Best of CoBiz: Eight slimy job scams

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.