Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

ladders3During the many years this blog has reported the questionable practices of TheLadders, angry Ladders customers who felt scammed often commented that someone should file a class action against the company. Their wishes have come true.

The United States District Court, Southern District of New York, has ruled that a consumer action lawsuit may proceed against TheLadders, a job board that long claimed to be “exclusive” for “only $100k+” job seekers and “only $100k+ jobs.”

The case was filed March 2013 by Bursor & Fisher, New York City consumer class action attorneys. A month after the filing, TheLadders CEO Alex Douzet appeared on WNYC radio and said, “This case has no merit, and we hope that it will be thrown out of the court quickly.”

In an order issued March 12, 2014, the federal Court denied TheLadders’ motion to dismiss the suit brought by its customers for “breach of contract” and “deceptive acts or practices.”

Plaintiffs in the case allege they paid for job postings and resume services that TheLadders failed to deliver, and that TheLadders used deceptive advertising that often appeared on the company’s website:

“TheLadders reviews each job listing found online or submitted by recruiters and employers before it’s posted to ensure it meets the criteria of a $100K+ position.”

The Court noted that TheLadders advertised itself as:

“a premium job site for only $100K+ jobs” where “[e]xperts pre-screen all jobs so they’re always 100K+” and members would “find hand-selected and pre-screened jobs that are $100K+.”

50000jobsPlaintiffs say that job positions either did not exist or had salaries less than TheLadders promised. But in its motion to dismiss the case, TheLadders asserts that its customers should know better than to confuse ads on the company’s website with promises the company makes in its contract. The Court noted in its order that:

“The defendant [TheLadders] argues that these representations were mere advertisements and were not terms of any contract.”

Some of the plaintiffs also allege that TheLadders “scammed” them and was “knowingly deceptive” when it offered an “expert resume critique” that was actually just a sales pitch copied from a “crib sheet.” One of the plaintiffs says a resume “expert” at TheLadders produced a scathing critique of his resume — which he had previously paid TheLadders to write for him.

TheLadders told the Court that its Terms of Use “disclosed that the website would not guarantee the quality of the job listings or the services.”

ladders5The Court wrote:

“…the resume plaintiffs’ allegation that misrepresenting a sales pitch as ‘expert resume critique’ is also sufficient to support an inference that the defendant’s behavior was ‘knowingly deceptive,’ especially in light of the alleged instructions to the sales personnel on how to represent themselves as ‘writer[s] and analyst[s]’ in order to convince the client about their qualifications.”

The Court granted TheLadders’ motion to dismiss claims of plaintiffs who were outside the statute of limitations, but the Court denied TheLadders motion to dismiss all the plaintiffs.

According to the complaint,

ladders4“From its inception until September, 2011, TheLadders scammed its customers into paying for its job board service by misrepresenting itself to be ‘a premium job site for only $100k+ jobs, and only $100k+ talent.’ In fact, TheLadders sold access to purported ‘$100k+’ job listings that (1) did not exist, (2) did not pay $100k+, and/or (3) were not authorized to be posted on TheLadders by the employers.”

In 2011, TheLadders stopped its “Only $100K+ jobs” advertisements (see Running On Empty: TheLadders folds up its shell game).

The Court ruled that the plaintiff “has sufficiently pleaded a claim that the defendant breached the June 2010 Terms of Use.” The Court also ruled that facts pleaded by the plaintiffs “give rise to a plausible inference that the allegedly deceptive transaction occurred in New York,” and that the plaintiffs have standing to assert claims under the law.

The long-awaited class action lawsuit against TheLadders for breach of contract and deceptive acts or practices may now move forward in federal court.


Unrelated to the case, employers have also alleged that TheLadders misrepresents salaries. In a 2011 Ask The Headhunter column (also reported on ERE.net) a recruiter at Royal Dutch Shell said that TheLadders scraped low-paying jobs from Shell’s website without Shell’s knowledge and pawned them off on TheLadders customers as higher-paying jobs. The recruiter said that the job applicants blamed Shell when they appeared for interviews only to learn the jobs paid salaries nowhere near what TheLadders represented. Referring to the overhead cost of interviewing inappropriate applicants channeled through TheLadders, the Shell recruiter said, “I’d love to charge them [TheLadders] for the amount of my time they wasted.”

The excerpt below is from a newsletter written by then-CEO of TheLadders Marc Cenedella — who pitched a feature of his service that the Shell recruiter gave the lie to just a few months later:

cenedella3

In June, 2011 Cenedella announced a new service — “A job offer. Guaranteed. Or your money back” for $2,495 — which included a new resume and an “advisor.” One month later, TheLadders announced cut-rate prices for all job seekers.

In a few short years, TheLadders went from “exclusive” and “Only $100K+”, and from offering resume services priced at $2,495, to “hardly exclusive” — and today there is no indication on TheLadders website that it offers resume services or guarantees of any kind. Today it’s just another job board, mired in costly litigation with angry customers who have been complaining about TheLadders questionable practices for years — customers who are finally getting their day in court.

Today, Marc Cenedella is Executive Chairman of TheLadders and CEO of Knozen.com, an under-construction website that’s taking names of people who want to be notified when the site is working.


Related articles

TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action | TheLadders: How the scam worksTheLadders: A lipstick pig’s death rattle? | TheLadders: Going Down? | Rickety, Leads Nowhere | The Dope on TheLadders | Marc Cenedella Sells E-mails: $30/month | TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud? | TheLadders: A Long-Shot PowerBall Lottery Tucked Inside a Well-Oiled PR Machine | TheLadders’ Mercenaries to Critics: They’re good eggs!

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TheLadders Update: Still sliming its customers

I’ve covered the sad story of TheLadders in many columns on this blog over the years. So, what’s up with this poster child of bad behavior in the career space?

  • The company’s $2,500 “We guarantee you a job” offer is long gone.
  • The front-and-center resume writing offers have disappeared.
  • Of course, a class-action suit about TheLadders’ misrepresentations about “ONLY $100K+ JOBS! ONLY $100K CANDIDATES” eliminated that ad campaign.

ladders3TheLadders’ home page used to feature links to all sorts of assets for job hunters and employers. Good, free content is how any online business succeeds today. There’s nothing on TheLadders home page to suggest there’s anything of value for anyone.

TheLadders website is now a dismal collection of five links that drive you straight to a data collection form and a subscription page. TheLadders doesn’t even pretend any more. It’s site is 100% carny-barker sales pitch, and that’s an insult to carny barkers.

There’s been nothing worth reporting or writing about TheLadders.

But a comment today on an early-2013 story I published, TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action, reveals that consumers should stay worried, and so should the courts. Nothing has really changed with this company’s M.O.

TheLadders is still all about parting you from your money by advertising non-existent jobs. I’ll let reader Steve C tell it:

I subscribed to TheLadders.com in mid June 2013 to apply for a single job which I was led to believe was exclusive to TheLadders. I found a marketing job posted on TheLadders. Although I was able to figure out that the job was with Husky due to some of the language in the posting. However I could not find that job on Husky’s website to apply directly. When I clicked on apply from TheLadders.com, it took me to their payment page. Since I was really interested in that job I decided to sign up for their best deal, a 3 month plan. After subscribing I clicked the apply link and the fraudsters at TheLadders redirect me to Husky’s website, where, you guessed it, job was long ago expired. I emailed TheLadders my concerns and basically it was an “eat crow” moment. Although their subscribe page led me to believe that this was an exclusive job, their agent “Timmothy S.” said that it was not exclusive and that it must have just expired. I promptly turned off the subscription auto renewal.

I will say that generally their email advice is OK but it is free anyway. At the time TheLadders were no longer promising that all jobs were above $100k, but they were still claiming exclusive high paying jobs. They are a scam and I would not recommend them. Use their free subscription and the google the job description to find the job. You can also look to see who the recruiters are that pull your profile and the connect with the recruiter via LinkedIn.

[Click here for Steve C’s entire comment.]

I have one piece of advice for Steve C: Don’t just turn off auto-renewal. Contact your credit card company to make sure TheLadders does not keep dinging your account for the subscription fee. You wouldn’t be the first “member” who cancelled and found — months later — that fees will still being charged to your card. “Oops,” says TheLadders.

What’s most telling about this story is the statement of the customer service rep: He admitted that the job posting “was not exclusive” and that “it must have just expired.”

It seems TheLadders customer service reps are still sliming their customers, reading from the same script that TheLadders’ customer Alishia reported in TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud? In essence, “Whoops!” and “Not our fault.”

Give us all a break, Marc Cenedalla. Pack it in.

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Big Data, Big Problems for Job Seekers?

In the January 21, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, Nick asks readers for help with an upcoming TV news interview:

There’s no question from a reader this week. Instead, I’m asking all of you readers a question. May I have your help?

I’ve been asked to appear on a TV news show to discuss how HR is using Big Data to watch you at work — and to process your job application without interviewing you. I’d like your input on the topic so I can frame my comments with your interests in mind. I’ll share a link to the program after it airs, and we can discuss it further then.

[UPDATE: Here’s the link that includes video from the TV program: Big HR Data: Why Internet Explorer users aren’t worth hiring]

Nick’s Question for You

Big-Data-KittyAre you frustrated because employers reject your job application out of hand without even talking to you? Tired of online application forms kicking you out of consideration because you took too long to answer questions, or because you failed to disclose your salary history?

Wait — America’s employment system is getting even more automated and algorithm-ized. According to a new report in The Atlantic, the vice president of recruiting at Xerox Services warns that:

“We’re getting to the point where some of our hiring managers don’t even want to interview anymore.” According to the article, “they just want to hire the people with the highest scores.”

The subtitle of that Atlantic column (They’re Watching You At Work by Don Peck) reads: “The emerging practice of ‘people analytics’ is already transforming how employers hire, fire, and promote.”

Does that worry you?

If all goes according to plan (hey, this is TV — all schedules are subject to change), Atlantic columnist Don Peck and I will talk about the rise of Big Data in the service of HR — and I want your input in advance, because I’m worried about the conclusions Peck draws in his article. It’s a very long one (8,600+ words), but it illuminates some of the technology that’s frustrating your job search. Please have a look at it, and post your suggestions to help me frame my comments for this TV program.

Here are the Big Problems I see with this Big Data approach to assessing people for jobs and on the job:

The metrics are indirect.

The vendors behind these “tools” don’t directly assess whether a person can do a job. Instead, they look at other things — indirect assessments of a person’s fit to a job. For example, they have you play a game and they measure your response times. From this, they try to predict success on the job. That determines whether you get interviewed.

The problem is that we’ve known for decades that this approach doesn’t work. Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli throws cold water on indirect assessments:

“Nothing in the science of prediction and selection beats observing actual performance in an equivalent role.”

All that’s being thrown into the mix by these “assessment” vendors is Big Data. But more data doesn’t change anything. In fact, it makes things worse if the data are not valid predictors of success. It’s worse because indirect assessment leads to false negatives (employers reject potentially good candidates) and to false positives (they hire the wrong people for the wrong reasons).

The conclusions are based on correlations.

These tools predict success based on whether certain characteristics of a person are similar to characteristics of a target sample of people. For example, Peck’s article says that “one solid predictor of strong coding [programming] is an affinity for a particular Japanese manga site.” (Manga are Japanese comics.)

Gild, the company behind this claim, says it’s just one correlation of many. But Gild admits there’s “no causal relationship” between all the Big Data it gathers about you and how you perform on the job.

In what can only be called a scientific non sequitur, Gild’s “chief scientist” says “the correlation, even if inexplicable, is quite clear.”

The problem: A basic tenet of empirical research is that a correlation does not imply causality, or even an explanation of anything. Data tell us that people die in hospitals, and that correlates highly with the presence of doctors in hospitals. All jokes aside, that correlation doesn’t mean doctors kill people. Except, perhaps, in the world of Big HR Data: If you’re selling “people analytics,” then playing a game a certain way means you’ll work a certain way.

When we pile specious correlations on top of indirect assessments (What animal would you be if you could be any animal?), we wind up with no good reasons to make hiring decisions, and with no basis for judgments of employees.


INTERMISSION: There’s a hidden lesson for recruiters in Big Data.

Hanging out at a manga site doesn’t improve anyone’s ability to write good code — nor does it predict their success at work. But, it might mean that a recruiter can find some good coders on that manga site — the one reasonable conclusion and recruiting tactic that none of the people Peck interviewed seem to have thought of!


I don’t think Peck wrote this article to promote “people analytics” as the solution to the challenges that American companies face when hiring, but he does seem to think the Kool-Aid tastes pretty good. I think Peck over-reaches when he confuses useful data that employers collect about employee behavior to improve that behavior, with predictions based on silly Big Data assumptions.

To entice you to read the article and post your comments, I’ll share a couple of highlights in the article that kinda blinded me. Well, the assumptions behind them were blinding, anyway:

Spying tells us a lot.

In further support of indirect assessments of employees and job applicants, Peck cites the work of MIT researcher Sandy Pentland, who’s been putting electronic badges on employees to gather data about their daily interactions. In other words, Pentland follows them around electronically to see what they do.

“The badges capture all sorts of information about formal and informal conversations: their length; the tone of voice and gestures of the people involved; how much those people talk, listen, and interrupt; the degree to which they demonstrate empathy and extroversion; and more. Each badge generates about 100 data points a minute.”

Peck notes that these badges are not in routine use at any company.

It’s just a game.

A lot of the “breakthroughs” Peck writes about come from start-up test vendors like an outfit called Knack, which creates games “to suss out human potential.” Knack continues to seek venture funding, and the only Knack client mentioned in the article is Palo Alto High School, which is using Knack games to help students think about careers.

“Play one of [Knack’s games] for just 20 minutes, says Guy Halfteck, Knack’s founder, and you’ll generate several megabytes of data, exponentially more than what’s collected by the SAT or a personality test.”

The big dbig-dataata gathered, writes Peck,

“are used to analyze your creativity, your persistence, your capacity to learn quickly from mistakes, your ability to prioritize, and even your social intelligence and personality. The end result, Halfteck says, is a high-resolution portrait of your psyche and intellect, and an assessment of your potential as a leader or an innovator.”

Let’s draw a comparison in the world of medicine; it’s an easy and apt one: If more megabytes of game data can be used to generate more correlations, could doctors diagnose patients more effectively by collecting bigger urine samples? Because that’s the logic.

No sale.

I don’t buy it. I want to know, can you do the job?

Some Big Data about employee behavior can be analyzed to good effect. For example, Peck reports that Microsoft employees with mentors are less likely to leave their jobs, so Microsoft gets mentors for them. But he seems to easily confuse legitimate metrics with goofy games of correlation. And the start-up companies he profiles don’t seem to be on any leading edge — they’re mostly trying to sell the idea that Big Data in the service of questionable correlations makes those correlations worth money.

(To learn the ins and outs of legitimate employment testing, see Erica Klein’s excellent book, Employment Tests: Get The Edge.)

Big Deal.

We know that what Peter Cappelli says about the science of prediction is correct. But I think Arnold Glass, a leading researcher in cognitive psychology at Rutgers University, says it best:

“It has been known since Alfred Binet and Victor Henri constructed the original IQ test in 1905 that the best predictor of job (or academic) performance is a test composed of the tasks that will be performed on the job. Therefore, the idea that collecting tons of extraneous facts about a person (Big Data!) and including them in some monster regression equation will improve its predictive value is laughable.”

It seems to me that HR should be putting its money into teaching HR workers and hiring managers to hang out where the people they want to hire hang out, and into teaching them how to get to know these people — and how good they are at their work.

In the meantime, is it any surprise to any job seeker today that employers mostly suck at recruiting the right people and at conducting effective interviews?

If you have questions or thoughts you’d like me to raise in this forthcoming TV program, please post them. I’ll try to use the best of the bunch. I wish I could tell you that hanging out on my blog causes employers to hire you. Thanks!

[UPDATE: Here’s the link that includes video from the TV program: Big HR Data: Why Internet Explorer users aren’t worth hiring]

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Employment In America: WTF is going on?

The October 29, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter is the 500th edition. So rather than answer a reader’s question, I’m celebrating this milestone by making up my own question, and doing my best to answer it.

(What? You don’t subscribe to the free, weekly e-mail Ask The Headhunter Newsletter? Don’t miss the next edition! Subscribe now!)

WTF is going on with employment in America?

Why have I written and published 500 weekly editions of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter? Because America’s employment system still doesn’t work.

wtfThe emperor still has no clothes, and that’s why over 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed. (According to PBS NewsHour, that’s how many Americans say they want but can’t find a full time job.) Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are about 3.9 million jobs vacant.

HR executives have a special term for this 6:1 market advantage when they’re trying to fill jobs today: They call it a “talent shortage.”

Gimme a break.

Personnel jockeys run around in their corporate offices with their eyes closed, throwing billions of dollars at applicant tracking systems and job boards like Taleo, Monster.com, and LinkedIn — and they pretend no one can see they are dancing in circles buck naked.

WTF is going on? We’ll talk about a talent shortage when the HR talent shortage abates — and HR executives learn how to match up the 3.9 million with work that needs doing.

Companies don’t hire any more

Employers don’t do their own hiring, and that’s the #1 problem. Employers have outsourced their competitive edge — recruiting and hiring — to third parties whose heads are so far up The Database Butt that this little consortium should be investigated by Congress.

Taleo, Kenexa, LinkedIn, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and their diaspora — you know who I’m talking about. Monster and LinkedIn alone sucked almost $2 billion out of the employment system in 2012. These vendors tout fake technologies and cheap string-search routines masquerading as “algorithms” for finding “hidden talent” and “matching people to jobs.”

So, why are almost 4 million jobs vacant?

Because these vendors sell databases, not recruiting, not headhunting, not jobs, not hires, not “matchmaking.”

Somewhere, right now, the chairman of the board of some corporation is pounding the podium at a shareholders’ meeting, exclaiming, “People are our most important asset!”

Meanwhile, HR executives are blowing billions out their asses, mingling their companies’ most important assets in databases shared with all their competitors via a handful of “applicant tracking systems” that can’t get the job done.

Heads-up to boards of directors: Where is your competitive edge any more? Take control of your hiring again — like it matters!

Employers don’t know how to recruit

Here’s how human resources departments across America “recruit.” They put impossible mixes of keywords about jobs into a computer. They press a button and pay billions of dollars for a chance that Prince Charming might materialize on their computer displays. When the prince fails to appear, they pay to play another day. (Last year, companies polled said 1.3% of their hires came from Monster.com and 1.2% from CareerBuilider. Source: CareerXroads.)

Meanwhile, in the real world, over 25 million people — many of them immensely talented and capable of riding a fast learning curve without falling off — are ready to work.

Employers need to get off their butts, remove the Taleo straps from around their necks, and go outside to actually find, meet, recruit, cajole, seduce, and convince good workers to come work for them.

The employment system vendors are lying

The big job boards and the applicant tracking systems tell employers that sophisticated database technology will find the perfect hire.

  • ”Don’t settle for teaching a good worker anything about doing a job. Hire only the perfect fit!”
  • “We make that possible when you use more keywords for a job!”
  • “The more requirements you specify, the more perfect your hire will be! The database handles it all!”

Except that’s a lie. Job descriptions heavily larded with keywords make it virtually impossible to find good candidates. But every day that an impossible job requisition remains unfilled, the employment system vendors make more money while companies keep advertising for the perfect hires.

WTF? How stupid can anyone be? At the roulette wheel, the house always wins.

3.9 million jobs are vacant, thanks to the empty promises of algorithms. If the U.S. Congress wants a solution, it should launch an investigation into the workings of America’s employment system infrastructure, which is controlled by a handful of companies.

Employers have no business plan

Wharton researcher Peter Cappelli has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the quality of the American worker pool has not diminished. Rather, American companies:

  • Don’t want to pay market value to hire the right workers.
  • Don’t want to train talented workers to do a new job.
  • Don’t have any problem using applicant tracking systems that don’t work.

Cappelli points out that employers believe they save money when they leave jobs vacant, because their accounting systems track the cost of having workers on the payroll — but cannot track the cost of leaving work undone.

Employers run the junk profitability numbers in their sleep:

Fewer Employees=Lower Costs=Higher Profits

Employers that believe this are idiots. They should stop regarding workers as a cost, and start treating them as investments, and ensure that each worker pays off in higher profits. They should get a business plan.

America counts jobs, not profitable work

The federal government tracks the number of people who have jobs and the number of vacant jobs. But that’s no measure of a healthy economy. We all know the weekly employment figures are a fraud. The definitions of jobs and “who is employed” are so manipulated that no one knows WTF is going on.

It’s time to re-think how companies find and pay people to do work that produces profit. A better indicator of economic success would be the measure of how profitable all the work in America actually is — and how much profit is left behind on the table each month when work is left undone.

People must stop begging for jobs

It’s time for people to stop thinking about jobs, and high time to start thinking about how — and where — they can create profit.

If I run a company, I’ll hire you to do work that pays off more than what I pay you to do it. Today, virtually no employer knows whether hiring a person will pay off. That’s why you need to know how to walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate, hands down, how you will contribute profit to the manager’s business. That’s right: Be smarter than the manager about his own business. Stop begging for jobs. Start offering profit.

Because if you can’t do that, you have no business applying for any job, in any company.

Think you can generate lots of profit without working for someone else? Then bet your future on your plan, and start your own business.

WTF is going on

Here’s the simple truth that’s buried in the employment system, which is controlled by a handful of lightweight database jockeys who are funded by HR executives who have no idea how to recruit or hire:

There is no business plan in any applicant tracking system, no profit in a job posting, no future in federal employment metrics, no solution in HR departments, and no answers in databases or algorithms.

WTF is going on is this: American ingenuity starts with the individual who has an idea, blossoms with a plan that will produce profit — for yourself and your boss and your customer — and results in more money for everybody.

WTF is going on is that you must do the hard work of figuring it out yourself, each time, and every time. American business can’t outsource recruiting and hiring, and American workers can’t afford to let someone else find them “a job.”

WTF do you think is going on? Is there a way out of this mess? How do we change the way work is defined, and how people earn money for their work?

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Job Boards: Take this challenge or F off!

In the May 7, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter gets fed up having to pay to “access” jobs online:

I have been job hunting for three weeks now and each time I come across a job that I would like to apply for, I get directed to a website that demands payment. Can you comment on this in your next newsletter or blog? I want to know how to get around it if possible.

Nick’s Reply

Websites that demand payment for jobs should deliver jobs and paychecks before they bill for sf-off-2ervices — or they should F off.

The only people who charge to match a person to a job are headhunters, and headhunters (at least the real ones) charge only the employer. They never charge job hunters. And they charge only if they actually fill the job. That is, no match, no dough.

Who is charging you for jobs?

If you can find me a website that charges money and guarantees you a job, I’d like to see it. Otherwise, it’s important to understand what you’re paying for, because there’s an entire industry that will take your money (and your personal information, which is worth money) and guarantee you only one thing: database records.

Let’s consider what you’re encountering. If we Google “headhunter,” we get two paid results at the top of the page: One for TheLadders and one for Monster.com. Neither is a headhunting company, so there are no guarantees about putting people into jobs. These are job boards that want lots of personal information before they will even show you a job description. (How many employers demand all your personal information before showing you a real job? And what’s up with Google? TheLadders and Monster are headhunters? Give us an F-ing break, Google!)

TheLadders (which is being sued for running multiple scams) wants money for access to jobs.

When you click on the Monster.com result, Monster thinks you’re an employer and wants money to post a job.

Another result is CareerBuilder which, when you sign up, tries to sell you education at The Art Institutes — before it shows you any jobs. If you want to “make sure employers see your resume,” CareerBuilder wants you to pay for an “upgrade.” Pay enough, and you’ll “triple the number of companies who see your resume posting.” (Are you feeling stupid enough yet? I wonder if those sucker HR executives feel stupid enough yet — after paying for resume searches and getting your resume “FIRST” because you paid to “stand out.”)

You think the much-ballyhooed LinkedIn is any better? Like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn wants hard cash up front to to bump your resume to the top of the database. (Say what? Well, it works just like CareerBuilder, because now LinkedIn is just another job board.)

None of these job boards will guarantee you a job (or, if you are an employer, a new hire) if you pay them.

So here’s my challenge to all the job boards:

TheLadders, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and every other “jobs” service that wants money up front should bill the customer only after the customer starts the job and gets their first paycheck. Job first, pay later.

Otherwise, they should all F off. Because in today’s world, access to databases with jobs in them is worthless. If you pay for access to jobs, you’re a sucker.

So let’s get back to your question:

How can you get around fees for access to jobs?

Here’s the first answer: Deal only with employers. They are the only guys with jobs and the only guys that decide who gets one. (Not even personnel jockeys, or “Human Resources people,” qualify. They don’t decide who gets hired, either, unless the job is in HR.)

Here’s the second answer: Don’t give your personal information to anyone in exchange for “access” to job listings, because your personal information is worth money. Why do you think they want it? They sell it. (Don’t understand what that means? Most of the “job boards” aren’t even job boards. They’re “lead generation” magnets that use phony job listings as bait to get your contact information, Dopey! Then they sell it to anybody willing to pay for it.)

If someone or some website offers to connect you directly to an employer without a fee and without asking for any personal information, well, go for it. Just make sure there’s no catch.

Headhunters can take you to a job, because an employer will pay them for the match. There’s no cost to you. First, learn How to Judge A Headhunter. But remember: Headhunters find people, not jobs. So don’t chase headhunters.

Likewise, when an employer shows you a job on its own website, there’s no cost to you. As soon as somebody asks you for money for access to jobs, you’re being scrubbed up for an unnatural act. Run.

Have you ever used a jobs service that doesn’t ask for money or personal information? (Newspaper want ads are an example — they lead you directly to the employer.) Should you ever pay for a job? Is America’s job market F-ed up, or what?

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TheLadders sued for multiple scams in U.S. District Court class action

ladderscomplaintAsk The Headhunter readers have been asking for it for years, and it’s finally happened. A consumer protection class action was filed against TheLadders on March 11, 2013 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, for:

    • breach of contract,
    • money had and received,
    • breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
    • violation of the Arkansas Deceptive and Unconscionable Trade Practices Act, and
    • unjust enrichment

The suit alleges that:

“From its inception until September, 2011, TheLadders scammed its customers into paying for its job board service by misrepresenting itself to be ‘a premium job site for only $100k+ jobs, and only $100k+ talent.’ In fact, TheLadders sold access to purported ‘$100k+’ job listings that (1) did not exist, (2) did not pay $100k+, and/or (3) were not authorized to be posted on TheLadders by the employers.”

Click here for a complete court-stamped copy of the class action complaint.


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


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“Unlike other online job boards which are free to join, TheLadders charged a premium subscription fee to members for ‘hand-screen[ing] every job post and recruiter so you only see real, open $100k+ jobs in your area.’ In reality, however, its job postings were not hand-screened. They were ‘scraped’ from the Internet without authorization from employers or recruiters, and the employment opportunities were not for ‘real, open $100k+ jobs.’ Moreover, TheLadders had no process in place to ensure that these posted positions ever truly existed, remained open, or that they met its minimum advertised salary criteria of $100k+.”

If you believe you were scammed by TheLadders, you can obtain more information from Bursor & Fisher, the law firm that filed the complaint.

I’m laffing my ass off.

Not just because I’m happy TheLadders is finally getting exposed for its stupidly arrogant empty promises. But because it took so long for an attorney to read TheLadders advertising:

“Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates.”

In 2010, a very unhappy CFO who had spent loads of money on TheLadders — and even more of his valuable time — ran the numbers and reported that the numbers just didn’t add up. There was no way that TheLadders could deliver the number of “$100K+ jobs” that it promised: TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine.

TheLadders has been lying for years. Evidence from TheLadders’ own customers — reported here and elsewhere — has revealed again and again that TheLadders’ database never had “only” $100K anything in it. TheLadders own representatives were admitting it to angry customers in customer service chats — that at least one customer had the good sense to save.

ladders3When it seemed job hunters doubted the database, TheLadders’ chieftain, Marc Cenedella, came up with a claim even stupider than that: TheLadders had experts checking over very single job to make sure they’re always $100K+.

Yah, right. Not long afterwards, after repeated reports that TheLadders was still lying, Cenedella dumped the $100K lie altogether. The salary checkers are gone (Oh, I’m laffing my noogies off, Marc!) and any salary goes!

But the lawyers at Bursor & Fisher saved all the advertising graphics and the lies and stuck them into a class action complaint. Funny how stuff like that follows a company around — and drags it into court.

I expect Marc Cenedella is gagging on that jpg right about now. There’s more where that came from, Marc. Read the complaint — and don’t miss all the nice graphics you paid for over the years. The filing is loaded with them.

A little history

TheLadders is not a new subject on this blog. We’ve covered the company’s questionable behaviors many times. No one should be surprised that Marc Cenedella’s company is being sued. Here’s a selection of posts:

TheLadders: How the scam works

The dope on TheLadders

TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine

TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud?

TheLadders’ rigid set of criteria

One tiny $100K+ mistake

Got a Ladders story of your own? Tell it, tell it — now maybe something will come of it! Did you save some documentation that no one would pay attention to before? Share it, share it! Now somebody’s listening.

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Surprise! Guess who owns your personnel file?

In the February 12, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a frustrated reader loses her job, then asks for her personnel file. And the results might shock you:

I was asked to leave my job (not a good fit for the position) last fall. I requested a copy of my personnel file from my employer. I finally heard back and they are telling me that I need to travel to the company’s headquarters in another state to view it. It’s almost a 1,000-mile trip! They will not make copies. Do I have any recourse? Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

My view on personnel files is that, if it’s information compiled about you by your employer, you should have a right to see it. But my view isn’t the law. In fact, I never pretend to give legal advice since I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t want my ire to lead anyone into legal jeopardy.

personnel-fileBut this is such a good question that I turned to my friend Lawrence Barty for his comments. Get ready for some shocks.

Larry is a retired attorney who specializes in employment and labor law, and particularly in employment contracts. Please note: Nothing in this column is legal advice for a particular situation, and laws vary depending on your jurisdiction. If you need legal help on a specific matter, consult with an attorney who knows the law in your state. Take it away, Larry…


Larry Barty: To start with, most employees suffer from a misconception: That is, they assume that their employee file somehow belongs to them. If fact, it does not. It is the employer’s file concerning the employee. To better understand that, assume a company maintains a file of correspondence and records concerning one of its customers. Why should the customer have the right to see what is in that file? So, with respect to employment files, the key fact is that the file is the employer’s, not the employee’s. So, the question properly phrased is, under what circumstances, if any, may an employee view that particular employer-owned file?

The answer to the question is that the employee may see that file without the employer’s permission only if a State law so provides. Without a State law giving the employee a right to see the file, the employee is at the mercy of the employer. Only about a third of the States have any laws concerning the right to view or copy employment files. (Employee medical files, as opposed to employment files, are often made available by State law). In the remaining two-thirds of States, the employee’s only “right” is whatever may be set forth in the employer’s rules or handbook.

In those States that do have laws permitting employees to see their files, the conditions vary widely. For example, California law provides that an employee may view any personnel record relating to performance at reasonable intervals, but only on the employee’s own time. The employee may copy records, but only those records that bear the employee’s signature. In Illinois, by contrast, an employee may view the entire file and copy anything in it.

In California, Pennsylvania and most other States that authorize employee viewing, if the records are kept off-site the employee must go on his or her own to that off-site location. Only a few States, such as Michigan, require the employer to provide a copy for viewing at the employee’s work site.

As for getting a copy of the file, a few States, such as Maine, require the employer to give the employee a copy of the file at the employer’s cost. However, most States that authorize viewing require the employee to pay reasonable copying costs.


Former employees are almost out of luck

Now for the punch line to these laws. What Larry has discussed so far pertains to access of personnel files by current employees. Once you’ve left the company, things change. Larry explains:

“Former employees’ rights to see employee files are even more limited. Less than a dozen States permit former employees to view personnel files at all and, in most of those States, the right to view is limited to sometimes as little as only within 60 days after employment ends. If a former employee wants a copy of his or her file after that, a lawsuit would be required.”

So the news is not good for ex-employees. As you might expect, the law makes access to your former personnel records complicated — mainly because they’re not your personnel records, but also because the law varies depending on where you live and work.

How to protect yourself

my-documentsBut this wouldn’t be Ask The Headhunter if we didn’t close with some useful advice that you’re probably not going to find anywhere else. Larry hands you a wonderful tip about how to get and keep the information you need:

“The bottom line for all employees is that you should keep your own file. Keep copies of annual evaluations, notification of wage increases, letters or e-mail complimenting or praising your work and, perhaps most importantly, disciplinary notices. If you know that a document concerning you has been generated that might be important someday, ask for a a copy. I think that most managers will give you one.”

Thanks to Larry Barty for sharing his knowledge about personnel files. Please don’t construe anything he says as advice for your personal situation; it’s not. Consult an attorney if you need specific legal guidance.

Was this a surprising education? Have you ever run into problems accessing your personnel file? Or, have you turned up surprises that caused trouble? Think you’ll need your personnel file after you leave your employer? Please chime in on how employers keep you on file… and how you can keep your files!

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When should I tell my boss I’m resigning?

In the January 15, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter asks when to give the boss notice of resignation:

I have an opportunity to move from a large corporation to a established startup. I have put in seven happy years at the corporation, but the new position will be a nice change. I’m still going through the interview process, and it’s going well. When do I break the news to my current boss? I don’t want to burn any bridges, and I don’t think I would accept any counter-offer. I just want to give respectable notice so that he can replace me.

Nick’s Reply

zip-itCongratulations on the new opportunity, but please — don’t jump the gun. Never, ever give notice or resign until:

  • You have a written offer in hand
  • You have formally accepted the offer
  • The new employer has confirmed your acceptance, and
  • The on-boarding process has begun.

It doesn’t happen often, but job offers get rescinded, especially between the informal oral offer and the bona fide written version. Don’t be left on the street without a job. When the above milestones have passed, I’d tell your employer nothing except that you’re leaving. Give your boss a one sentence resignation letter that says nothing more than:

“I hereby resign my position effective on [date].”

The details of your “notice” don’t need to be spelled out in the letter. In person, I’d commit to helping with a proper transition not to last more than two weeks, unless you really want to be helpful — that’s up to you.

There’s a small chance that, no matter how well you and your boss get along, you will be ushered out the door immediately. Some companies have very strict security policies, so make sure all other loose ends are tied up before you resign. They may not even let you go back to your desk. This is unusual, but it does happen. Even friendly employers can turn officious when a person resigns. Just be ready for it.

I would not disclose where you’re going. I’ve seen bitter former employers try to nuke a person’s new job. Politely explain you’ll be in touch right after you start the new job, if your boss really cares. I’m sorry to focus on the worst case, but you don’t want to get torpedoed before you start your new job. The odds of something bad happening are probably small, but the consequences can be enormous. My advice is, don’t chance it.

Again, congratulations. Take it one step at a time until the new deal is solid and safe. I wish you the best.

Have you ever resigned, only to have your new job offer rescinded? Has a resignation ever gone awry? What’s your policy about the nuts and bolts of transition when leaving a job?

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Manufacturing a Talent Shortage: How companies conspire not to hire you

So American companies say there’s a skills and talent shortage, and they can’t find workers qualified to do the job? And technology companies, in particular, complain the loudest?

According to a Computerworld report, it’s easy to see why. Some companies seem to be conspiring to block recruiting and hiring altogether:

“The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit accusing eBay of entering into a ‘handshake’ agreement to not recruit or hire employees of software maker Intuit.”

Stop recruiting!

While Scott Cook, Intuit’s founder, was serving on eBay’s board, he complained that eBay needed to stop recruiting from Intuit. The DOJ suit contends that Cook and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman agreed not to hire one another’s employees.

In yet another stupid HR trick, eBay’s recruiters were told not to consider Intuit employees for jobs, and “to throw away such resumes.” The Computerworld article doesn’t say whether Intuit and eBay hire H1-B applicants after they reject those resumes.

Kinda gives new meaning to job hunters’ contentions that their resumes disappear into “the human resources black hole.” The Computerworld article says:

“The alleged hiring truce was a ‘naked restraint of trade’ that harms tech workers by keeping their salaries down and limiting their employment options, the DOJ said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.”

HR managers in top high tech companies are throwing perfectly good resumes in the trash? And complaining about the lack of qualified tech talent?

Gimme a break. Kiss my ass.

Splashing around in the talent pool

The DOJ contends the no-hire agreement between eBay and Intuit started around 2006. Meanwhile, in August 2006, itWorldCanada.com reported that Intuit was so concerned about the tech talent shortage that it started working more closely with colleges and universities to “get people into the computer science programs.” Intuit also conducted a study of computer science enrollments which showed “a great decline.”

It seems someone was, uh, relieving themselves in the talent pool.

EBay denied the allegations, and Intuit was not named in the DOJ suit. Why? This one’s rollicking good fun. The DOJ had already named Intuit in a similar suit, along with  Intuit, Google, Apple and other companies — and settled it in September 2010. That suit led to the suit against eBay.

Talent shortage? Skills shortage? Only insofar as it seems there’s a surfeit of bullshit in these companies.

My advice: Find a company to work for that behaves competitively, doesn’t conspire to throw out your resume, and is in a business other than manufacturing talent shortages.

What have you seen in the pool lately?

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Pssst! Here’s where you should be recruiting top talent!

Here’s an excerpt from a comment posted by Mason on another column, Get Hired: No resume, no interview, no joke:

The problem is this. Employers actually LOVE this current job market. They can control costs by paying exactly what they want for a given job/position…and they have an ENORMOUS pool of willing applicants from which to choose. Some of them, I would say most of the Fortune 1000, are doing well and extremely profitable. There is little reason or incentive for them to hire more people.

I just got rejected after 9 AM in the morning after I applied for a job at midnight. Something tells me a human didn’t actually read my application.

Companies who treat the employees like crap will be emptied out of their good employees once the economy gets better. Of this I am convinced. If a company craps on people in the bad times, they certainly cannot be trusted in the good times….

I think Mason is right. I saw his prediction come true in Silicon Valley more than once, after a bust cycle turned into a boom. Here’s how it works — and you tell me if you agree.

During a bust, revenues and profits crash. Business tanks, and companies lay off workers because they can’t afford them. As the cycle turns and we start toward a boom (or think we are, anyway), sales take off, revenues spike, and profits surge.

Junk profitability

The dirty little secret, though, is that a big part of the soaring profits stem from higher productivity that results from lower staffing levels. Fewer workers are doing more work, which yields higher profits for employers. This is nice. But it’s unsustainable. It’s junk profitability.

While some of the higher productivity can be attributed to increased efficiencies created by technology, much of it is still due to artificially low staffing levels. Companies today are teetering on the bleeding edge of high profits, and they really don’t want to start hiring again if they can avoid it.

Where the talent is ripe for the picking

The question is, how long can they sustain these levels of productivity and profits? Over-worked employees will leave the minute someone makes them a better offer.

And that’s an enormous opportunity for companies that get it. Riding the wave requires deft skills, and greed just causes more crashes. Some top-notch workers are already looking for better deals — because the economy is at a tipping point.

If you want to recruit top talent — dedicated workers who are ready to move — you need look no farther than the most profitable companies that haven’t been hiring. They may be advertising jobs, but as Mason suggests, they’re just pretending. They’re not hiring at levels significant enough to sacrifice their artificial profits. Their best employees are ripe for the picking.

Note to those employees whose eyes are wandering — these signals point to renewed freedom to negotiate really good compensation and benefits deals. I believe it’s always good to leave a few bucks on the table when negotiating, as a sign of good faith, but don’t leave too much. As Mason suggests, you still can’t really trust them, so take some profit of your own on the front end.

What’s your take?

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