I never cease to be amazed at the scams sophisticated professionals fall prey to. But when you’re looking for a job, any help is welcome. People want to believe that if help costs a lot of money, it must be good help. Think again. I’d like to share some e-mails between a reader and me. (I’ve blocked out the names because, as you’ll see, the names don’t really matter.)
A reader asked: Do you have experiences with [XXX Enterprises] in Atlanta, GA? They are in the “executive marketing” business and say they can help me land a good job. They want $2,400 down and $2,400 in the next 6 months for a one year contract, with a guarantee. They claim to have their own list of people that they have placed inside of local companies, and that for the most part they use these to get recommendations and, of course, interviews. And, yes, they will re-write my resume, put me through interview rehearsals and use their skill at going through the Atlanta business databases for companies that would hire someone like me. Sounds good… but…
I responded: Get three references from them: people they have placed. Three more: managers who have hired their clients. Call them all. The firm’s claim implies the people they have placed hire multiple new clients from them. It’s a kind of a ponzi scheme. My bet: They will never give you references. It sounds good, yah. But, check the references before you give them a check. Is the guarantee of the “money back” variety?
The reader did what I suggested and wrote back: Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve asked for references and a copy of the contract with the guarantee. I am waiting for a reply. Meanwhile, I’m reading your advice online.
I offered a little more advice to this job hunter: It could be difficult to confirm that the references are legit. If the employer references are managers, talk to them, then call the HR dept at each company. Be frank with them. Ask HR to confirm the hires and their satisfaction. Sorry to be such a downer, but the career-management business has become a real racket. It costs little to start one of these outfits. It seems the courts can do little to stop them from shutting down one operation and re-opening under another name just down the street. So the obvious other step is to Google the owners, not just the firm name. You may find the owners started their racket elsewhere, with bad press in their wake.
It was that last bit of advice that saved this reader $4,800.
He sent me this final note: This was the reply I got from [XXX Enterprises]: “We will prepare an agreement for you to review tomorrow. Please take a look at the success stories on our website. Providing personal contact information would violate the rules of confidentiality and privacy which we provide our clients.”
The “success stories” are listed by client number (0020100 and so on), hardly legitimate references. And the corporate managers or companies they worked with? Nowhere. The Better Business Bureau notes the business was started in 1977. The website states 1986. There were four consumer cases against [XXX Enterprises] with the Atlanta BBB. Three were closed administratively, as the BBB felt the complaints could not be resolved through them or through mediation.
Although the [XXX Enterprises] website states the owner, [Mr. Z], has been interviewed by several national cable networks of note, I can’t find any references on Google or Yahoo. What did show up, interestingly enough, is that the address for [XXX Enterprises] is the same as a former business for one Bernard Haldane, with whom you are familiar. I then found an article that used a quote from “[Mr. Z], Atlanta-based regional President for Bernard Haldane Outplacement…” You’re right: They change the company name, keep the game going. Oh, well. Thanks again for walking through this with me.