Work for free, or no interview for you!

One of my favorite job-advice pundits is The Evil HR Lady, Suzanne Lucas, who calls ’em as she sees ’em. In her current post, Job Interview or Bake-Off?, she deals with the subject of employers who tease job hunters with interviews… if only they will do some free work first.

Say what?

It happens more often than you’d think. The employer wants to see samples of your work. Well, not just samples, but, Here’s an assignment that will take you a few days to complete. Bring us the results… heh-heh… and we’ll see which “candidate” did the best job.

Then it’s off to the bank with your work… while you cool your heels “waiting to hear back.”

ConmanI’ve known a handful of people who have actually worked for a few days at no charge, to show an employer that they are really expert at the work. (In every case, the person got the job, and also got paid for the time they invested. Why would anyone even try this if they weren’t 100% confident of the outcome?) But it wasn’t because the employer asked them to — it was because they suggested it. It was never a case of, Do the work, or you get no interview.

My bet is that the “creative” job hunter in the Evil HR Lady’s column is being scammed, whether intentionally or not.

While I advocate “showing the employer what you can do,” I draw the line at doing free work, unless the integrity of the employer is beyond reproach. This reader wouldn’t be asking the question if it were.

If the employer here is merely naive, I’d like to know whether “the work” to be delivered is something the employer can actually use and profit from, or is it merely a demonstration of your skills? Even if there’s nothing in the work that the employer can profit from, the problem is that “2-4 days of work” is going to cost the job applicant a lot.

It’s simply unethical (and perhaps illegal) to ask job candidates to deliver actual work like that. But it’s not uncommon. It’s part of Deceptive Recruiting, a topic I’ve already covered in its myriad nasty forms.

If I were the applicant, I’d offer other means of demonstrating my abilities. If the employer insists on a bake-off, I’d submit a bill in advance for my time and ask the employer to pay it prior to submitting anything.

What if the employer says no dice, as the job applicant in this story fears? Then I’d submit a detailed non-disclosure agreement for them to sign — along with an agreement that they will not use the work product in any way, shape or form except to evaluate you.

Let’s see how ethical they really are.

There’s nothing wrong with showing an employer what you can do, and the extent to which you do that must be based on the employer’s integrity. And there’s nothing wrong with walking away from jerks who want free work. Because, what do you think they’re going to want from you if they hire you?

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TheLadders’ Marc Cenedella: Burying the pig

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.)

Grave

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.

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Whorin’ around with TheLadders

For a while it seemed TheLadders had gotten down off its lame horse, and stopped claiming it offers “ONLY $100k+ jobs.” (If you believe TheLadders really has only $100k+ jobs in its little database, have a look at what its members disclose about their experiences.) Indeed, the “ONLY” has been missing on its home page for quite some time.

Now TheLadders is back with a new commercial that once again teases viewers with “$100k+ jobs” — and the tease reveals the way-down-low pedigree of this sleazy career-industry performer:

The voiceover says, “We don’t just post $100k+ jobs…” And that’s true. They post $75k jobs, $60k jobs, and? less.

What’s not clear from the commercial is, when you pay your money, do you just get screwed, or is Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella also trying to pimp you out appropriately before he puts you out on the street… uh, to do a job interview…

Watch the video. Learn. Pay your money… Assume the attitude. It’s just marketing, and it’s all about whorin’ around with TheLadders.

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Readers’ Forum: Headhunters & Job Hunters: The insanity continues

In the January 11, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, two readers raise related questions about headhunters and job hunters. (My short version of their questions is, Are these people insane?) But take a look for yourself:

Reader #1 asks:

I found the article, How to Judge Headhunters, to be one of the best I’ve seen a some time. I’m hoping that you might be able to comment on what I see as a disturbing trend.

Several times each week, I receive e-mails from recruiters that would suggest we’ve been “best friends” for years. The e-mail usually has an outline of a job, and a request that I contact them at my earliest convenience. But once I place the phone call, the recruiter is completely in the dark as to who I am.

Recently, a recruiter asked that I send him my resume, and said he would get back in touch with me if he feels I would be a good fit. This was after he sent an e-mail stating that he had read my resume and thought I might be a good fit for the position he’s recruiting for.

Now, I’m not so thin-skinned that I lose sleep over the idea that I’m “not qualified,” but I’m curious why these folks would contact me in the first place. The recruiters I’m talking about work for major, national recruiting firms. Please share your comments about this.

Reader #2, headhunter Clare Powell, is with Powell Search Associates and specializes in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Clare welcomes resumes from folks in those industries, but not from out of left field:

Every day, I know two things are going to happen. First, at least a dozen talented people will send us their resume without first making sure we support clients in their industry. These are mid- to senior-level people! A quick visit to our website would tell them more. So, either they are too lazy to do the homework, or they think their packaged-goods background, for instance, is readily transferable to an R&D job at Pfizer. I’ve asked a few of them why they contacted us, and they just say they didn’t bother to check out our firm. Crazy stuff.

I think candidates should do their own homework and be more careful with their personal information. Who knows what a disreputable firm will do with that kind of open invitation?

In the end, like you, I want these guys to land great jobs, but they do themselves a terrible disservice by not following the simple steps you talk about all the time, and that even common sense would dictate. I wish your newsletter were more widely publicized. It would surely help me! I’m happy to put a link to your website on our website… My motive is to help people get smarter faster!

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

The smart job hunter in the first story above reveals the unsavory, mindless “recruiters” who issue puzzling invitations and make contradictory phone calls to him. And he wonders why they do it. It doesn’t matter why, any more than it matters why someone in “Nigeria” wants to share $38 million with you if you’ll give him your bank account information.

The headhunter in the second story reveals the mindless pitter-patter of lemming-like job hunters who have no idea where they’re going, whom they’re talking to, or what they really want. They say they are looking for a job, but what these folks are actually looking for is a gofer that might find them a job in the bushes. (Otherwise, why would they contact a headhunter who specializes in a different field?) Clare Powell begs for relief from the onslaught of thoughtless resumes and mindless requests.

The job market is in the condition it’s in because the economy has still not recovered. But there are companies that have jobs to offer, and talented people who can do them. I think there are two problems:

First, people need to start looking for the jobs they want, and stop desperately asking someone else to do it for them.

Second, people need to stop wasting their time on questionable solicitations from shady, inept “recruiters” who prey on desperation.

Clare Powell is a good headhunter, but she isn’t the solution to your career problem. Nor am I. Nor is the fraud who e-mailed you saying your resume looks so good, and would you please immediately send him your resume? The insanity among fast-buck recruiters and desperate job hunters continues. Perhaps they all belong together, in some sort of Wishful Thinking Database, out of the way of the rest of us—so we can work diligently at finding and filling the few real jobs out there.

I know it’s tough out there. But please don’t act crazy. Use your noggin.

Has everyone gone insane? Are people spending all their time on “meta job hunting,” devoting their energies to finding someone who might find them a job? What are you doing to find a job? Are you going insane along with everyone else, or are you using your noggin?

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

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

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.]

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Executive MBA’s: Do these lion cubs hunt?

A major university asked me to submit a proposal. The school is interested in hiring “a career placement professional” to “bring jobs to the table” for its newly-minted Executive MBAs (EMBAs). The school “has career placement but it does not meet the needs of the EMBA program.” The school also has “career coaches,” but it wants “to do something apart from the ordinary.” It wants to “raise the bar.”

In summary, the school graduates EMBAs. It has career coaches for them, but the coaching isn’t yielding jobs. And it has a career placement service that doesn’t yield jobs, either.

This school wants to know if I’m interested in being “embedded” in its EMBA program. The “career placement professional” it brings on “must bring jobs to the table.”

Here’s the response I sent:

It sounds to me like [your school] is looking for something quite ordinary – a “career placement professional.” Today’s economy is awash with them.

Here’s the problem: You hire a placement professional to put your EMBAs into jobs. What is [your school] going to pay this individual? $50k? $100k? $150k? With a bonus every time he or she places someone?

Here’s the competition: Every company that’s trying to fill top executive slots is working with contingency headhunters who are paid 25% or more of the exec’s new salary upon placement. The headhunter that places 4 or 5 execs will earn around $200,000. Inside a year, the headhunter will earn fees in excess of $1 million.

Your “placement professional” will be competing with headhunters who have far more at stake than a salary or even a bonus. The headhunters will leave your “career placement professional” in the dust. How is that doing something apart from the ordinary?

(You could try to get a headhunter to come place your EMBAs, but a good headhunter will not limit himself to just your pool of EMBAs. The best headhunters don’t find jobs for people. They fill positions for their clients, and a headhunter would soon put your EMBAs into competition with other candidates, because that’s what the headhunter does. That’s what he’s paid to do.)

I’m concerned about the statement, “This organization must bring jobs to the table.” [Your school] is graduating EMBAs who are ready and able to run corporations. And someone has to bring jobs to them?

A mother lion brings meat to her young cubs, but to perpare them to survive she shows them how to go out and hunt on their own. Your school must teach its EMBAs how to hunt.

How is an EMBA who can’t find himself a job going to survive, and recruit and hire people for his own company?

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Readers’ Forum: A matter of college degrees

In the August 31, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newslettera reader asks:

I am making a career change to improve my life, and I plan to pursue a master’s degree. Any suggestions on how to proceed after I earn it? The U.S. News & World Report school rankings are out again, which reminds me that it seems to matter where your degree comes from. Do you have any tips on selecting the best grad programs for the best career payoff?

Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

Magazine school rankings make great birdcage liners. For every edition of a magazine that ranks schools there are several articles that criticize the methodology. Perhaps more important, serious questions have been raised about the cost of higher education. Take a look at a recent USA Today report: Where’s all that college tuition money going?

It’s not just unclear which schools are “best,” but it’s not clear whether your tuition money is well-spent. I don’t think it’s even clear that you need additional education because, if you think about it carefully, you may not be the best judge.

When you buy education, you are certainly the customer, but you’re not the only customer… So what about that “other” customer who’s ultimately paying for your education—with a salary, after he hires you? The question the employer tries to answer is, Does the advanced degree mean better performance on the job?

(In the newsletter, I also discuss what to ask your target employer before you invest in that new degree.)

College degrees. Advanced degrees. MBA’s. Executive MBA’s. What about them?

Let’s take the matter of more learning off the table for a minute. More learning is good. But the question here is about value.

  1. DiplomaDo more degrees pay off? Are we all brainwashed to believe that more college degrees mean better careers and higher salaries? Sometimes I think it’s all about marketing. Schools tout their position in the rankings published by U.S. News & World Report and other magazines.  They promote the “value” of their degrees, but none will guarantee you a higher-level job or higher salary once you spend tens of thousands of dollars on the degree.
     
    (How silly, Nick! Schools can’t do that! Well, then why do they advertise and promote the correlation between degrees and earnings?)
     
  2. Do you get what you pay for? A scathing new book by political science professor Andrew Hacker (Queens College, New York) and Claudia Dreifus (Columbia University) tears into exorbitant college tuitions and accuses schools of spending students’ money in all the wrong places — and least of all on delivering education. Higher education: How colleges are wasting our money and failing our kids contends that the price of your degree is wildly inflated because schools don’t apply the tuition dollars you pay them to educate you.

A special case of degrees is the MBA and the EMBA (Executive MBA). We discussed this in Should you get an MBA? I also covered the topic in a special edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: How executive MBA’s do it, where I suggested that a job candidate’s initiative might trump any degree. (I wrote the latter article after I gave the keynote presentation to the career center directors of 30 of the top MBA schools in the world. Many of them read this blog — and I’d love their comments especially!)

What’s your experience? If you’re a manager or a coach, what’s your advice? Do higher degrees pay off? Would you invest in another degree?

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OMG! They found out about my air baths!!

Reader Steve Amoia shared a Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Garone that might terrify you: Five Mistakes Online Job Hunters Make.

(Does this mean that if you’re not an online job hunter, you’ve got nothing to worry about?)

Steve writes:

I’m curious about something:

“Assume your future boss is reading everything you share online,” she says.

How much do you look online when you are checking out a potential candidate for a client? This WSJ article seems to imply that we are so important that recruiters have nothing better to do than peer into our online “lives.” Obviously, we all need to exercise good judgment. But if a young kid (or someone older like us) posts something stupid, should that be held against him years from now or negate positive career achievements?

Good questions, and ones that have become popular fodder for career pundits. But in practice, are recruiters and employers getting kooky? Should employers really worry so much about your online “record?” Garone says that,

“A December 2009 study by Microsoft Corp. found that 79% of hiring managers and job recruiters review online information about job applicants before making a hiring decision. Of those, 70% said that they have rejected candidates based on information that they found online.”

Say what??

I’m not surprised at all the online checking employers do — but 70% dumped applicants because of what they found online?

If I looked through the employers’ garbage cans, I’d probably find something that might make me want to dump them, too. Steve points to a kooky new sort of problem: To what extent should such “information” be used to judge job applicants?

To some extent, certainly. But, to borrow from Ben Franklin (who probably would have gotten rejected by any employer who learned that the man took “air baths” regularly — sitting naked in front of an open window): Everything in moderation!

I check people out online, but I also exercise judgment. Not until the Net came along were we able to look into so many corners of people’s lives in such detail… So what?

Before the Net, we didn’t know stuff we know now. So what? Just because you learn something doesn’t mean that it means anything. Or that it’s anything new. But when a practice like this becomes part of a routine process of checking people out, we have to start worrying whether the people who do the checking know how to weight a piece of data. The more data they have, the less they are likely to distinguish useful information.

Does it matter that I take air baths?

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New York State: On the “B” list with TheLadders

This economy makes strange bedfellows.

In good times, who’d want to be associated with a B-list “partner?” When times are tough, though, good organizations seem willing to hop into bed with just about anyone for a few bucks’ worth of sponsorships… Judge them by those they hang out with…

IT industry watcher Winston Lawrence reports that the Better Business Bureau has assigned a reliability rating of “B” to TheLadders because of the number of complaints filed against the “$100k+” jobs board.

Lawrence’s comments got my attention because a notable career-industry expert recently pointed out something interesting to me. It seems some of the leading career-related events, conferences and publications are heavily subsidized by TheLadders.

The Human Capital Management Summit, operated by The Aberdeen Group, lists TheLadders as a “partner.”

The  2009 AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants) Member Mid-Year Outlook Survey was sponsored by TheLadders.

In 2007, TheLadders sponsored the Career Masters Institute Conference. (CMI is now owned by Kennedy Information Systems.)

ERE, “the leading online provider of information and networking opportunities for recruitment and HR professionals,” produces webinars sponsored by TheLadders.

OnRec, a UK association of online recruiting organizations, held its awards ceremony recently — sponsored by TheLadders.

The Wall Street Journal’s CareerJournal lists TheLadders as “a Premier Partner.”

But what I find most interesting is Winston Lawrence’s report about New York State’s Workforce New York website. Operated by the N.Y. Department of Labor and subsidized by taxpayers, the site lists jobs from TheLadders — in spite of repeated consumer complaints and the B rating from the BBB.

It’s easy for all these organizations to argue that they need sponsors, and in exchange they give TheLadders a great measure of professional credibility.

Life on the B list. There’s an old adage about that. A people hang out with A people. B people hang out with B people who attract C people, and soon the B list becomes the C list.

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TheLadders: A fan explains why you should pay up

A fan of TheLadders posted a comment on TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud? explaining why you should be glad to fork over $30 per month to use the service. It’s worth discussing this suggestion by itself, so I’m posting my comment to paddy s here:

By paddy s
April 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

a lot of you are missing the point about paying.recruiters do not want to be inundated with hundreds of unqualified resumes which is the case when the service is free.your legit resume with legit quaifications is likely to be lost in all that mess. a recruiter is more likely to read a resume from someone that is serious about finding a job and has undertaken a financial commitment to that effect.also-if you are a 100k plus individual searching for a similar paying job – $30/month is cheap insurance to separate you from the lesser qualified and lower paid ranks. it is obvious,so why all the bellyaching?

The bellyaching is due to the fact that Ladders customers are paying their money but not getting “$100k plus” job listings from TheLadders.

I started headhunting in 1979. I don’t recall ever placing a candidate who paid a dime to get on my radar, so your suggestion that a person must make “a financial commitment” is hogwash.

More to your point, TheLadders claims to have tons of paying job hunters in its database. Why is a headhunter “more likely to read a resume” from the teeming hordes in that massive database?

In order for TheLadders to position job hunters “higher up” with headhunters, Ladders would have to somehow vet or confirm those job hunters. TheLadders does not do that. It does not eliminate “unqualified resumes,” nor does it ensure that its paying customers have a “legit resume with legit qualifications.” (That would be a pretty good trick.)

TheLadders cannot even deliver on its promise that it accepts “Only $100k+ talent” into its database. Headhunters have learned that the hard way, just as employers have.

Even if TheLadders could guarantee the salary levels of the people in its database,  why would I give them preferential treatment? My concern — and my client’s concern — is that the person can do the job profitably (not that they paid for my attention). What a person claims to be earning now is not a critical factor in candidate selection.

TheLadders does not ensure that a candidate is worth a headhunter’s attention, nor does it try. It can’t even ensure their salary level, any more than it can ensure the salary level of the positions it posts.

(If you want to learn how to work with headhunters, then spend a few bucks to educate yourself. Unlike questionable “positioning” in some database, the education will be yours forever.)

Do you get the point most folks here are making? TheLadders delivers no value. TheLadders has developed a reputation for dishonest advertising and dishonest business practices (read the comments from readers who continue to get billed by TheLadders when they don’t want the service, and from employers who did not consent to have their jobs posted on TheLadders).

Perhaps worst of all is the barrage of carny-barker-style e-mails TheLadders’ chief, Marc Cenedella, dumps on anyone who makes the mistake of giving him their e-mail address.

“recruiters do not want to be inundated with hundreds of unqualified resumes”

Yep. That’s what’s obvious. And that’s why good headhunters and good recruiters go out and find the people they want. They don’t sit in front of a computer screen waiting for TheLadders to ferry paying customers onto their desktops.

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