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Recruiting scams and job interviews on social media

In the November 6, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader worries that job interviews via social media like Google Hangouts are recruiting scams.

Question

The Web seems to be full of recruiting scams targeted at job seekers. They often use social media to lure victims. Should we accept interviews using services like Twitter and Google Hangouts?

Nick’s Reply

recruiting scamsIt’s not clear whether you’re referring to being recruited for an interview via Twitter and Google Hangouts, or whether you’re going to actually be interviewed that way. Regardless, social media do indeed seem to be popular for recruiting scams.

Interviews: Person-to-person only

My rule is that interviews should be on the phone or in person, or via Skype — but no video. I’m not a fan of video interviews or automated interviews of any kind.

A recruiter or employer that asks you to invest your personal time to participate in a job interview must be willing to do the same. If they expect you to “interview” indirectly or virtually, I suggest you tell them you want a person-to-person interview, or move on. (See HireVue Video Interviews: HR insults talent in a talent shortage.)

Use multiple online resources to verify identity

If a recruiter uses Google Hangouts (or Facebook or LinkedIn or some other social network) to recruit you and to schedule an interview, I’d politely ask that they e-mail or call you to confirm the interview. I’d insist on at least a telephone call for the interview itself. Then track their contact information to confirm their identities.

If they are going to initiate the phone call, ask them to:

  • provide their telephone number anyway
  • along with their street address
  • their website
  • and their LinkedIn page.

Then look them up using multiple online resources to confirm their identity – and that they are legitimate.

Keep in mind that just because a recruiter claims to be working for ABC Company, doesn’t mean they really are. Make sure the contact information they provide resolves back to the employer whose job you’re interested in.

The gold standard

Here’s the gold standard: If you can independently find the company online, call the main telephone number listed and ask for the Human Resources department. If HR doesn’t recognize the person that’s recruiting you, then you will know there’s a problem. Even third-party recruiters have identities that you should be able to verify.

For examples of questionable recruiting solicitations shared by readers, check the most recent comments on this article.

Legit employers will behave transparently. But it’s still your job to check them out first. There are simply too many recruiting scams out there to trust anyone who cannot or will not provide identity information that you can verify independently.

Don’t let the ridiculous levels of automation in the recruiting and hiring process lead you to dispense with your common sense. Even if it’s legitimate, any employer that’s so disrespectful as to demand your time without investing its own is probably not worth your consideration.

I hope that helps you select good employers and avoid questionable ones.

Have you ever been scammed by a “recruiter?” What tipped you off that it was a scam? Do you agree to job interviews via social media?

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14 Comments
  1. This is an example of a scam job interview: https://www.askamanager.org/2016/07/was-i-asked-to-a-fake-interview-by-someone-who-lonely-or-looking-for-dates.html

    A commenter mentioned a more dangerous scenario:
    “A 16-year old girl disappeared in my city after leaving home to go to a “job interview” a few years ago and … a few months later someone found her remains — which was really chilling and sobering.”

  2. Nick writes, “Here’s the gold standard: If you can independently find the company online, call the main telephone number listed and ask for the Human Resources department. If HR doesn’t recognize the person that’s recruiting you, then you will know there’s a problem.”

    Excellent advice! And here is an FYI about the importance of this due diligence step. In the world of competitive bidding, especially for professional white collar consulting services, disreputable firms will fill their proposal with a “Christmas tree” of outstanding staff, culled from people who have posted profiles on Linkedin or job boards. These people may have been contacted by social media, or a brief phone call, but have no idea they are being used as “ornaments” in someone’s proposal.

    If the firm wins the business, it then swaps out its “ornaments” for its own people, except for key personnel, and everyone else listed on the proposal mysteriously “has found other opportunities.”

    So, if a recruiter calls, and says they want to introduce you to their company, but doesn’t reference a specific job, and other important details, be wary and ask a lot of questions.

    • Some companies have their phones set up so talking to a human when you don’t know their direct phone number is just about impossible.

      Still, the burden is on the recruiter to give you a way to independently verify they are who they say they are.

  3. It can work both ways. Because of my age, I do not post my complete name on social media (leave out an initial), or address until I provide a legit recruiter with a resume. By Googling myself, there are several namesakes that I could be. Age is easy to find on google but for which one?. Make it difficult , When googling yourself the auto-fill proposes possibilities ahead. The more letters you type to complete your name, the fewer searches were done. (Don’t google yourself too many times or this will impact the results, backspace and get out of the search to avoid this) I know “prescreening” is illegal but it is done.

  4. Last March I had an accident with my motor scooter (actually a motorcycle for legal purposes) and fractured my shoulder. I am recovering, but I put my motor scooter up for sale.

    I used insurance money to completely repair the bike and left it at the dealer (a local small business) to sell. It took a few months but he sold it for an acceptable price.

    At one point I put the bike on an online classified system (I won’t name it but you would recognize it). I got a scam response and immediately took the listing off. (They referred me to a web site I never heard of where I could get a vehicle report for $20. I was immediately suspicious when the web site kept changing until something finally appeared). I called the contact’s bluff and went to a legitimate vehicle report site and paid $40 – I offered to send them the report but needed that person to contact me via phone or text message and I would give them a copy of the report in person. Crickets!

    Since I did not hear from that person ever again I knew I was onto a scam. The dealer sold the bike and he didn’t even charge me commission! (Of course the new owner will be coming for service, so he will make money.)

    This may have nothing to do with the job hunt, but I simply want to demonstrate the value of using one’s contacts in any endeavor.

    By the way, I did need surgery, and I found my surgeon initially from an online search (for a hospital with excellent orthopedics). I called their appointment number and ultimately got surgery with a good outcome. Also, a local surgeon referred me to the same clinic! Again, this is where modern technology and good old fashioned personal contact works.

  5. I would argue that if anybody is contacting you via social media, then all their contact information should be easily discernible from that source from the get go. For example, if you get a DM from Twitter, that person’s profile on Twitter should have the full name, name of the company, link to the company website, etc. Same for Facebook, Instagram, whatever.

    I know some don’t like it, but I have no problem with companies or professionals using these *if* they treat them like a website or business card with all the information there for you to see.

    If you get a request from @studmuffin247, it’s best if you just keep on moving……

  6. I no longer pay attention to email I receive from recruiters I’ve never heard of telling me how impressed they are with my LinkedIn profile, or how they have a client who would jump at the chance to interview me.

  7. @NickC
    “My rule is that interviews should be on the phone or in person, or via Skype — but no video. I’m not a fan of video interviews or automated interviews of any kind. …”

    Please expand on what type of videos you do not like. Skype is a bad substitute and how different is Skype from other videos?

    • @JM: I don’t like any kind of interview videos.

      Video can magnify a candidate’s natural nervousness unfairly — to say nothing of revealing racial, physical and other cues that may trigger discrimination.

      Video creates another problem that candidates are often unaware of. Any screening interview, by phone or otherwise, is not intended to select the best candidates. The purpose of screening interviews is to eliminate as many candidates as possible early in the process to save the employer time. Thus, any tic, expression, or involuntary body language gives the screener more reasons to reject you. If an employer has legitimate screening criteria, these should be narrowly defined —- and a phone call keeps the exchange more narrow than video will.

      I’m not sure how Skype is different from other videos per se.

      • @NickC

        Very good points about video interviews. Now, what about Video Phone (VP) for the deaf who use American Sign Language (ASL)? Generally speaking, interviewers would have to accept a VP call from a prospective deaf candidate, but this creates a difficult situation, due to ADA accommodations. An interviewer can eliminate the candidate by this type of call.

        I never hear you discuss about ADA and incidents in the job interview process. Any chance you can touch on this topic in the future?

        • @JM: Good point about ADA topics. I discussed autism recently:
          https://www.asktheheadhunter.com/12114/disclose-autism-on-resume

          The Q&A comes from questions readers submit. I’ve covered some other ADA issues in the past when they’ve come up and I’ll do it again when readers ask. (Try the search box for specific issues, though nothing comes up for “ADA” specifically.)

    • Should that be expanded to pictures? Linkedin is always asking for me to post a photo of myself, which I refuse. Why do they need it?

      • Who cares what LinkedIn wants? Is LinkedIn going to interview and hire you?

  8. Wow! I just had a couple of video (Facetime) interviews over the past week or so…these recruiters insisted on them (one said that it was their “value-added” method). I never would’ve thought those to be an easier way to reject me (although one of them ended up by getting me a job offer; the job was lower-paying than I have now working part-time and the hours were worse).

    I will definitely be on guard more if I ever get a request for a Skype or Facetime meeting again!

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