Recruiting-industry watcher Cheezhead reports that job-board web-site TheLadders may be for sale. I agree. In Silicon Valley, it’s an old story. Does an entrepreneur start a company to create value, or with a quick exit strategy at the heart of the business plan?

When the entrepreneur comes from another company whose reputation is for bargain-basement wares that don’t work, you don’t even need to ask. Ladders founder Marc Cenedella came from HotJobs, that bastion of quality job-postings whose success at filling jobs doesn’t even warrant mention. Well, heck, let’s mention it anyway. CareerXroads reports that less than one-half of one percent (0.05%) of jobs filled by companies come from HotJobs. The product doesn’t work. (In comparison, Monster’s success rate among employers is around 2%. Whoo-wee. Compliment all the HR brainiacs who have sent billions of dollars to Monster.)

Did Cenedella start TheLadders to create value? The biz started out auspiciously enough. It was focused on the $100k+ market. The idea was that highly-paid folks would gladly pay to join so companies looking for the cream of the crop could easily find their resumes. Employers didn’t have to pay anything to post jobs. Today, employers pay TheLadders to post jobs. When you charge job-hunters and employers, something in your business model is awry.

But we already know that, thanks to One tiny $100k+ mistake.

So, what’s the story? Is this a top-quality business that has created so much value that prospective buyers are standing in line? Or, are the owners cashing out before the market realizes this ladder only goes down?

Very revealing is the carny-barker junk-mail campaign Ladders is using to carpet-bomb the market. Any party looking to acquire Ladders should look closely, because the cattle are being watered to drive up their weight just before delivery and slaughter. The quality of the junk-mail reveals that Ladders is targeting the way-sub-$100k job-hunter market. Executives, indeed. TheLadders is just another job board for desperate job hunters willing to fork over a few bucks for a Platinum Membership and the dream of a job. And just another job board for google-eyed investors looking for another Monster.

(Is there an MBA school out there that really trains HR execs and investment bankers to dump cash into products that don’t work?)

Also revealing is the company’s recent use-burn-and-dump campaign to start an executive-resume-writing business. Ladders partnered with independent, professional resume writers, picked their brains, then dumped them. According to several of these folks, TheLadders arranged to send them resume business in exchange for a reasonable commission on every resume sale. TheLadders’ own members got resume-writing services and everyone was happy. But, when the biz took off, TheWilyLadders raised its cut of every resume sale and eventually hired its own writing staff. Apparently, the quality of service has gone out the window. Customers no longer get direct contact with the writers doing their resumes. Apparently, the new bullpen at TheLadders works only from forms customers fill out. Some customers aren’t happy about that.

Perhaps this is the kind of shrewd business-development move potential buyers like. But TheLadders isn’t dealing with naive liberal-arts kids fresh out of school grateful for a short-term editing gig. The number of sophisticated, ticked-off resume writers telling their stories all over the Net suggests anyone looking at buying TheLadders oughta do a bit more due diligence on its new business unit. Several of these ex-partners claim client data they were given reveals that around 25% of resume customers are well below the $100k level Ladders brags about in its logo. If that’s true, I’d expect resume revenue to drop dramatically. Especially if the new resume bullpen writes as well as Cenedella does in the junk mail he sends out.

Nah, it’s no surprise TheLadders might be for sale. Cenedella came from HotJobs, another data base company that went the same route. These are not career businesses in any way, shape, or form — any more than Monster is. They create no value. They don’t fill jobs. They merely suck dollars into machines that recycle data base records. When your company’s product doesn’t work, then the market value of the company is a figment of some analyst’s short-term imagination. There is no value being created in amassing resumes that have a shelf-life of about a month.

Ladders may have started out with a relatively elite base of members. The new marketing campaigns are cattle calls, and what that should tell any prospective buyer is that this Ladder only goes down.

  1. Another fine example of greed gone wild.
    I am a former job board junkie who has been clean since I read your. I preach the ATH gospel to anyone who cares to listen and I’ve converted a few. It still amazes me that people will spend money on resume writing services and career search companies, but won’t spend 15 bucks to buy your book. Job boards come and go but the principles in the book will be effective for a long time.

  2. John and Nick, hi!

    Nick, I recommend your book and newsletter to every client. I coach from it. I recommend it on my website and a suggested reading list I give to clients. It’s the best interview (even resume) prep I’ve found, bar none.

    I also write career documents (including branded, potential-proving resumes), but no one’s perfect .

    I’ve never written for the Ladders (my target market doesn’t play there), but know many certified and credentialed colleagues who have done so and provided truly excellent work. Most, if not all, are gone now, back to running already thriving businesses where they can provide the type of writing and coaching they know their clients need and deserve.

    The sad thing is that most job seekers and careerists don’t realize that the resume is not what they are paying for when they work with a highly credentialed career writer and/or coach. They are really paying for the discovery process that uncovers achievements and related potential and then maps that to the target company’s needs and creates a strategic direction.

    The resume is only the tangible deliverable. The self-knowledge and ability to research companies’ needs and create a compelling reason to be interviewed (using your techniques) is the real (and most important) ROI derived from a good resume prep process. I wonder how that’s going to happen at the Ladders now.

    Deb Dib, The CEO Coach

  3. I checked out TheLadders on a friend’s recommendation. Her husband had used it and raved about it. It took me about five minutes to realize that there was no “there” there. I am in the 100K+ salary range that they are targeting, but I didn’t see how any of what they were offering was worth paying for. None of the jobs on there seemed “exclusive.” Not that it’s the most important part, but the UI is horrible.

    They gave me a free trial for a few days of the platinum service and the “headhunters” who contacted me were crap. One was apparently just carpet-bombing because his stated area of hiring expertise wasn’t even close to what I do.

    Another contacted me and asked for a meeting. The job she was recruiting for seemed a reasonable fit so I proposed a few times and never heard back. So TheLadders isn’t exactly dealing with the best and brightest, either.

    I only use job boards to figure out who’s hiring and to identify companies I’m not familiar with (I’m targeting a new city) … then I tap into my network to cut through the bullshit and get to the hiring managers directly. So I’m not going to pay the likes of TheLadders for the crap they’re selling.

  4. Have you all seen this ridiculous ad?

    How about this completely BS “news” story?

    I think I threw up in my mouth.

  5. Stay away from The Ladders( resume service:

    as I too have been scammed by the resume service on the Ladders. It all starts with a resume critique — which will look impressive, until you realize that 95% is the same thing that everyone else receives… see this link ( for a reprint of the 95% duplication.

    You’ll then receive a worksheet to provide the resume writers with material. This worksheet is so bush-league, words can not do justice to how amateur and unprofessional this process is:

    1. The resume critique will rip you to shreds (which is okay) — they’ll pepper the critique and future correspondence with smileys so not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

    2. The worksheet they send will say “Please email your old resume with your completed worksheet.” Huh, don’t you already have it? How did you do the critique then?

    3. The worksheet will also say, “so I have everything from you in one email”. Huh? You cannot attach multiple documents from the Ladders website. Clients cannot send everything in one email!

    4. The worksheet might as well have been developed in crayon. There is such a mix of font sizes, styles, highlighting, tabs, and paragraph marks that it makes me car sick just trying to work with it. One would think that for $600+ that this orgnaization could put together a form with data entry fields and a consistent flow of text.

    5. After you send the worksheet in, they will send you follow-up questions. They make it seem like the questions are custom tailored to your worksheet responses. They’re not… the follow up questions are the same questions they send to all their clients.

    When you receive your resume, you’ll find that you wrote it. Yep… about 95% of the text on your $600+ resume is taken directly from: your old resume (which mind you was ripped to shreds during the resume critique), your worksheet, and your responses to the phony “follow-up” questions.

    Marc Cenedella has quite a racket going… dupe people on a job search into spending over $600 for the privilege re-writing their OWN resume. To be fair, the website appears to be honest and provide a valuable service — but the resume writing aspect of The Ladders is nothing but a SCAM!!!

  6. You nailed it. But there is more to the story. I am a job search coach and I advise my clients to avoid all job boards because they don’t work. I registered with the Ladders to see how they worked. I received nine emails in three days and not one was about a job, six were about upgrades. They have a full list of services for the executive level job seeker, none of which are needed. See my comments in for more details.
    I will include a link to your article for my visitors to hear your voice.
    Rita Ashley, Job Search Coach

  7. Their latest ads are the nail in the coffin for them:

  8. I’ve subscribed to The Ladders, off and on, for 3 years. For the second time, now, I caught them simply re-posting jobs without screening them — even though that’s what they charge for. They cost me at least one position as a result.

    Just as important, a great % of the recruiter posted jobs are simply cribbed from other job boards. Some recruiters are so dumb or sloppy, that they fail to remove company references from the post–so you can work around them.

    I’ve used this in a client search… you’re looking for a new VP Sales? Clearly you’re in turbulence. You need a sales coach. Guess what? 9 times out of 10, when I talk with the potential client, I find they have not retained a recruiter, and are not accepting recruiter referred candidates.

    If you’ve been paying The Ladders for screened job leads, you’re being scammed. You can file a complaint with the FBI at, and perhaps keep others from being similarly scammed, as a result.

  9. Nick, I can’t link to your article enough. I have used Facebook and Twitter and my own site. People really need to understand just as the love boards, job boards only make their money if clients remain unemployed. Keep up the good work. Rita

  10. Unlike the Ladders, resume and career help should not be expensive, nor should “free critiques” (which leave a person feeling completely unemployable) be dangled in front of job-seekers feeling desperate enough as it is when their own efforts do not translate into tangible success.

    Resumes need to be critiqued by those most competent, not just the most convenient. And it shouldn’t be expensive or a lure to let someone else take full control of one’s professional destiny.

    I have reviewed literally 1000’s of resumes as a Recruiter, as a former HR Director, as a Master’s level Career Counselor, and as the Director of a college Career Services Center. Over 90% of resumes that come across my desk would have benefited significantly from a professional resume critique. This is WHY I am in the resume critique business.

  11. A great racket indeed! What bigger fools to prey on than the “big talent” that is so much better than the average worker they line up to be duped. Never has the fraud perpetrated on american business by the vampiric class of MBA packing middle manager morons been more obvious than it is now. Everyone knows the key to success in business is choosing your parents wisely. I can’t help but giggle at the “100k plus talents” as they cry into their 10 dollar cup of coffee. Good show!

  12. I am not associated with the above site however, I thought I should point out this link on youtube –

  13. TheLadders stinks. The jobs advertised in my city paid nothing near the promised six-figure salary. Then they surprised me by auto-renewing my subscription, and when I complained, I got a dandy little form letter saying that customers love their auto-renew feature. Now I get the satisfaction of using the Internet and sites like this to warn others: save your money and don’t spend it on TheLadders.

  14. Just caught TheLadders billing my credit card for $180 after I cancelled DURING the free trial. Their postings are old and non responsive, I got more results doing my own networking.

  15. I got hit with an auto-renew to their site and asked to cancel my service and pro-rate the charge and refund the rest. Apparently, by the time I got the bill it was six days after the start of the period so they could do nothing for me (3 days is fine).

    Their auto-renew tactics are shady as they lock you into the service.

  16. i received the exact same resume critique form letter as my husband. I got a second opinion, and ended up hiring debbie at fishbowlresume to do my resume. Her rates were much more affordable, and my husband was so impressed he also had her do a resume for him (this is after having the ladders write his resume!)

    I just wish we had known about their (ladders) shady tactics) before my hubby hired them!

  17. Folks please beware, sits like, are scam sits. What they do is to use your resume for their purposes.

    This is really the new low.

  18. TheLadders resume services was incredibly poor. I’m not even sure where to start. They said I’d have my new resume in line 5 days. After 7 I contacted them and 2 days later it was my exact resume, with some new material that I wrote, simply reformatted. After some back and forth, received a decent resume. I then tried to upload the resume to Ladders and it was incompatible with the upload. Unreal.

    The whole process and experience was awful and Ii will never use there service again and will gladly share my experience and dissuade anyone from using the site.

    I have VERY good experience yet not one recruiter contacted me nor did any submission through Ladders was every followed up and.or replied.

    As a test, I submitted the Ladders written resume for a critique and received the same from letter about a resume THEY wrote.

  19. @Tom: You’re not the first one to try that test. Others have sent Ladder a Ladders-written resume for “critique” – and they say they’ve received similar boilerplate to the critique on their original submission.

    Can you spell “boiler room?”

    Thanks for posting.

  20. I’ve subscribed to the ladders twice and I’ve discussed this comment with other job seekers that have a subscribed to the service. For the most part it’s search engine trolling company websites for jobs—that’s all. Second, we’ve noticed that everytime there’s a position with a salary of $200-$400 thousand, the company is confidential and it is almost always a ‘ladders exclusive’—what a come on.

  21. I disagree about the resume writing service. I used it a couple of years ago and they completely transformed my resume to the point that I was shocked at how well they communicated my accomplishments.

    If you’ve had an issue with the service it’s probably because you didn’t provide enough information in the worksheet. I sent them an extremely detailed worksheet listing out everything I did and told them to work their magic and they did.

    To me, it was worth every penny. I never expected the result to be anywhere near what they returned.

    I’m currently a consultant making over 125K a year and I do attribute some of the success to the resume. I’ve had many employers tell me how well written my resume is along with my accomplishments.

    You get out of it what you put into it. If you give them 1 page of garbage, what do you expect them to do with it.

    As for the same style and such, what do you expect? Most people have the same type of resume. It’s not the style of the template, it’s the way you communicate what you have done. I honestly think you expected too much and didn’t put in the effort needed to get the results I did.

  22. Folks at The Ladders must have been reading these comments. I had them redo my resume and every one I have asked (from spouses to peers to higher ups) say it is stronger than the previous one that I spent 3X the cash on. Perhaps they can learn?

    However, I do agree that the jobs posted are nowhere near “exclusive” and I am still awaiting feed back from their support group on a problem I had with one of their “exclusive” ads.

  23. You can write a perfect resume without the help of a resume writing service. Just some fine skill, honesty, ambition and motivation.

    Thanks for the great post.

  24. Does anyone have any comments or experiences they could share about Execunet?

  25. This is a nice post especially those who are starting to put up their own business. Thanks a bunch.

  26. I came across this while trying to help my husband find a job. He has a history of being loyal to his employers and has longevity is his roles with them. GM closed their doors. He “retrained” himself and currently has degrees in History, Economics and he is an internship away from his Masters in Economics. He graduated Suma, he is brilliant. However; for over a year now, he has been unable to find work in his field. Where can he go? What can he do? We are desperate for help. He is more than willing to start at the bottom and work his way up. Someome please help us before everything falls apart. Please! How can he get a job in his field?