarantees" or promises. And, realistically, at the senior manager plus level job boards aren't that helpful. One exception is Execunet. Some of the other "executive level" job boards do not have many jobs. And don't bother with the all-level job boards. Employers at your level aren't advertising there. In any case, never count on a job board as your only job-seeking source.

5). Paid Networking Groups. Some are honest, some aren't. See if you can attend an event or two for free before forking over thousands of dollars. Stay away from groups that keep you in one level (e.g., CXOs only with other CXOs). These are not helpful for a job search, as you can receive leads from many levels.

6). People who claim "exclusive databases." Everyone and no one has an exclusive list of networking contacts. You have a list which is exclusive from mine, in the sense that you have people in your network that I don't have in mine and visa-versa. However, no one has people stashed in a secret room that are going to help you.

7). Reincarnated Job Consulting Firms. One way to get out of an Attorney General closing a firm down, to deal with major lawsuits or to escape bad press is to bankrupt or close, then re-open as something else the next day. While this is sometimes legitimate, it is certainly something that should be looked at carefully and explained (especially if the new name has nothing to do with the old one). You're safer with established firms that can be checked out. A negative or two is to be expected. But at least you'll know.

8). Interview scams. This one is growing exponentially. A company asks you to interview and to prepare a "sample project." You spend many hours doing this, thinking you're going to get a job out of it. But, no. They've just gotten thousands of dollars of free consulting. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Never give away your work. If asked to prepare a project, be very suspicious. Companies with real jobs might ask for a small sample of your work, but they won't ask you to do extensive work for free.

There are many legitimate reasons to pay someone to assist you with your job search, especially at upper levels of management and the executive level. But know what you're buying and don't fall for a scam. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of dishonesty in the job business these days. The dishonest ones make people wary of employing valuable and even necessary services. Don't let the con people con you. Know what you're signing and know with whom you're dealing before you spend a penny.

John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC was an Executive, Relationships, Life and Spiritual Coach in Denver with 30 years of experience  helping people with their lives, relationships and careers.

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Readers Respond

I am considering working with Owen Wilson from Colorado Careers (in Denver) in order to find a career in Colorado. Scam or legit? Please advise. Thanks. Eric By Eric on 2013 01 09
Well, Vicki, whether or not it makes sense to join a networking group depends on the group and what you get out of it. If there is a great deal of organization and facilitation that goes on, it DOES make sense to pay a fee to be part of a group. If, on the other hand, you're just paying for a bunch of people to have lunch together, maybe not so much so. But, again, see if you can attend an event or two for free and see what you're getting. Then check references...lots of them. And, of course, Google the group and see what others have to say. Again, a negative or two is to be expected of any group, as no one can please some people. But if there are major issues with the group, best to stay away. Try typing in the company name and following it by "ripoff.com" and see what you get. But paying for various services DOES make sense in today's economy....you need all the help you can get, and these folks (including me) don't work for free. But you've got to know what you're signing up for. By John Heckers, MA, CPC, BCPC on 2011 03 16
Very good article. This advice could also pertain to business owners seeking business clients, especially nos. 5 and 8. In ANY economy, good, fair or bad, I've never thought it makes much sense to join a group and pay $2,000 or more just for the privelege of joining (who's really making the $$$ here). And, to say "Oh, sure, I'll work for free" - pouring your company's assets and expertise into a spec project with no guarantees (except that somebody else will surely benefit). By Vicki on 2011 03 16
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