Not content to promise more than he can deliver, and still happy to charge money for nothing (that you can’t get elsewhere for free), TheLadders’ CEO Marc Cenedella conducts an inspection of his members with his latest missive:

“So my colleagues here at TheLadders and I want to make your job search strategy as attractive as you are as a professional. We want to help you emphasize what makes you a better person for the position than all the other applicants — your search should be as special as you are.

“Are you doing the most to make yourself stand out? Are you taking the right steps to make yourself more attractive?”

Translation: Why haven’t you turned yourself out as a job slut, using the visual aids we recently put on TV?

PigBut then Cenedella pushes them into a big, dark, deep hole in the ground:

“If you’ve been looking for a job recently, you’ve discovered the ugly truth: job boards are broken.

“They don’t work, they don’t help, and they aren’t getting you where you need to go. Sure it sounds nice in theory — making it so easy to apply to jobs for anybody from anywhere at any time.”

Gimme a break. TheLadders is a job board! Cenedella smears lipstick on his customers and tells them to whore themselves out, tries to paint his own job board another color, then he tells you he’s the one honest pimp on the street, but don’t mind the kaka on his shoes while he steps all over his competitors… and shoves your job search into his money pit. Keep reading his e-mails and you’ll get used to the smell… Hey, many in HR have gotten used to it. That’s how TheLadders survives.

I shouldn’t waste my time (or yours) on TheLadders, but The Cynical Girl (aka, Laurie Ruettimann, who started, then killed, the provocative PunkRockHR) just slapped TheLadders silly (TheLadders is the single biggest piece of crap) on her new blog, and she sticks the pig with panache. Laurie sez:

“If you are a recruiter or HR professional who cannot find talented workers without using a chump-ass job board like The Ladders… If you are a job seeker and you want to earn $100,000 or more, don’t throw good money after bad… skip The Ladders… don’t be a dumbass.”

Sorry, M.C., but no matter how you try to dress it up, your pig is just another job board.

Who else is calling out TheLadders, and calling out the dumbasses that use it? You might wonder why few pundits are talking about what TheLadders is doing. It’s simple: TheLadders buys their silence with sponsorships and ad campaigns.

Example: During a radio appearance in March, 2010, I had a candid conversation with Brian Lehrer on New York Public Radio about Job-board scams, and we pointedly discussed the angry dissatisfaction of Ladders customers. Brian got a little nervous and suggested that he should bring TheLadders on the show to defend itself.

(In 2009, I appeared on WNYC several times, including for a weekly special summer series about job hunting. The series was so successful that WNYC rebroadcast the “best of Ask The Headhunter” while the Lehrer show was on summer hiatus.)

WNYC never got around to that debate between TheLadders and me, but I was never asked on again. Coincidence? Maybe. I do a lot of radio, and I know that scheduling is affected by all sorts of things. But, earlier today, an Ask The Headhunter “regular” pointed out to me that TheLadders is now a sponsor of WNYC public radio. Coincidence?

Maybe. But when I see almost 100 comments posted on an article about TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud?, and over 200 comments posted on an article about The Dope on TheLadders, and when Ladders customers clamor for investigations of the company by states attorneys general, I’ve gotta wonder… just how long can TheLadders keep the lid on this controversy and stay in business?

The answer to that is: Personnel Jockeys. Corporate HR departments continue to dump untold millions into TheLadders, mindlessly seeking “ONLY $100k+ candidates,” even though any sixth-grade math whiz could tell them that the baseline odds of finding such people is so small that dumpster-diving for them at TheLadders or in any other job board is a waste of money. (Actually, an experienced CFO has tried to explain this, too. But HR gets its advice from high-priced HR consultants who really, really believe in online job boards.)


Laurie Ruettimann is a respected, no-holds-barred practitioner, observer and critic of the recruiting/HR world who calls it as she sees it. But there’s little competition on the topic of TheLadders. The pundits who might speak up seem either reticent or terrified. Some of them have already been bought and shut down.

Then there are the “HR experts” — apologist fans like Kris Dunn, who regularly tout TheLadders as the second coming of True Recruiting: True Confession: I love TheLadders and The Ladders: Now Providing a Free, Continuous Posting To Every Recruiter In the World… But I think TheLadders is digging its own grave. (Sorry, Kris, but not every recruiter in the world wants to be buried in that database.)

So, Cynical Girl, welcome to the fray. This is actually an easy public service. You hold the bright light of public scrutiny in Marc Cenedella’s face, and watch the HR profession hand him the shovel while he digs this pig’s grave.


  1. nick,
    you say ” i should’nt waste my time on theladders” i’m laughing my ass off with incredulity. you must spend your every waking minute on grinding out your resentment day in day out. you laud laurie ruettiman aka “the cynical girl” for her panache and insights. panache? when all she does is write brainless foul mouthed drivel? get a grip nick.


  2. Paddy,

    Many, many people visit Nick’s blog. All of these people need to stay away from the Ladders. Due to the fact that people might be hit or miss with Nick’s postings, that means that to make SURE that no one goes to the ladders Nick needs to throw them under the bus at every opportunity, and I thank him for it.

    I remember when I saw the first add on TV about the ladders. My first though was, if all you have to do is pay them money to get access to $ 100K jobs, they how will they really keep out the rabble like their ads always show. To really be and exclusive “only $ 100K talent” job board like they say, they’d have to actively _reject_ people and we all know they don’t do that. They’ll take any sucker’s money.

    Keep pushing the ladders over Nick!


  3. jason,
    your reasoning is unhinged.also your spelling , grammar and syntax betray the truth about your intellect.

    one thing i will say about nick is that he is intelligent and clearly a force for good as a recruitment professional.he has an excellent reputation and is followed by many.

    my only concern is what i see as an unreasonable and increasingly bitter tirade against marc cenedella and his colleagues at theladders. there is no justification for the insults and epithets being thrown around. we should be able to have a reasonable discourse and not descend to gutter posturing.


  4. The Ladders has one redeeming value. If you get on their email list, you will get a weekly round-up of short articles on various aspects of job hunting, career development, marketing yourself, etc. Many of those articles are pretty good. That’s the only Ladders thing I bother to read.

  5. @paddy: There are few writers who aren’t afraid to nail the b.s. that sells online. Laurie is one of them. I was tickled to read her posting.

    When Cenedella stops splattering b.s. through all the channels that drip through my wire, I’ll stop calling him out for it. TheLadders is now considered the 3rd busiest job board on the web. (Tho’ M.C. insists it’s not a job board.) That’s pretty pathetic.

    I don’t so much blame desperate job hunters for using it. I blame idiotic personnel jockeys and “headhunters” who dump millions of $$ into it every year. (Of course, Ladders’ own customers claim that some of those postings aren’t real to begin with, or that they appear without the employer’s permission.)

  6. Let’s take another look at TheLadders’ “business model.”

    Cenedella claims in his e-mail that, “We have at least two human beings screen every job before we let it onto our site to ensure it pays over $100,000 per year in salary and bonus.”

    On TheLadders website it says they have “More than 50,000, high-level 100K+ executive positions.”

    At 10 minutes per job (we’ll cut them some slack), that’s 16,667 man-hours spent screening jobs. Or over 8 years’ time if those two worked 8 hours per day. Just to vet the jobs that Ladders claims are already in the database.

    And that’s assuming they don’t take a lunch break.

    Fancy that. Has TheLadders been in business for 8+ years?

    Would you hire Cenedella to advertise YOUR products?

  7. “you will get a weekly round-up of short articles on various aspects of job hunting, career development, marketing yourself, etc. Many of those articles are pretty good. That’s the only Ladders thing I bother to read.”

    lkitsch- if thats the only ladders thing(sic) you “bother to read” and as “one redeeming value”then it seems to me you’re getting quite a lot of useful advice and information for free. i’m glad to read a positive comment.


  8. @paddy: Visiting TheLadders “for the articles” is kinda like claiming you get Playboy “for the articles.” The real press is talking about the sea change happening among companies that want to recruit more effectively.

    From the Wall Street Journal, an article this week by Joe Light:

    “As recruiters wade cautiously back into hiring mode, they’re throwing out their old playbooks. Rather than sift through mounds of online applications, they are going out to hunt for candidates themselves.”

    Sorta kinda suggests that swill pots like TheLadders are in trouble.

  9. Nick,

    You’re right – that article is worrisome for online job boards and may not bode well for theladders. A few questions- why do you wear this chip on your shoulder? What has cenedella done to you in the past that infuriates you so? Why having made your point do you feel it necessary to go on and on ad nauseam?

    Is it schadenfreude that drives you? Also-do you know that obsession is dangerous? And if I may make an observation about you it is that you are unhealthily obsessed with damning theladders and cenedella.believe me when i say it does not suit you. Your own currency would appreciate if you were more elegant and less strident about your competitors. Extolling the virtues of a nutcase like the cynical girl does nothing for your reputation in the the final analysis it’s not good for business and is bound to make people think twice about using you or indeed theladders. A pyrric victory at best.


  10. “there is no justification for the insults and epithets being thrown around. we should be able to have a reasonable discourse and not descend to gutter posturing.”

    So then, Paddy, what’s your excuse for your response to my post?

    I am sick and tired of listening to people bemoan ugly discourse while they are actively engaging in it. To put your diatribe about discourse after hurling personal insults is rank hypocrisy.


  11. jason,
    i stand corrected and chastened. you are right it was rude and i apologise its just that your post made me angry. i did not and still do not see the logic of your argument.

    however it is your prerogative to say what you believe to be true and i would never want you to not exercise that right. i still think that your language is strangled and nonsensical but i only say that in the spirit of honest discourse. over to you my friend


  12. Paddy,

    The language I was going for was more conversational and flowing. Plus, I did have a glaring typo in there. I will agree that it was a bit stream of consciousness as well, which can be hard to follow.

    Apology accepted.

    Although, I still think Nick should be able to stick it to the ladders as often as he desires.


  13. @paddy: What drives me is someone peeing in the sandbox I happen to work in.

    While other “career” practitioners (like the so-called “executive career management firms”) defraud desperate, unsuspecting job hunters every day (I often write about them, too), TheLadders has seemingly endless resources, and the support of HR departments across the land. Together, they cause job hunters to waste precious funds, time and energy on quackery.

    You can find the angry, frustrated complaints of Ladders users almost anywhere a career discussion is going on. What you don’t find is many publishers or news outlets (or legal authorities) calling the Ladders out on this. Someone has to. I take the job.

    TheLadders is not my competitor.

    I like and respect The Cynical Girl, even if I don’t always agree with her.

    As for pyrrhic victories, I don’t give a rat’s batootie how anyone judges my victories or my battles. No one pays me to produce or to use this website or my blog. I judge what I do successful when people tell me they saved money and agony because of something they read here and, better yet, when the simple ideas I teach help them get where they want to go.

    Marc Cenedella and TheLadders are a black spot on the business world. Bullshit keeps talking when nobody whacks it upside the head regularly.

  14. Nick, I live and breathe job boards – I am, in fact, a consultant that works primarily with job boards. So take my input with a grain of salt. I think your criticisms of TheLadders are absolutely on target – but…
    a) the bigger problem is that most people don’t know how to look for a job. I realize this site is an attempt to rectify that, but the bottom line is people know more about buying a HD TV that they do about finding work that will consume 40-70 hrs a week of their life
    b) TheLadders is merely the latest in a series of sites over the years that have charged candidates for so-called ‘secret’ knowledge about jobs. The big difference is Marc C got some big $$ to promote it and convinced executive job seekers that he knew something they didn’t – and convinced recruiters that getting job seekers to pay $30/mo made them more ‘qualified’.
    c) Your point about publicizing how TheLadders works (or doesn’t) is the most important – if a job seeker is willing to educate his or herself, they should be able to find out how the Ladders really works – ie, from this blog and other sites.

    Ultimately, though, this is a case of buyer-beware. It really reminds me of the first time I realized that the ‘sticker’ price on a new car was total BS. How did I find out? By educating myself. I think job seekers owe to themselves to do the same about any job site that wants to charge them for access to job information.

  15. Hi Nick,

    Provocative as always. I don’t have anything in particular to say about TheLadders that hasn’t already been said but I will comment about the WSJ piece.

    I think the divestment in the recruiting function is the actual culprit, not the existence, non-existence or overall relevancy of job boards themselves. I think it is a relevant resource for some companies and some positions but not for others. Having a person who knows the difference and who knows the right ways to recruit depending on the position is the most important thing.

    What the article suggests is that companies just haven’t put a ton of thought into it and have been mindless about job advertising.

  16. @Jeff: This is a great dialogue we’ve started. Please see Lance Haun’s comments here. (Thanks for tipping me off to his blog.)

    You’re putting this at the feet of naive job hunters. Haun suggests it’s the failure of companies to develop effective recruiting capabilities. Of course, it’s both, and one problem feeds the other.

    And yes, education is the solution. But the brainwashing that this combination of errors has done to people is just staggering. I have top execs complaining to me that I’m nuts — the only way to get a job is to blast out lots of resumes!

    I spend a lot of my time trying to disabuse people of the nonsense that passes for “the employment system” and the rules they must follow to get hired. We know there are no such rules, and there is no system.

    So let’s keep doing what we’re doing — holding up the mirror and helping both job hunters and employers see the ugly truth about they’re both doing.

    Of course, then it’s incumbent on us to offer some useful solutions!

  17. @Lance: Please see my comments to Jeff Dickey-Chasins. Your blog takes a very nice spin around another side of this problem:

    I’m more hopeful than I am cynical, but I don’t see things changing much. Too many people in the HR and recruiting business just seem to like spinning the great wheel and waiting for their number to come up. The trouble is, their bosses – the board of directors – keeps paying them to gamble the corporate kitty on a roulette wheel.

    So I’ll respectfully suggest that we’re not going to change HR or recruiting. The object, I think, is to point out to the board of directors that corporate America is being fleeced by a culture of laziness, bureaucracy, and petty greed in the executive ranks.

    It’s time for the board of directors to dismantle the HR department, and get it out of the recruiting and hiring business. And rebuild from scratch.

  18. One solution I’d love to see implemented (but probably never will): mandatory job search training in high school AND/OR the final year of college. Teach kids (and would-be adults) all of the different ways you can actually find a job that you like and that likes you. Teach them how to be realistic – but also assertive. That would be tax dollars well spent!

  19. Paddy’s baaaaaaack!

    Paddy – or Marc – keep trying to defend the indefensible. Keep insulting people on this blog, as well as their intelligence. It’s all for naught. And If Nick is “obsessed” as you say, what are you–but obsessed with Nick?

    Frankly, methinks you doth protest too much your innocence of a crime of which you haven’t been accused. So it stands to reason you’re either Cenedella or you work at TheLadders.

    You are actually hilarious! You admit being rude and say you’re “corrected and chastened” but in the same comment you say the writer’s “language is strangled and nonsensical.” Nice apology. Crocodile tears, really.

  20. Dear Billy,
    I am not obsessed with NIck.NIck aside from being the pied piper you dance to is the originator of this blog and writes 75% of the postings so it should be no surprise to you that a lot of my comments are directed to NIck. By the way I hope you have noted that although I believe NIck to be misguided he nonetheless has my admiration for his skills as a recruitment professional.

    You on the other hand are not a recruitment professional and although you are a good speller-god love you- you’re one slice short of a sandwich when it comes to cogent argument. I’m greatly amused but not surprised by your fantasies of me being Marc cenedella or indeed that I work at theladders.

    All the best and make sure to take your medication.


  21. @Paddy:

    No I’m not a “recruitment professional.” And your point? My not being one has no bearing on the fact that TheLadders is widely viewed and very well supported by evidence as a scam.

    But you, on the other hand, DO seem to be obsessed with the fact that Nick enjoys telling people to avoid wasting their money on this. And you never really say why. So if you’re not Marc or one of his people, why? What is your peculiar interest in defending this enterprise that legions of people say, on the record, ripped them off?

    I’m not on any meds, thanks. And your infantile ad hominem arguments don’t really add anything to either the discussion or your credibility.

    Say what you will, but Nick’s doing a public service and I’m confident that he won’t stop doing it in fear of being insulted by you.

  22. Silly Billy!
    Please Don’t get your knickers in twist. I’m glad you’re not on any meds but my concern was sparked by your paranoia about who I really am and what my agenda is. seeing a doctor to talk about paranoia may not be a bad thing in your case and you should not get upset about taking medication for it.

    My answer to your question.Put simply- I believe theladders is a force for good. The company provides a vital and clever service to job seekers in the usa and uk. I remain mystified by the visceral reaction it provokes among people like yourself and of course Nick who choreographs very cleverly the whole anti theladders movement.

    I suspect that a great measure of the vitriol is motivated by plain old fashioned envy. What theladders provokes in you I’m not sure and unfortunately am not sure that you know any event the fact the company continues to grow is testament to the product and not to some great machiavellian scam as Nick and his acolytes believe. Over to you Billy boy


  23. @Paddy: I’m not going to get into a protracted debate about the baseless assertions you’re making. But I’m not going to sit back and let you off so easily, either.

    As Bill points out, your arguments are entirely ad homimem, and you haven’t backed up any positive comments you’ve made about TheLadders with facts. You have offered zero evidence that “theladders is a force for good,” or that the service is “vital” or that it is even “clever.” That’s a fact. The suggestion that it’s a force for good, by itself, is ludicrous and sorta/kinda makes your diatribes suspect as a whole.

    My critique of TheLadders is based on facts available on its website, and on complaints and information provided by many Ladders customers — much of it published on this blog.

    The most important facts are these: TheLadders has claimed to deliver “ONLY $100k+ jobs” and “candidates,” but the published experiences of many of its customers demonstrates that’s a lie. (One could argue they’re all lying because they’re envious and vitriolic.) “ONLY” means “ONLY” and Ladders customers have offered plenty of evidence that Ladders doesn’t deliver ONLY $100k+ jobs. What part of that suggests that Ladders has any integrity? Its claim to do “ONLY” what it says is as ludicrous as your claim that it’s “a force for good.” Bring on Luke Skywalker.

    TheLadders claims to check and confirm every job. Yet a transcript of a Ladders customer service call published on this blog reveals that’s not true. It’s a lie. (Other reports of Ladders customers support the statements of the Ladders employee.) We also know from published accounts of Ladders customers that Ladders scrapes job listings from other, free job boards — so the claim that Ladders publishes anything exclusive that’s worth money is a sham.

    When someone daily drops a load of crap in the street, it’s a good thing to regularly put up a fresh sign warning people not to step in it.

    You’re entitled to your opinions, but opinions are not evidence against facts. Many have provided lots of facts about TheLadders; you’re welcome to offer some of your own.

    My opinion, based on the facts, is that TheLadders sucks.

  24. I’m intrigued by the comment that a company must be doing a good job if it’s growing.

    I can think of two companies that were doing so well that they earned industry awards.

    One was a New Zealand meat company called The Fortex Group. From 1988 to 1993, it was highly acclaimed as an innovative and successful company, winning a number of awards and accolades plus personal honours for members of top management. A small number of people felt that something was amiss, but they were brushed aside.

    In 1994, the company went into receivership (similar to Chapter 11). Thousands of workers lost their jobs. In 1996 two of the top brass were jailed for fraud. (Details here.)

    The other one that comes to mind is a much better known entity, Enron.

    In addition, I’d not be surprised if Bernard Madoff’s enterprise looked like it was working really well up until shortly before the scam was discovered.

    Certainly, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but we do need to make sure that it is the pudding that’s well-cooked, and not something else.

  25. Some good commentary by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on his blog:

    Jeff sharpens the distinction between job boards that charge the employer to post, and that charge job hunters to access the postings. This puts a significant burden on the job board to deliver real value to job hunters.

  26. Wow, Marc, er, Paddy. “The Ladders is a force for good…” and “provides a vital and clever service for job seekers.”

    Aside from the absurd dramatics-“a force for good” (like peacekeepers in Bosnia, for example?), your flaws of logic are legion but your basic reasoning is what’s called a tautology. You defend TheLadders by starting with YOUR premise that it’s good, which you then use as evidence to support your assertion that…it’s good.

    And this despite the fact that Nick and others have provided incontrovertible evidence that:

    The 100k hand-screened promise is false and TheLadders makes no attempt to actually verify salaries of positions;

    TheLadders resume service does not deliver what it promises and doesn’t even allow clients to talk to the “expert writers” which has resulted in thousands of outraged customers;

    Virtually all the postings on TheLadders, for which job seekers pay, are not exclusive in any way, are available without charge elsewhere, and are often re-posted on TheLadders without the original poster’s permission and often against their specific written instruction prohibiting it.

  27. dear billy boy,

    it is simply not true to say “TheLadders resume service does not deliver what it promises and doesn’t even allow clients to talk to the “expert writers” which has resulted in thousands of outraged customers”

    you are dead wrong and misinformed-the fact is you can talk to the resume writers- and encouraged to do so.

    certainly there are and will always be a number clients of theladders who will feel dissatisfied with the product just like any other business out is typical of what many successful businesses go billy- do you find that totally outrageous? does that grind your gears?

    i dont believe there is a single business that exists where 100% of the client base are totally satisfied with their experience of that company’s product- however as long as a big majority are pleased then i think thats doing a good job. am i being “absurdly dramatic?

    you’re blinkererd billy.i’m not going to bother anymore arguing with you. you see it only one way ( nick’s way).it’s all duck or no dinner for you.and by the way please dont call me an ad homo again.


  28. Three customer views! is a job site where an applicant pays to see positions advertised on the web. In order for you to apply for any positions you have to join by paying a subscription. They give you an option of 3 months +. I chose 3 months in order to find a job and paid $75.00. Once a found a job I notified them via their website that I wanted to cancel my membership and remove my resume. I just received my credit card statement and they went ahead and charged me an additional $75.00. I wrote to them as well as called them and left a message demanding that they issue a credit of $75.00 and they refused said it was their policy to renew. It does not say anything on the page about any renewals.
    This site is a scam. Not one person has ever been able to get a position off the Ladders.

    Complete waste of time and money. The “jobs” they advertise are already posted in other boards and are 99% of the time late (the position has already been filled, etc). Their Resume critique system is a joke. Just Google the horror stories you see online, they will send you the EXACT same letter they send to everyone, with scare tactics to make you pay their Resume writing fees (around $700).

    The Ladders is posting the same job with the exact same description for multiple cities all with the Mergis Group. This appears to be a phishing scheme: Example:
    Company: The Mergis Group
    Jobid: 2392749
    Job Title: Vice President of Audit
    Austin, TX
    Vice President of Audit Denver, CO 11/11/2010 TheLadders
    with a prestigious Fortune 500 financial services company to identify an exceptional Vice President of Audit. The ideal candidate will have a public accounting background with excellent industry…
    More Details
    Vice President of Audit Minneapolis, MN 11/11/2010 TheLadders
    with a prestigious Fortune 500 financial services company to identify an exceptional Vice President of Audit. The ideal candidate will have a public accounting background with excellent industry…
    More Details
    Vice President of Audit Houston, TX 11/11/2010 TheLadders
    with a prestigious Fortune 500 financial services company to identify an exceptional Vice President of Audit. The ideal candidate will have a public accounting background with excellent industry…
    More Details