Top 10 ways to avoid a job-search scam

“How do I know if a career service is a scam or will help me?” This is the question I have gotten over the last year from a couple of dozen people from around the country.

I recommend that anyone who is job-seeking employ the services of a good transition coach. Yes, they cost money, but can shave weeks or months off of your job search, which is essential in these times. But, let’s face it, when people are vulnerable, the scam artists crawl out of the woodwork.

Here are the 10 things I tell people to look for in any kind of career transition service or transition coach to avoid getting scammed.

1). Have you checked them out on Google? These days it is very hard to hide a scam. It is even hard to hide dissatisfied customers. Google the career firm that you are thinking about using. But take Google results with a grain of salt. Any idiot can post something negative about a company that didn’t meet their unreasonable demands. It will, however, give you some talking points.

2). Did they give you references to actually speak with? Written testimonials do not necessarily tell the tale you want to hear, but the tale the company wants you to hear. If they give you actual references to speak with, ask probing questions. Go here for some questions to ask.

3). Do they promise employment? If so, it is definitely a scam. None of us can guarantee employment, or guarantee employment in a specific time, at a specific salary, in a specific location or at a specific title.

4). Do they have a sales staff? If “sales” and “delivery” are separate, be very wary. If the person selling the product doesn’t have to deliver it, the chance that they will scam you goes way up.

5). Is their contract short and vague? Before agreeing to anything, insist on seeing the contract. The contract of an honest career firm should spell out precisely what that firm will do for you, as well as their limitations. My contract is written in 12 point type, is 13 pages long and is in plain English. I have seen one or two page “contracts” that don’t spell out much except s-c-a-m. Beware small print. Read and understand what you are signing. If they are unwilling to send you the contract before it is time to sign it, or it seems vague or incomprehensible…don’t sign it.

6). Are they local? With one exception, you should only sign up with a local transition company. The exception is if you want to move to a new city. Then sign up with a transition company your desired new city. Why? Non-local firms cannot provide you with the necessary intense networking activity to find the best jobs in the local market. And don’t even think about conducting a national search. I have an extensive article that goes into more detail about why than I have space for in this column.

7). Are they working at your level? One size does not fit all! Executives should be with a firm that specializes in executives, and so on. Each level has a very different job search. Make sure your transition coach has the knowledge, experience and ability to deal with your level.

8). How many people does each consultant take? This is vital! Each transition coach can only handle a max of about 20 people, and much less if they deal with executives. Ask how many people each coach is responsible for. That number should be pretty low.

9). Is the price too low to be good? A good transition coach should cost, in total, between two and six weeks of the average salary for someone in your field. Much less, and they’re probably either inexperienced (a bad thing), or don’t deliver what they say they’re going to. Higher? Find out why. They might be worth it.

10). Are they a chain? I know this is a controversial one, but I’ve found that most chains don’t deliver what a local, well-networked and individualized career firm does. The tendency of chains and big firms is to make things into an assembly line. You need a “custom tailor.”

These questions won’t completely protect you from job scams, but they will help. Use common sense, do your due diligence well, and find someone who can really help you in this difficult time, rather than someone who will make it more difficult. For even more information about this, check out my previous ColoradoBiz article on this issue, as well.

Do you want to get three weeks worth of executive level networking done in three hours, with no vendors or sales? Join John and up to 40 of your colleagues at Executives Only Structured Networking on Monday, November 8th, at the DAC. Information and required registration are here.

{pagebreak:Page 1}