FTC Halts Fake Jobs & Resume Repair Operation

SevenFigureCareersSPECIAL EDITION: The Federal Trade Commission charges SevenFigureCareers and Craig Chrest with “bilking consumers” for “sham job placement and resume repair services.”

SevenFigureCareers Revisited

A series of investigative articles appeared here between September 2016 and January 2017 about SevenFigureCareers, an “executive search firm” that charged people money for job interviews with “private equity” (PE) and “venture capital” (VC) firms.

In February 2017 Craig Chrest and Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions, LLC — the owner and operator of SevenFigureCareers — filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court against Ask The Headhunter’s principals, claiming the articles were “false.” Our legal team removed the case to U.S. Federal Court (District of New Jersey) and mounted a vigorous defense. While that case is pending, on advice of legal counsel nothing further has been published here in the interim. The original articles have remained online.

UPDATE

On April 30, 2019 the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, dismissed SevenFigureCareers’ suit against the principals of Ask The Headhunter.

This special edition of Ask The Headhunter is a reprint of the full text of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission press release issued February 25, 2019, about the FTC’s action against Chrest, Worldwide, and PrivateEquityHeadhunters:

FTC Halts Fake Job Opportunity and Resume Repair Operation

Alleges defendants tricked consumers into paying advance fees of up to $2,500 for placement and resume services for jobs that did not exist

FOR RELEASE
February 25, 2019

The Federal Trade Commission charged two companies and their owner with bilking hundreds of thousands dollars annually from consumers for sham job placement and resume repair services. A federal court halted the scheme and froze the defendants’ assets at the FTC’s request.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions, LLC, PrivateEquityHeadhunters.com, and their owner, Craig Chrest, sent consumers unsolicited messages through well-known business networking websites, like LinkedIn, falsely claiming to have exclusive relationships with hundreds of private equity and venture capital firms, and telling consumers they were candidates for unadvertised, highly paid executive positions with these firms.

To get an interview, job seekers were required to pay upfront fees of $1,200-$2,500. In many instances, the defendants were pocketing consumers’ money knowing the job opportunities were fake, according to the FTC.

“Consumers should be wary about paying money for a job opportunity or interview,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Paying upfront for job placement services is often a sign of a scam.”

The defendants also deceived job seekers with false claims that those who used their services had a 100 percent interview rate and over an 80 percent placement rate, according to the FTC.

Since at least 2016, the defendants also deceptively sold purported resume repair services, telling consumers that their resumes were deficient and that they could not be considered for a job unless the defendants fixed their resumes. In many instances, the purported job was fake, according to the FTC.

The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The defendants in this case are Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions, LLC (also doing business as WWEJSS, Seven Figure Careers, 7FigRecruiters, 7FC, Finnburg Switzer, ResumeterPro, Creating Job Opportunity, Confidential Jobs Only, CJOnly, and CJO Private Equity); PrivateEquityHeadhunters.com, LLC (also doing business as PE Headhunters, Private Equity Headhunters, and PEHHS.COM LLC); and Craig Chrest, who owns and controls both companies.

The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on February 11, 2019. The FTC has requested the entry of a preliminary injunction that would halt the scheme until trial.

FTCThe Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

FTC Complaint

The Complaint filed against Chrest’s businesses by the FTC in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division alleges in part:

 

  • “since at least 2014, Defendants have deceptively advertised, marketed, promoted, and sold bogus job placement and resume repair services, duping consumers out of millions of dollars.”
  • “the job interview is a charade”
  • “In many instances, the potential employer does not exist but is a shell entity established and controlled by Defendants.”
  • “Defendants have established or controlled websites or created press releases for the purported PE/VC firms”
  • “Defendants have similarly used deception to sell purported resume repair services.”
  • “Defendants have frequently shut down their operations and re-opened similar operations using new assumed names, websites, or aliases.”
  • “In 2017 and 2018, Defendants’ website has used numerous assumed names, including CJOnly and CJO Private Equity.”
  • “Defendants have operated a series of websites over the years:
    • PrivateEquityHeadhunters.com (2014);
    • PEHHS.com (2014); www.sevenfigurecareers.com (2015);
    • 7figrecruiters.com, www.FinnbergSwitzer.com, and www.resumeterpro.com (2016); and
    • exx20171.com (2017-2018).”

 

Temporary Restraining Order

In addition to freezing Defendant Chrest’s assets and halting his business activities, the Court has ordered that the following statement be displayed prominently on Chrest’s websites relating to his business activities — “any website used by any Defendant in connection with the advertising, marketing, and promotion of any job placement or resume repair services”:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a lawsuit against Defendants:

Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions, LLC (Worldwide), also doing business as WWEJSS, Seven Figure Careers, 7FigRecruiters, 7FC, Finnburg Switzer, ResumeterPro, Creating Job Opportunity, Confidential Jobs Only, CJOnly, and CJO Private Equity;

PrivateEquityHeadhunters.com, LLC, also doing business as Private Equity Headhunters, PE Headhunters, and PEHHS.COM, LLC; and

Craig Nicholas Chrest.

The lawsuit alleges that Defendants have engaged in deceptive practices in connection with the advertising, marketing, promotion and sales of job placement and resume repair services. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas has issued a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the alleged deceptive practices.

You may obtain additional information directly from the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC has also published this post on its Business Blog, offering suggestions to consumers and advising “to do your research before paying for placement services”: “Executive search firm” charged with giving job seekers the business.

Comments

There are two legal cases:

  • The action filed in 2017 by Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions LLC, a/k/a SEVEN FIGURE CAREERS and Craig Chrest against the principals of Ask The Headhunter, and
  • The FTC’s new action against Worldwide Executive Job Search Solutions, LLC (also doing business as WWEJSS, Seven Figure Careers, 7FigRecruiters, 7FC, Finnburg Switzer, ResumeterPro, Creating Job Opportunity, Confidential Jobs Only, CJOnly, and CJO Private Equity); PrivateEquityHeadhunters.com, LLC (also doing business as PE Headhunters, Private Equity Headhunters, and PEHHS.COM LLC); and Craig Chrest.

While the case involving Ask The Headhunter is pending, I will not participate in discussion on this matter — but you are of course welcome to post your comments. When the case is resolved, I will chime in.

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6 signals to reject an employer recruiting you

In the February 19, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter something tells a reader it’s time to reject an employer’s recruiting come-on.

Question

recruiting

After multiple interviews with managers and team members, a well-known company made me a job offer that I refused. The offer was good, considerably more than I earn now. But the deal was unacceptable because, from one meeting to the next, the team showed me the company is undisciplined, disorganized and incapable of conducting business with someone they want to hire. And they recruited me! I didn’t go to them looking for a job! This of course tells me they are not worth doing business with, period. I’m writing to you because I’ve concluded that I should have cut the meetings off sooner. I was so focused on performing at my best that I didn’t calculate the problems that now appear so obvious to me. Can you poll your readers and ask them what signals during interviews tip them off that a company is not worth working for, much less continuing interviews?

Nick’s Reply

I’ve been saving a story I read recently about just this problem — employers that aren’t worth interviewing with. Don’t feel bad, because in the throes of the evaluation process, a candidate is understandably trying so hard to impress that he or she dismisses signals that suggest it’s time to walk away. Nonetheless, there are indeed signals you should be looking for early in the process. You should not wait until after you’ve invested many hours and loads of effort to calculate whether an employer is worth it!

6 signals tell you to reject an employer

San Francisco recruiter Ken Hansell posted this story on LinkedIn, from a job candidate who rejected a job offer and declined to negotiate further. Like you, this candidate probably waited too long to tell the employer to take a hike.

I declined the offer… I’m staying where I am.

The recruiter called me and asked why? This is one of the top companies. What’s the counter offer?

Me: No counter offer.

  1. I had 6 rounds of interviews.
  2. I was grilled with questions but nobody took the time to explain what the job is like and did not even ask if I have any questions.
  3. Lots of questions did not make sense – like why I am leaving my employer. I was not, your recruiter approached me and convinced me to come for your interview. Where I see myself in 5 years. They could not tell me where they see their company in 6 months.
  4. The hiring process is too long, too disorganized.
  5. The offer took too long.
  6. The interviewers did not compare notes because during the 6 rounds of interviews they were asking the same questions. This should not look like an interrogation. They also looked tired and stressed.

If you want to hire talent, fix your basics. Treat candidates as people, not as applicants.

This job candidate has outlined six clear signals that they were interviewing with a wrong company, that is, one not worthy of consideration. All these signs are important, but the third one is key:

The interviewers behaved as if the candidate is chasing the company when,
in fact, the company is recruiting the candidate.

Who’s recruiting whom?

This critical distinction is lost on most people. Applying for jobs you’re pursuing is one thing. But when a company finds you, pursues you, solicits you, and convinces you to come talk about a job — then the calculus changes entirely. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

As you and the candidate in the LinkedIn story both noted, you were not looking for a job, so asking you why you wanted to leave your old job is not just presumptuous and rude — it reveals a totally misguided approach to hiring.

When you are recruited, an employer should do three things:

  • Roll out the red carpet.
  • Present compelling evidence about why you should listen to its pitch.
  • Work very hard to impress you.

When you are recruited, an employer that fails to treat you as an honored guest reveals a profound ignorance of how the world works. That’s simply disrespectful. It’s the sign of an uncouth, uncultured, stupid organization that’s bound to fail — one you’d be wasting your time with. (See Stupid Recruiters: How employers waste your time.)

Blind recruiting is spam

I’ll repeat that: When a company — whether its manager, its recruiter or its headhunter — comes to you and suggests it is interested in you, it should treat you with special respect and deference.

  • It must not ask you to fill out job applications.
  • It must accommodate your schedule for a meeting.
  • It must send the hiring manager to court you from the start — not some personnel jockey whose job is to check your teeth prior to your meeting with that hiring manager.
  • It must treat you as an object of desire.
  • It must show it knows exactly why it wants to meet you.

Blind solicitations are not recruiting; they’re spam. The trouble is, most people don’t understand this. They allow companies that recruit them to treat them like beggars. Don’t. You’ll save a lot of time if you separate employers you pursue from those that come to you. This is not to say all employers should not treat you respectfully. But when a company or recruiter solicits you, expect to be treated as an object of desire — or walk away if you’re made to feel like somebody who applied for a job.

What the 6 signals really tell you

The six signals above tell you that an employer is wasting your time. Here’s why.

  1. It should not take six interviews to assess you. Two, perhaps three. An employer that needs more has no idea how to properly assess a job candidate.
  2. A company should not interrogate you. It should open its own kimono first, to prove there’s a wonderful, desirable opportunity in there for you. (If this idea seems foreign to you, you’re either brainwashed or you work in HR.)
  3. The interviewers should not test your motivations. They should justify theirs to you.
  4. An interview process should be a carefully tailored production — a compelling pitch designed to impress you favorably. If the employer uses interviews to test you, then it has no business inviting you in to talk because it clearly has no idea whether you’re a good candidate. Listen up, employers and HR managers and recruiters: If you have not researched a person in enough detail already to confirm they are a viable candidate, you have no business contacting them. Interviews are not for selecting candidates. They’re for selecting hires.
  5. An employer should make an offer almost immediately after interviews are done. Hesitation reveals doubt, and doubt reveals poor judgment, and that’s the mark of failure.
  6. Those job interview meetings are the employer’s show. If the employer comes off looking bad, it means it’s not prepared, which means it’s not worth working for.

The job candidate in the LinkedIn story didn’t even consider negotiating the job offer because the employer signaled six different ways why it’s not worth working for at any salary.

Know when to reject an employer

The best way to land a great job is to focus your available time on employers worth interviewing with and worth working for. (Yes, some employers do it right. See Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants (Part 1).) That’s why it’s critical to know who’s going to waste your time. Those six signals are crystal clear. But they’re not the only signals that should give any job candidate pause — or perhaps make them head for the door immediately.

What additional signals from recruiters and employers tell you the “opportunity” they’re dangling at you will be a painful waste of your time? Please be specific — let’s create a test kit that helps everyone distinguish opportunity from agony.

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What should I order at the Interview Bar?

In the February 12, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks about going on a job interview in a bar.

Question

The company I’ve been talking with informed me that our next interview will be at a nearby bar where we can all sit down and relax. The manager also mentioned that he and his group will have some specific questions this time. (In the first interview I listened more than I talked.) What’s the protocol for interviewing in a public place? I guess they want to see how I act and how I would fit in. Are there right and wrong things to order? Can you offer any Do’s and Don’ts for a “relaxed” bar interview?

Nick’s Reply

bar

There is some very clever conventional wisdom about interviewing over a meal or over a drink. All of it assumes such a meeting is a clever ruse where the employer is watching your manners, your eating habits, and trying to get you drunk so they can find out what you’re really like.

I caution you: Even if that’s what the employer is doing, don’t make any of these assumptions yourself. Even if they’re testing you, don’t play along. Treat it as a business meeting and act accordingly.

Don’t play games

Don’t try to figure out how you should behave. Be yourself. Behave as you would in any business setting.

A long time ago someone taught me to take others at face value and to always assume the best. It’s good advice. If it turns out someone is playing games with you, that should be enough to tell you what kind of people they are – and that you probably want nothing to do with them.

As long as you are honest and sincere in your words and actions, the burden is on the other person to act the same. I’ve found this personal policy works very well. If someone “games” me after I give them the benefit of the doubt, I never deal with them again. Life’s too short to deal with jerks.

Behave normally

Don’t get caught up in the meaning behind the interview location. Be yourself.

Do what you would normally do in a job interview, and deal with the bar as you normally would. If you’d have a beer in a bar, order a beer if you want. If you don’t feel comfortable in bars, say so and ask for a change of venue. If you find yourself with a group of interviewers in the kind of bar where you feel unsafe, use your judgment — and trust your instincts.

Order what you want to eat, but don’t spend too much of their money – not any more than you would if you were on a date. Use common sense and be polite.

Don’t follow suit. If the boss orders wine but you don’t drink wine, don’t order wine. If you want seltzer, order seltzer. Don’t be someone you’re not.

Don’t over-analyze

Trying to psych this out so you can “do what they expect” will sink you — even if you strongly suspect the location is a test. The entire purpose of a casual meeting is to be casual. If they have another (sneaky) agenda, then that’s their problem. Because if you buy into a sneaky agenda, you will have to live with a sneaky agenda and sneaky people after you take the job.

Clever interview advice usually comes from self-proclaimed experts who are trying to be clever. For example, “Don’t order anything exotic, or they’ll think you’re strange.” (What if the manager values independent thinking?) If you over-analyze, you will stumble all over yourself. Forget about clever. Be yourself.

Respect yourself and respect the employer. No games. Discuss whatever they want to discuss as long as you’re comfortable with it. Hopefully they want to discuss their business and how you can make it more successful. Contribute whatever information you think will help them see how you will do the job profitably for the company, and how you will fit into their social environment.

If you and they don’t fit together, this is the time to find out. If the meeting gets weird, order take-out.

What unusual interview venues have you been to? Do you think a bar is a legitimate place for a job interview? What kinds of surprises have you encountered in unusual interview locations?

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Ghosting: Job candidates turn tables on employers

In the February 5, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks about the consequences of ghosting.

Question

It just happened at work. Someone “ghosted” their job! A man in his 20s just disappeared without saying goodbye or I quit. For those of us who’ve been in the workforce longer, this is amazing behavior. Don’t these people think the consequences will come back to haunt them? Why do employers put up with this? Looking forward to your comments.

Nick’s Reply

This trend doesn’t surprise me at all. Several generations of workers have now experienced ghosting — the kind that employers practice on employees, job applicants, and new hires. I think what you’re seeing is the outcome of employers’ widespread demonstrations of disrespect — they’re getting ghosted in return.

Ghosting the employee

Employees and job seekers are not just fed up; they have reset the table and are serving the dog food employers made them eat. Why bother giving notice, when the last time you resigned (or got fired) an HR manager ordered a security guard to escort you — and all your co-workers saw was the ghost of their former co-worker flying out the door? (See Quit, Fired, Downsized: Leave on your own terms.)

Of course, there are people who thoughtlessly and rudely “disappear,” as you’ve noted. But I think in most cases it’s a conscious decision to dispense with niceties like resignations because, well, why bother when your employer has been treating you like a replaceable part?

Ghosting the recruit

It also happens during the recruiting process. A recruiter in the HR department (or an independent headhunter representing the employer) solicits you, asks for your resume and references, has you fill out pages of online application forms, insists on knowing your current salary, and requires you to sign waivers so they can conduct a background check — all before they ever interview you.

You comply because you really, really want this job. Two weeks later, after you send e-mails and leave voicemails asking what’s up, you realize that the employer that solicited, recruited and pursued you has disappeared. You’ve been ghosted.

Ghosting the new hire

Worse are the many stories of job-offer ghosting that have become all too common in my mailbox. An employer makes a job offer, sometimes verbally and sometimes in writing. The candidate accepts, agrees to a start date, quits their old job and gives notice, and in some cases travels and relocates across the country. A day or two before the job is to commence, the offer is withdrawn with no explanation, apology or compensation.

One reader recounted that her husband moved a thousand miles several days before his new job was to start, to find housing. Meanwhile, she cancelled their rental agreement, took their children out of school, packed the family’s belongings, and started the long drive to join him. Halfway along the trip, the new hire called his wife to say the employer cancelled the job and rescinded the offer without any reason given.

How do you think that experience will affect that “new hire” when he gets his next job? (See Job offer rescinded after I quit my old job.)

Ghosted after trusting HR

In another case, an HR manager issued a job offer. The candidate accepted and HR instructed him to give notice at the old job immediately. He did. Several days later, the written offer still had not arrived. HR finally returned his many calls and said the background check turned up a problem — but would not disclose what it was. There would be no offer letter. Chalk this disaster up to the candidate’s naive trust in a verbal offer, but blame the HR manager for telling him everything was “a go” and to resign his old job.

(See Get it in writing.)

Turning the tables

Is it any wonder that, when the labor market is tight, workers turn the tables? I’m not saying any of this behavior is appropriate — but the reason more workers are ghosting employers is completely clear. Things have changed.

Perhaps the employer who rescinded an offer didn’t intend disrespect. HR was just very busy processing an offer to a better candidate that came along. The employer that ushered the fired employee out the door was just protecting its interests — it’s nothing personal. But as you note, these changes in the standard of conduct have consequences — but for whom? It depends on the economy.

What are the consequences in today’s economy? I don’t think they are significant for most workers unless the person tries to get a job back at their old company. Today, it seems employers are the ones facing the consequences of treating job applicants and employees with disrespect.

Of course, not all employers have been guilty any more than all workers are. And I’m not suggesting you should ghost anyone, whether you’re an employer, an employee, or a job seeker. It’s a lousy thing to do — and, yes, in some quarters it can affect your reputation. But you’re noticing a trend because there is a trend. Where does it end? Perhaps when workers demand better treatment — and when key jobs remain vacant because no one wants to work for employers that don’t respect them.

Special note to managers: Those recruiters in your HR department, and those third-party headhunters who operate at arm’s length but nonetheless represent your company — you’d better pay attention to how they treat job applicants. Their behavior will come back to haunt you.

Your turn, folks! Have you ghosted or been ghosted? How? Why? More important, how do we change the standard of conduct to improve relations between employers and workers?

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