During a recent webinar I conducted for Harvard Business School alumni (November 3, 2010, Can you stand out in the talent glut? Discussion here, and more audio here), we considered that one of the key hindrances to standing out is job boards, especially TheLadders.

What does TheLadders do to enhance anyone’s job hunting prospects — especially C-level executives? Virtually nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. This most flagrant faker among the job boards, which pretends to be exclusive and “$100k+”, is the source of hires less than 0.07% (yes, that’s percent) of the time, among employers polled. (Source: CareerXroads survey, p. 19)

UPDATE March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

UPDATE March 12, 2013
A consumer protection class action suit has been filed against TheLadders. If you believe you’ve been scammed by TheLadders, you can join the suit by contacting the law firm that filed the complaint. More here: TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action

Here’s an audio excerpt (approximately 5 minutes) from the Harvard webinar, in which I review the numbers run by an exasperated and angry CEO-level Ladders member, who concludes that “TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

Mike — a C-level executive who paid monthly fees to TheLadders for 22 months without any success — conducted a simple and reasonable analysis of the probability of landing a C-level job through TheLadders. (His actual analysis is much more detailed, including research into the C-level job market and the populations of various types of job hunters in the current market, utilizing Department of Labor data and other resources.) The nuts and bolts of his analysis were generally based on these steps and assumptions:

  1. funnelMike searched TheLadders for management, finance and operations jobs, in a 50-mile radius of the New York Metro area. Results: 902 listed positions.
  2. He searched again among these for positions that required 10+ years of experience, and reasoned that the resulting 649 jobs were probably C-level.
  3. TheLadders claims over 1 million members. Mike assumed that 15% of these are in the NY Metro area — 150,000 members.
  4. Of these 150,000 NY area members, Mike assumed that about 25% — or 37,500 — are pursuing C-level jobs.
  5. He further suggested that for each Ladders member who is pursuing one of those C-level jobs, there are at least two non-Ladders job hunters pursuing the same jobs. In other words, for each Ladders member, two others are also applying. This gives us a total of 37,500 + 75,000 = 112,500 people competing for those C-level jobs.
  6. Mike made one more assumption, and a very generous one: He allowed that TheLadders would fill 25% — or 225 — of all those open finance, management and operations positions. (I laughed hard, but I gave Mike credit for loading the calculations in TheLadders’ favor.)
  7. Then Mike calculated the odds. 225/112,500 = 0.2%. Those are a Ladders member’s chances of filling one of those 902 positions.
  8. But let’s be more generous: Let’s use 225/37,500 = 0.6%. Those are your better, but less believable odds.

Note that we used 902 jobs, rather than the more-likely 649 C-level positions listed with TheLadders. In that scenario, your odds of getting mated to a job through TheLadders would require a turkey baster — about 0.14% in the most defensible case.

It’s no surprise at all that after a series of full-frontal attacks on TheLadders’ ridiculous claims about “Only $100k+ jobs” in its database, with this blog among them, TheLadders quietly eliminated the big, bold claim on its home page:


TheLadders folded: No more “Only”

Not “only” were TheLadders’ paying members crying “fraud” about sub-$100k job listings; they were also complaining that after canceling the service, TheLadders continued to ding their credit cards for the monthly fees.

Yo! Marc Cenedella! Yah — you there, in the Shakespearean e-mail writing garb! If  TheLadders has given up the ghost on “Only” $100k+ jobs in its database, then what the hell are you selling to Premium Subscribers for $35/month?

No news outlet and no recruiting industry pundit seems to have picked up on the fact that “Only” is gone — and that TheLadders finally folded and took down its fraudulent promise. Did we miss the press release? Or, maybe it was in one of those e-mails?

Our friend Mike the CEO paid TheLadders for almost two years for access to top-level jobs. He even paid TheLadders to rewrite his resume.

“I spent several hundred hours carefully sifting through job postings from TheLadders. I probably filed responses/applications to between 600-700 Ladders job postings.”

TheLadders promise

“In 22 months time as a Ladders Premium Subscriber and resume customer, I didn’t receive a single legitimate call from an employer or recruiter in response the many applications I filed. Not one interview, not one follow-up call. I did, however, receive many unwanted and useless solicitations from other sources who ‘rent’ or buy TheLadders database.

“TheLadders is a long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled public relations machine.”

This week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter features a related experience from another frustrated job hunter, who gets calls from one recruiter after another, pitching to her the very same job she’s seen elsewhere on the Internet. Now she understands that “recruiters” only amplify the job-board racket produced by companies like TheLadders — and that the whole system does little more than promote the territorial micturations  of packs of wild, barking dogs.

It took Mike a long time, but he figured out this scam and shared his thoughts in a series of e-mails. Finally, Mike landed a job. Here’s what he really learned:

“Now that I have a CEO job with a thousand people in my organization, I have seen perhaps 15 new hires in the last 60 days. All of them were recruited through networking and word of mouth.

TheLadders CEO Marc Cenedella sends out his routine carny-barker e-mails, “encouraging” his down-and-out C-level customers to keep a stiff upper lip and a positive attitude — telling them those $100k+ jobs are out there. His customers just have to be smarter and more dedicated to the job hunt than their worthy Ladders competitors.

“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

powerballOnce again, we call bullshit on you, Marc Cenedella. TheLadders is a racket. The numbers themselves point to the dirty secret behind your public relations campaign. Just how long will desperate job hunters buy your missives about $100k+ jobs, when it is simply irresponsible to believe there are anywhere near the number of such jobs available to justify your claims and your promises to the suckers you charge each month for the job listings you collect from other websites?

It took just one sucker-punched, number-crunchin’ CEO to show very simply that TheLadders is no better than a Powerball lottery propped up by ridiculous ad copy.

Marc Cenedella, you owe a lot of people a lot of apologies and a lot of refunds.

Now a word to C-level executives who buy and eat TheLadders dogpile every day: Wake up, slap yourselves in the face, and avoid the interview question that I’ve long fantasized some board level executive ought to ask you when you finally get that meeting about a job:

“Tell us: Why should we hire you and trust you to run our operations, when your record shows you paid month after month for 0.14% odds and kept reading those goofy e-mails from Marc Cenedella — and when you couldn’t figure out that you were being swindled? Why should we hire you to run our company when you trusted your career to the equivalent of a Powerball lottery ticket? Why should we hire a track record like that?”

[Special thanks to Mike The CEO.]


  1. Mea culpa…I paid Cenedella money for a short time! Finally figured out that I was seeing most of the jobs for free from other sources.

    Now I can’t get him to take me off the mailing list…the weekly crap just keeps coming! The whole operation is a sham! Where’s Eliot Spitzer when you need him? Oh, yeah…never mind!

  2. Nick,
    I’m surprised that some enterprising lawyers have not launched a class action suit against the ladders. Sounds like a slam dunk.

  3. Thank you so much for a hilarious article – I really needed that laugh! Especially since I was one of the suckers who spent a year paying The-Ladders-to-Nowhere.

    I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of having on-line recruiters hound me to submit my resume for the same job. Last Spring was hideous! There was and is no easy button. I got my current job the Nick way – through persistence and networking.

    The only good use of online resume sites I’ve found was when my PC died a horrible death I was able to download my resume again. Shame on me for not backing it up. But thanks to you I won’t be posting my updated CV. I have my pride back again.


  4. I’m not at that high of a level, so I wasn’t aware of this.

    A question – an acquaintance of mine is looking for a new CEO for their small company so that they can retire. They’ve had this in mind for years but no one within their network has come up, so word of mouth doesn’t seem to be working. They had tried a recruiter and got frustrated after several months of little work and no results. They are beginning to put together an ad to post online (at places like LinkedIn, Ladders, and a few others) for an initial search. Is this not the way to go? This is the first time they’ve had to hire someone at that high of a level, so I was curious what “Everyone” else does out there in the world.

  5. While we are on the subject, has any similiar activity been performed on ExecuNet and Netshare? Do they provide any better value than TheLadders?

  6. @Nick, Awhhh! You are having too much fun.

  7. In addition to @Don Sabathier’s question, add Jobfox. I have long thought that The Ladders and Jobfox are the same company. I have been told that they are not. Both use the same unethical practices. Both use deceptive email subjects that make you think you are being considered by a company. No amount of money can buy what they have to offer. There are many very reputable resume writers out there.
    As @John Zabrenski suggested, a class action lawsuit seems a slam dunk.
    (btw, Jobfox has been sued in WA for junk faxing. Says a lot…)

  8. Feeling lonely? Don’t get enough email? Hate seeing your inbox say you have no unread messages? Do you want to hear your AOL account tell you that “you have new mail”?

    Job boards have a solution for you. Just submit your resume and they will send you message after message offering you $200 off rewriting of your resume or cover letter or…. Act fast. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can get these messages!!!


  9. @Don Sabathier

    RE Execunet: Execunet offers ONE truly worthwhile service, its networking meetings. In NJ they are held by Linsey Levine, and she also holds them in Westchester. I have been to her meetings and found them valuable – she is helpful, skilled, and sincere.

    I’ve also been to an Execunet meeting in Manhattan run by a different person, Judy, who was not very professional and didn’t keep her promises on some follow-up with me.

    Everything else about Execunet seems little or no better than The Ladders-to-Nowhere.

    Instead of idiotic emails from Marc Cenedella, you get hard-copy newsletters that seem more like publishing outlets for Execunet staff than anything remotely helpful. Their online networking tool never provided a single lead or contact and in fact not one of the people listed ever responded, even though their profiles all indicated they’d help make referrals. I also attended several online Execunet presentations and found them to be canned and useless, and mostly sales vehicles for the people giving them.

    I would steer clear of Execunet. And one doesn’t have to be a member to attend Execunet networking sessions…so don’t join!