The dope on TheLadders

I’ve written before about TheLadders’ veneer of exclusivity and the mass-market business model underneath it. When a paying customer of TheLadders recently shared the transcript of a customer-service “chat” she had with a Ladders’ rep, I had to hit this topic again. The misrepresentations TheLadders makes on its web site are beyond the pale. “Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates.”

Only it’s not true.

The story is in this week’s Ask The Headhunter Newsletter: Liars at TheLadders. E-mail from readers has been filling my mail box — comments that I’m sure other readers would like to see. So I’m opening this up for discussion here on the blog. Please feel free to post your comments below.

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

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Who’s holding the H-1B bag?

Blame the attorneys, or their clients who pay them? A reader passed this youtube item along. It’s a lesson in how to post fraudulent ads so you can qualify to hire foreign nationals.

What an embarrassment to the HR community, which hires the attorneys who teach how to scam the H-1B program. The law firm in question has reportedly removed the video from its own web site (they were advertising it?). But YouTube is forever.

There’s a bigger question here. Sure, companies hire H-1B’s to save money. But I think the problem is far worse than that. Consider that to hire via H-1B, you have to define a position narrowly to demonsrate that only a very specific person — who happens to be a foreign national — can do it. Just how narrowly can positions be defined? Well, judging from current management practice, very. Tie this to the “war for talent,” and an underlying trend becomes clear.

I think the “war for talent” and “the H-1B solution” together are a smokescreen. The problem isn’t talent — there is a lot of talent around. The problem, I think, is management. Companies have become so focused on their stock price and PR that they have become shortsighted. They want to solve mostly very specific problems. They don’t seek out talent, which requires cultivation and feeding. They define jobs so narrowly that they can’t easily find “the perfect candidate” — who isn’t really talented, just specifically-skilled. The candidate also happens to be overseas and inexpensive. HR can’t (or won’t) find the very candidates it advertises for, so lawyers have become the new recruiters.

A lot of pundits write about “the talent war” and the H-1B controversy because that’s what sells advertising. The real story is that much management today is stuck in narrowly-defined objectives. The focus is on filling jobs rather than building bench strength. So companies wage a talent war, lawyers handle the recruiting, the whole thing is revealed to be a sham, and HR is left holding the H-1B bag.

Maybe HR will put down the bag and finally stand up — when a Senate subcommittee issues the subpoenas.

#1 Tip-off that a headhunter is for real

In my last posting, I talked about the importance of qualifying headhunters who call you. The world is now awash in hucksters calling themselves recruiter or headhunter. Many are calling from overseas, likely from the same call centers that you call for computer support.

To avoid wasting your time, risking your reputation and professional credibility (these clowns will make you look like you’re desperately searching for a job by widely distributing your information), and driving yourself nervous waiting for results, vet every caller carefully.

There’s one key thing to look for. The headhunter who calls should already know you. Otherwise, why would he waste his time calling? Real headhunters don’t cold-call people they know nothing about. They “source” potential candidates through people whose opinions they respect. They call you only when they already know enough about you to determine that you’re worth calling. Underneath it all, the headhunter’s clients are paying for the headhunter’s network of respected contacts.

A legitimate headhunter will call you because they identified you as a potential candidate. This doesn’t mean they found your resume on some job board. It means they spoke with someone who knows and recommends you. This is what a headhunter’s clients pay for — the headhunter’s inside contacts. (They can get bundles of resumes pretty much for free.)

A real headhunter will have background on you. He will have a recommendation from someone who made a judgment about you and shared it with the headhunter. The headhunter calls you because you are you. And the headhunter already knows who you are.

Headhunters who call blindly and reveal they know nothing about you are nothing more than want ads delivered by telephone or e-mail. They aren’t earning a fee. They’re spinning a roulette wheel. They’re dailing for dollars. Is it any wonder you never hear back from them? The odds they’re going to place a random individual (you) are miniscule.

So, judge the headhunter. Ask every headhunter or recruiter who calls you, What do you know about me? What is it about me that led you to call? Who recommended me?

If they can’t tell you, it means they haven’t done their homework, and they don’t know you. They’re not headhunters. They’re not for real.

Managers take note: If you’re paying a “headhunter” or “recruiter” to randomly solicit people for a key job you need to fill, you need to vet your headhunter carefully, too.

How can I qualify a headhunter who calls me?

We’ve been discussing headhunters recently. One reader went off on a tear that’s worth sharing. And it includes a question worth answering. I’ll offer some advice at the end.

I just stumbled upon your blog after the last fruitless 30-minute phone call with another clueless recruiter. I could use some advice on qualifying recruiters in the first five minutes of the conversation. If you have some material on your blog/website along these lines, I’d really appreciate it.

Then I read your blog item, Headhunters: Novices, wannabes & clueless franchisees. You wrote:

“Today, the headhunting industry is so full of total novices, fast-buck entrepreneurs, online resume-scrapers, job-board mavens, LinkedIn miners, data-base scavengers, spam spreaders, and clueless franchisees that any company needs to ask one question when it interviews a headhunter: Do you know what the hell you’re doing?”

I said to myself, this guy has got it down. I am going crazy having seen all of the above in the past three months. I get recruiters who haven’t read my resume, who haven’t an idea of what the client really wants, and who propose me for jobs that I’ve told them I don’t want to consider (mostly short-term contract positions rather than permanent, direct hire). By the way, three of them came from Ladders and one involves a proposal for a classic Ponzi scheme.

Don’t get me started on LinkedIn. There, I get recruiters asking me to help them find the proverbial candidate who walks on water. Is perfection really the primary paradigm for filling positions?

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Armchair Recruiting: Hiring what comes along

Headhunting firms routinely claim they will bring the best candidates to their clients. Employers like to say that people are their most important asset, and they hire only the best.

It’s a load of crap. Most headhunters and employers recruit and hire from what comes along. They not only don’t recruit who is the best in the field; they don’t know who is best because they don’t often seek them out. They don’t make it their business. Hiring managers who fail to recognize this risk the long-term success of their operations, and the people they hire risk their careers.

In Headhunters, Personnel Jockeys & Monkeys I wrote about companies that don’t want headhunters sending them job candidates whose resumes are already on the job boards. It seems the personnel jockeys at these companies are already busy “recruiting” from the boards (that is, scanning and sorting resumes), so why should these companies pay for more of the same?

A couple of headhunters responded to the aforementioned posting, saying that they’ll take their candidates anywhere they can find them. This sharpens the distinction between active headhunters and passive headhunters. It also points out the enormous quality gaffe employers themselves make when recruiting. They are not hiring the best people for the job.

The distinction is sharp and it reveals a fundamental and profound difference in the quality of recruiting and hiring practices among headhunters and employers.

You can identify, recruit and hire the people you want by going out into the world with a set of criteria and tracking down the best people in your industry. You’ll encounter a few surprises and meet interesting people. You’ll become part of their network. A good network is a circle of friends, and those new friends will be your source for future searches, too. You’ll also learn a lot about the industry and profession you recruit for, and that makes you a better and more credible headhunter.

Or, you can sit at a desk and take what comes along. But don’t tell me you’re headhunting. You’re not a headhunter. You’re passive, like the employer’s HR department that does the same. And the quality gaffe you’re making is that you have settled — you have not hunted, found or recruited. You’ve made a forced choice. Read more

Headhunters, Personnel Jockeys & Monkeys

Welcome to the monkeyhouse.
When the economy is tight, the marginal members of the headhunting business get very nervous because the low-hanging fruit disappears. They actually have to work to make a living. Meanwhile, the best headhunters are busy with challenging assignments because The Truth About Speeding Trains is that while they may slow down a bit for a curve, they don’t stop. These companies keep hiring, but carefully.

You’ve probably heard me say that 95% of HR workers aren’t worth spit. And I usually put that in context by adding that 95% of headhunters aren’t worth spit, either. But look at the bright side. 5% of HR workers and 5% of headhunters have no competition.

Many “headhunters” don’t know how to find new clients, and they sure don’t know how to find the best candidates. They pick the low-hanging fruit and call it a job. Let’s take a look at what this means, and how it affects you.

Don’t give us low-hanging fruit.
A headhunter recently wrote to me, complaining that her corporate clients don’t want her to submit resumes of people whose resumes are already plastered all over the job boards.

We have seen a couple of clients indicate that they do not want to see resumes of candidates who have been sourced on the popular job boards (even if they have not sourced the candidate themselves). [“Sourced” means “found.”] We always clear the candidate on the client company to determine if they have been contacted or applied to the company. We would never submit a candidate who has indicated contact with a client company.

Translation: We find resumes on Internet job boards and we send them to companies, hoping to get an interview, a hire, and a fee. Read more

Double-0 Headhunters!

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Three years ago I reported on Deceptive Recruiting: HR’s last stand? The column was about John Sullivan and his sidekick Michael Homula, and their anything-goes, slimeball recruiting methods, all done up nice and pretty with a case study and many self-congratulatory pats on the back.

This week, The Wall Street Journal features the latest in rip-roaring, on-the-edge recruiting stories in Snack Vendor — or Undercover Job Recruiter? To Fill That Open Position, These Guys Go to Extremes; Stalking on the Ski Slopes.

Look out, boys and girls, these headhunters are exciting, daring, and they watch a lot of 007 movies. Some are ready to hang upside down from a tree like a monkey when you pass by. Why else would the esteemed Journal do a story about them? Headhunting is actually pretty boring, if you do it right. (Employers, listen up: Beware lest you retain a headhunter who turns you into the horse’s ass in the rear-view mirror.)

Let’s see what we’ve got here… and please post your own stories if you can beat these from the Journal… Think you know how to judge a headhunter?

One headhunter poses as a food-truck guy to spy on top talent at nearby companies. Another stalks an exec into the Montana wilderness to pitch a job while the guy’s fishing. Then there’s the headhunter who pays off a janitor to get a CEO’s phone number — for the phone in the exec’s private john. (“Uh, how would you like to talk about a new job? Or should I wait while you tug on the Charmin’?”) How about the headhunter who sits for a day-long shoe-shine, after he learns where his quarry gets his shoes polished, so they can “bump into” one another? The recruiter who poses as a waiter, approaches the candidate in a restaurant, and slips him a note offering $500 if he’ll talk?

Had enough? Wait — there are headhunters who will huff along behind you on mountain-biking trails (“Fancy meeting you here!”) and play ski patrol on the slopes, waiting for you to fall (“Can I help you get up?”)

Then there are headhunters who are boring, respected, respectful… and when they leave a message, execs return their calls.

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Aim, aim, aim, shoot foot

In the August 5 edition of the Ask The Headhunter newsletter, “How can I push the hiring decision?” (sorry, it’s not online; you’ve gotta subscribe), I advised a reader that you can’t push companies to wrap up the hiring process (translation: make you an offer) because sometimes they just don’t want to.

Andy Lester, who writes The Working Geek, followed up with this story about complacent employers.

You forgot one other reason that people get led around by the nose in the hiring decision: The company is too incompetent to close the deal.

I recently had a friend, “Bob,” find a job that sounded like a great fit. The hiring manager said he’d be working with HR to get the offer worked out. A week later, no offer. Bob had wisely continued hunting and had some interest from a second company. When the second company called back for the second interview, Bob called the first company to light a fire. The first company was where he really wanted to work. “Yes, yes, we’re working on it,” the first manager said. Second company gives Bob an offer, who of course says he needs a day to think about it. He calls the first company with an ultimatum: “I need an offer by Wednesday at 5pm or I’m going with this other company.”

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Headhunters: Novices, wannabes & clueless franchisees

The headhunting business has never been an easy gig. Finding and (usually) stealing good talent for your clients is a challenge and a half. The best headhunters are those who know how to grasp what a client company needs. In other words, who is it you’re out there trying to recruit?

If you don’t know, pack it in. Go home.

We refer to the headhunting business as search — and the implication is that we know what we’re looking for. That’s what separates good headhunters from the hacks and the wannabes.

So I’m perturbed. You’d think the one thing that all headhunters grasp is the simple (but not easy) concept that you must know what you’re looking for. But when the headhunting industry announces that its theme this year is The New Recruiting Mandate: Defining True Talent, it’s time for employers who use headhunters to head for the hills. Because that’s where they’re going to have to go to avoid the hacks and the wannabes who need a conference to figure this out.

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Baiting the talent

So a guy chases a woman around the world because he wants to marry her. Invests in air fares, cab rides, hotels, maybe even private investigators to find her. Then, when he catches up to her, he asks for her medical records, inquires about her religious affiliation, and wants to know, does she snore?

Makes perfect sense, because why would you marry someone you don’t know much about? Hey, we’re not stupid, right?

Take a look at Gary Capone’s comment on What is the single best interview question ever? Gary correctly points out that a manager should not give the first degree to someone the company is recruiting. You want to wine and dine them — figuratively or literally — first. You are trying to convince them to work for you; they’re not trying to get you to hire them. They are passive job hunters. You have to work hard to entice them.

So Gary suggests that a manager should wait til later in the process to ask The Bestest Interview Question Ever: “Can you show me how you’d do the job?” And I agree. But it set me to thinking.

Why in tarnation would a manager pursue and recruit a specific individual if the manager didn’t already know the individual could do the job properly? That’s what pursuit implies, right? That you want what you’re chasing? That you know what you’re doing.

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