Honest, I don't wake up every morning wondering, How can I slam TheLadders today? But TheLadders just seems to keep tripping over its own questionable practices.
I received a query from a reporter who's working on a story about the perils of job hunting:
I am looking for job seekers, recruiters or hiring managers who can talk about job scams. If you have been a victim of a job scam or hired at one salary or job description, only to find out once taking the job that the company has structured compensation differently than promised, I would like to hear your story.
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 6:30pm
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Job scams! Right up my alley. I'm always interested in stories about companies that advertise a job at a nice, high salary to get good applicants—then disclose a much lower salary for the job. Some people call that fraud, especially when the perpetrator does it again and again.
Hmmm, I wondered, What publication is this story for?
Turns out the story is commissioned by TheLadders.
Yah, TheLadders is doing an "article" about people who respond to job postings that turn out to pay less than promised. I suppose they want to warn Ladders members about consumer fraud.
Why doesn't TheLadders just interview its own customers, who complain TheLadders itself is making scam salary promises? TheLadders home page, front and center, says:
“Only $100k+ jobs.” Not “…except a few” or “…except the ones our customers bust us for.”
People pay fees to access “Only $100k+ jobs.” Then they go on an interview for one of those Ladders-listed jobs, only to find the job pays nowhere near $100k.
The reporter who contacted me could explore job-ad salary fraud by interviewing someone who paid TheLadders $180 for “Only $100k+ jobs.” Customer Robin Lynn applied for a job she found on TheLadders with “Compensation: $100k.” The recruiter who posted the job responded:
This position is paying @75K-80K. Please let me know if you are still interested.
Robin complained to TheLadders that, “There are jobs under $100K on your site”. Customer service representative Joseph Giarratano responded:
We have very specific criteria we evaluate all our positions on to ensure they pay more than $100K. However, with the state of the current economy, albeit rare, sometimes a position will meet that criteria and still pay slightly less than $100K. I sincerely apologize that you came across one of those positions. I have removed it from our site to avoid further confusion… Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.
A salary range 20-25% less than promised by TheLadders is “slightly less?” We’re talking $20k-$25k less!
But forget about the numbers for a minute and focus on the system TheLadders claims ensures compliance with its salary requirements. I don’t get it. If TheLadders uses “very specific criteria” to evaluate positions “to ensure they pay more than $100k,” how is it that “a position will meet that criteria and still pay slightly less than $100k?” In logic, that’s called a tautology. In business, it’s doubletalk.
After paying her money and wasting her time, Robin Lynn was more careful with other Ladders listings, researching them more carefully than TheLadders did itself before she submitted an application:
I’ve come across a few others in the intervening months and only knew they were sub-$100k because they had been cross-posted on HotJobs, Monster or another jobs board.
But what prompted this Ladders customer to search for other complaints about TheLadders and to write to me? She was annoyed by a January 18, 2010 e-mail she received from Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella. It was one of his frequent rah-rah advertorials, titled “Why is the job hunt so tedious?” in which he wrote:
…job-seekers like you know that the jobs here are hand-screened by two human beings to make sure they’re $100K+ before we let them onto the site.
(I’m really mystified by those two human beings. Ladders claims to have the most $100k+ jobs online. How do two human beings do all that checking?)
Annoyed because her own experience contradicted Cenedella’s claims, Robin sent another complaint to TheLadders, only to receive another boilerplate response, this time from “Madelyn:”
Apologies for any inconvenience here, and I assure you that we make every effort to ensure that all jobs on our site qualify… Our team screens thousands of job postings each week. On the rare occasion that a job paying under $100k is posted on our site, we rely on feedback from members, like you, to let us know.
(“Our team screens thousands of job postings?” Is that the “two human beings” Cenedella is talking about?)
Robin Lynn paid $180 to TheLadders for a service. So perhaps her conclusion is not merely sarcastic: “Maybe they should be paying us to do their job instead of us paying them for the same listings that are on HotJobs and Monster?”
The reporter who contacted me about job scams could also interview Alishia, who shared the log of her customer service call with TheLadders:
Alishia: Hi Andy
Alishia: I have a problem
Andy: Sorry to hear that Alisha, how can I help?
Alishia: I found this job on your website: [redacted]
Alishia: and after spending time researching the company, writing a letter and resume
Alishia: when I got a call from the hiring manager
Alishia: he tells me this position pays $50K
Perhaps the reporter should “go inside” and talk with “Andy,” a Ladders representative who admitted to Alishia that TheLadders does not have “only $100k+ jobs” and that, in fact, TheLadders has no idea what many of its jobs pay:
Andy: First of all, we make no claims that all of our jobs are submitted directly to us. Many of the positions on our site are linked directly to from external job boards. Since we don’t have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate based on a rigid set of criteria.
According to this customer support transcript, TheLadders knowingly publishes jobs whose salaries TheLadders does not know, yet claims the jobs are “always $100k+.”
But lets get back to “the rare occasions” when Ladders customers don’t get what they pay for. The reporter should interview Phil, who says those occasions aren’t so rare:
I was bombarded with 60K jobs that were posing as 100K positions, and the endless flow of juvenile chatter from their ”experts” became a real annoyance.
Or she could interview Tracy, who reports investing time going on three interviews after finding a “$100k+ job” on TheLadders:
I subscribed to the highest level of service offered at the time and applied to many positions but was only contacted by one company. After the third interview with this company I discovered that the salary was $48,000 per year with a potential $12,000 bonus.
If Tracy is paying top dollar for “Only $100k+ jobs,” why is TheLadders wasting her valuable time on jobs that potentially pay no more than even $60,000?
Then there’s Jerry Howard, who didn’t trust a Ladders job posting. Here’s the kind of enterprising guy I really admire: He went to the employer’s offices to doublecheck the salary before applying.
I sent this to TheLadders.com:
I checked into one of the positions you posted in Powell, Ohio with Star Dynamics. The job you posted doesn’t exist and certainly doesn’t pay $100k+ if it did. After personally visiting the locations in Powell, Ohio, a bedroom community that has only two RF communications companies (Star Dynamics and Aeroflex), it was found that the job postings do not exist. When I mentioned the $100k salary number, everyone laughed. None of the engineers working for these locations have salaries that come even close to that number.
Jerry Howard’s experience suggests Robin Lynn is on the right track: TheLadders ought to hire Jerry as its third hand screener. Problem solved, customer hired! (Do you think the other two hand screeners go out into the field like Jerry did, to conduct thorough salary checks?)
TheLadders’ misleading job postings don’t just affect its job hunting customers—they cost employers time and money, too. Corp Recruiter says her company didn’t even list its sub-$100k jobs on TheLadders:
We were never a customer of The Ladders and yet they kept posting our jobs on their site… We then had people contacting us directly asking about jobs they saw on the ladders [sic], jobs which had been closed months earlier. These same jobs never paid close to 100k.
“Only $100k+ jobs?” Not only are they not $100k+; apparently they’re not even real. I guess the money this employer saved by not posting jobs on TheLadders got spent anyway—dealing with unexpected and inappropriate applicants sent by TheLadders.
Ladders customer Chris feels he got scammed twice—once because he paid for jobs that turned out to be less than $100k+, and again when Ladders continued billing him and refused to issue a refund:
The Ladders posted a job in February for an IT Management job at Finish Line in Indianapolis. I applied, and got a phone interview. The interviewer asked me what salary range I was looking for. When I told him 100 to 110 he appologies [sic]. He told me the position was only paying $76k at max. I paid for my “TheLadders” membership. Now they automatically renewed my membership for the next 3 months for $75 and make it a point that they DO NOT PROVIDE REFUNDS. We’ll see about this. How do you spell SCAM?
Another Ladders customer, Greg, not only thinks he was scammed, he says he has evidence. Like Alishia, he saved his customer service chat log with Ladders’ representative “Andrew” and posted it on the Ask The Headhunter Blog. (Think Andrew is the Andy who helped Alishia?)
Greg McGiffney: I interviewed for this position (great) – but I was told the comp is $7K per month – not exactly the reason why I joined the service as I am looking for over $100K (obviously). [11:19:09 AM]
Andrew: Thank you for letting me know. [11:19:23 AM]
Greg McGiffney: How did it get on there in the first place? [11:20:01 AM]
Greg McGiffney: The other thing is that now I am kind of stuck – in that I have to follow through based on bad info. [11:20:50 AM]
Andrew: You can always refuse the position, citing that salary. [11:21:32 AM]
Greg McGiffney: Sure, but I kind of relied upon you to do your homework in the first place (that is what I pay you for). [11:22:11 AM]
Andrew: I’m sincerely sorry that one of our jobs was not $100K.
Greg McGiffney: OK – so you are basically guessing about the comp for each of your listings? No verification? [11:24:25 AM]
Andrew: Over half of our jobs are submitted directly to us with compensation listed. For the other half, we have strict guidelines to aid us in determining whether a job is $100K or not. Each positions is reviewed by 2 rounds of approvers before it is put onto the site. [11:26:54 AM]
Andrew: However, with over 9,000 job postings each week, it happens that we miss one, albeit rarely. [11:27:16 AM]
Greg McGiffney: What do the approvers do exactly? Seems like they should be able to verify something if there is a monetary transaction involved. [11:28:13 AM]
Andrew: We cannot force companies to give us their compensation. [11:28:59 AM]
Andrew says they “miss one, albeit rarely.” (Hmm. There's that expression again: albeit rare. Ladders rep Joseph Giarratano used it, too. These guys must attend the same vocabulary classes, with Andy and Andrew.) But maybe those “two human beings” doing the hand screening can’t keep up. Is it possible there are just two screeners “for the other half” of jobs—the ones for which TheLadders does not have compensation figures?
I’m not a lawyer, but now my antennae go up. I add up Cenedella’s “two human beings” hand screening jobs with the admission that “We cannot force companies to give us their compensation… for the other half [of jobs],” and what I come up with is that maybe TheLadders is aware that an awful lot of jobs in its database are probably not $100k+.
Suddenly customer Robin Lynn’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. It seems there’s no way TheLadders can eliminate all the sub-$100k jobs from its database—without its customers calling employers and going on interviews to find out which of those jobs pay less than $100k. Robin is paying TheLadders for the privilege of vetting TheLadders’ database, when perhaps TheLadders should be paying her for… “feedback from members, like you, to let us know.”
(Of course, there’s the possibility—Am I being cynical?—that TheLadders isn’t about to forego the revenue that comes from listing “the other half” of jobs whose salaries are unknown.)
As a headhunter, I understand exactly what Andrew (the customer service representative) means. I can’t force my client companies to make $100k offers when a job is only worth $75k. But I don’t mislead my candidates and tell them they’re interviewing for $100k jobs. (Of course, I don't charge them for access to those jobs, either.)
Are companies intentionally posting jobs that don’t really pay $100k? Who knows? Certainly not TheLadders, which admits it does not know the compensation. Since TheLadders admits it is aware that it doesn’t know the real salaries… yet represents that it publishes “Only $100k+ jobs”… does that meet the legal definition of fraud?
fraud, noun, any act, expression, omission, or concealment calculated to deceive another to his or her disadvantage; specifically : a misrepresentation or concealment with reference to some fact material to a transaction that is made with knowledge of its falsity or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity and with the intent to deceive another and that is reasonably relied on by the other who is injured thereby.
I can’t wait to see the “article” about job and salary scams once it’s published by TheLadders. Investigative reporting always needs a powerful punchline to rouse the public to action about job scams. Maybe the reporter should close with this quote from TheLadders’ customer Terry:
…can’t all of us get together and file a class action suit against them since we all paid money for something we are obviously not getting? If we file a class action suit we should at least get back the money we spent on a site that is misrepresenting itself. This is an obvioius attempt to take advantage of people who have lost their jobs and are in need of getting new ones.
It’s simple, folks. This doesn’t require complex legal analysis. There is no difficult or ambiguous interpretation to consider. TheLadders’ home page says, “Only $100k+ jobs.” Only.
Dear Marc Cenedella (CEO of TheLadders),
Are you listening, Bub?
Nobody makes you say Only $100k+ jobs. You choose to say only. Monster.com doesn’t say only. I’m no fan of CareerBuilder, but it doesn’t say only. What company CEO is stupid or arrogant enough to publish a bald misrepresentation in big print on his company’s home page?
Your jobs are not always $100k+. Your customers tell the story and claim that your customer service representatives admit it on the record.
Your competitors aren’t stupid; they know that no database of thousands of job listings can be always $100k+. So they don’t claim that. Only you do.
Your two hand-screening human beings must have missed recruiter Darren. A customer who paid you for only $100k+ jobs says Darren told her, “This position is paying @75K-80K.”
You have put a burden on yourself; no one put it on you. Only $100k+ jobs means there are no jobs under $100k on the job-listing service you charge people money to use. That’s what you’re selling.
“And job-seekers like you know that the jobs here are hand-screened by two human beings to make sure they’re $100K+ before we let them onto the site.”
– Marc Cenedella
“Since we don’t have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate…”
– Andy, TheLadders Customer Service
It sure seems to me that TheLadders knows its claims cannot be true. Andy’s statement begs the question, Are you knowingly perpetrating fraud on consumers who pay you in good faith to get only $100k+ job listings?
Your company is taking money from people who spend it in good faith to buy what you promise to deliver. If you can’t “always” deliver “Only $100k+ jobs,” then remove what appears to be a fraudulent claim on your home page, refund the fees you collected for jobs that were not $100k+ and clean up your act.
If I were writing an article for TheLadders about job scams; if I were a freelance writer with any integrity; I’d kiss the fee goodbye, close the article like this, and then publish it on my blog instead of selling it to TheLadders:
Is there a U.S. Attorney out there reading this, who knows the difference between marketing and consumer fraud?
(Come join the discussion about TheLadders in the Readers' Forum.)
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