www.asktheheadhunter.com | January 20, 2009
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Liars at TheLadders
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Looking for a $100k+ job? Who ya gonna call? TheLadders? Don't waste your time. The promise of a web site "created exclusively for $100k+ talent" jobs is a lie.

I've been watching TheLadders since its inception. I was immediately struck by the fact that founder Marc Cenedella came from HotJobs, another massive dump of JunkJobsForSuckers. After much hype about exclusivity, Cenedella quickly started daily junk-e-mail campaigns to lure business. His ad copy was tacky and sloppy, suggesting that far from being exclusive, TheLadders was little more than another Monster jobs-and-resumes black hole, sucking cash from employers and suckering job hunters.

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UPDATE: March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OKs Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

 More tricks for
job hunters?

The Wall Street Journal is at it again: Tips for Tricking Employers! We take apart the stalwart advertorials that WSJ regularly peddles as news and career advice in The Blog.

You say you want real methods to improve your job search? Then skip the career tip sheets and learn how to turn good business advice into job hunting strategies -- No tricks! This is real! We dare you! Bring a doctor! Also in The Blog

-- Nick    

Then TheLadders diversified. It got involved in the resume-writing business. Hey, it had a "$100k+" audience. Who better to soak for expensive resume-writing services?

At first TheLadders coaxed its market by contracting with independent professional resume writers to actually do the writing. But once this resume business was launched, TheLadders dumped its stable of professionals and started recruiting "writers" the same way it recruited customers -- indiscriminately. (I know: They tried to recruit me.) Soon I started getting stories from disgruntled resume clients complaining that TheLadders wouldn't let clients talk to the "resume writers" about their $900+ resumes. Then I heard from the resume writers TheLadders dumped. They claimed the operation shifted from professional staff to greenhorns.

By this time it seemed TheLadders even had shills writing advertorials masquerading as articles in publications like Investor's Business Daily. (I know: A flak named Gary Stern interviewed me then misrepresented my comments in his "article.")

TheLadders' behavior led recruitment-industry bird-dog Joel Cheesman, aka Cheezhead, to suggest the company was being fattened up for sale. I agreed (TheLadders: Going Down?).

But always in the forefront was TheLadders' boast that it was all about $100k+ jobs for $100k+ people. And that's where the crap hit the fan. It was clear to me from the start that a business trying to operate on such a huge scale could not possibly police jobs and postings. So on December 3, 2007 I called TheLadders and asked about posting some jobs. (I recorded the call.) I said I was a headhunter and I wanted to post jobs I was trying to fill for my clients.

How would TheLadders ensure the jobs I was posting were really $100k+? TheLadders' agent replied:

"We'll just basically ask you when you're sending us the information when you're posting a job, what's the base salary, bonus and equity range. We have a Recruiter Relations team that's going to help you put up any posts. Whatever post goes up there's an 8 to 24 hour waiting period to make sure it meets our criteria."

And what if I was not willing to divulge the employer I was representing? How would they make sure the job was legit? Answer:

"There's a confidential option so no one will see it."

It was simple and clear: I would not have to divulge who my client was or prove the job was really $100k+ or even that it existed.

How would I know I was getting top-notch, $100k+ candidates?

"A couple ways we qualify. We actually charge our candidates to come on the site as well. So right off the bat we know they're a little bit more serious about their job search because they're willing to pay a fee to help them out. We also know they're in the proper income bracket."

See? It's simple. If they're willing to pay to use TheLadders, they're likely to be $100k+ candidates, and good ones at that. This seems to be how TheLadders qualifies everything -- job hunters, employers, job postings. If someone is willing to pay, anything goes.

The doo-doo was so deep I couldn't help but stir harder to see what other crud would come to the top.

How does TheLadders know these people are in the proper income bracket?

"Not the proper income bracket, but I know that they have enough money that they're willing to use our service. So those are the two kind of initial qualifiers."

In other words, TheLadders was faking it big time. I suppose extensive research suggested that people with more money are bigger suckers. I wanted to know more, and TheLadders' rep was on a roll.

I asked him to explain how they checked out job candidates to ensure they were $100k+. (A caution: If you're a truck driver, you might not want to read any further, lest you get so worked up you drive your rig right up to TheLadders' front desk... Can I ride shotgun?)

"When a job seeker comes to our site, they are sent to a group called Community. Community will sit down and not just take their money and run. We'll ask them to submit a profile or a resume or bio. We'll look at their history and decide whether or not they're the types of candidates we want representing TheLadders name. Obviously, as you can see, it would be detrimental to us to have people who are not quality all-around. There are people who try to come on who'll say, I've been driving trucks for the last five years. It's a very admirable job, but we'll say, Thank you very much, you don't really fit what we're looking for at TheLadders, so please go check out Monster, CareerBuilder, some other site that deals with the lower-end jobs. So there is a process. It usually takes them 24 hours to check a bio, so we do make sure we maintain a really high level of candidates."

So where does this bring us? It brings us full circle. I've been sitting on that December 2007 telephone transcript, waiting for clear validation that my experience with TheLadders wasn't a fluke. Last week a Ladders customer sent me a transcript of an online chat she had with a Ladders representative to discuss a problem. (I still can't believe TheLadders is so brazen as to put this stuff in writing.)

"Alishia," a Ladders customer, applied for a "$100k+ job" only to be told by the employer that the job pays $50k. The employer told her he did not post the job on TheLadders. Irritated, Alishia wanted to know why a job that paid only $50k was on TheLadders, and how it could be posted by someone other than the employer.

And the putz at TheLadders replies in writing, "...we make no claims that all of our jobs are submitted directly to us."

Then he drops this gem: "...we don't have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions... we make an estimate based on a rigid set of criteria."

We know all about TheLadders "rigid set of criteria." TheLadders' criteria for jobs and resumes it posts are as rigid as the load Marc Cenedella drops in my e-mail box every week, with "Warmest Regards."

The chat transcript below, between a Ladders customer and a Ladders representative ("Andy"), was provided by TheLadders' customer and is published here with her permission. Only her last name and the description of the job in question have been redacted.

Alishia: Hi Andy
Alishia: I have a problem
Andy: Sorry to hear that Alisha, how can I help?
Alishia: I found this job on your website: [redacted]
Alishia: and after spending time researching the company, writing a letter and resume
Alishia: when I got a call from the hiring manager
Alishia: he tells me this position pays $50K
Alishia: and when
Alishia: I asked him why he posted the position on The Ladders
Alishia: he said he DID NOT POST IT on TheLadders
Alishia: so
Alishia: I am very concerned
Alishia: about the time and effort and money I am spending
Alishia: using your site
Andy: Okay Alishia, I can definitely understand why you're concerned about this and I'd be glad to explain.
Alishia: if you are pulling ads from a third party
Alishia: without verifying the salary range
Alishia: ok - please explain
Andy: First of all, we make no claims that all of our jobs are submitted directly to us. Many of the positions on our site are linked directly to from external job boards. Since we don't have a direct way of knowing the pay range of each of these positions, we make an estimate based on a rigid set of criteria.
Andy: In this case, I see that the position requires a Bachelor's degree and five years of experience. This is well within the experience range of a Marketing Manager who expects to make $100k per year.
Andy: Clearly that isn't the case with this position and I thank you for letting me know about it as I am definitely going to remove it from the site immediately.
Alishia: omg... so you mean that you are taking educated guesses on what these positions pay??? do you think that is what users think who pay $30 per month to use your product - that you are paying for good guesses as to what a position MAY pay???
Andy: These aren't educated guesses Alisia, it is information gained through lengthy information gathering sessions among numerous recruiters and career advisors in all of the fields we post.
Alishia: i understand pulling from third parties but don't you verify these postings by calling the company or something?
Andy: The fact is Alishia that very few companies are willing to release this information if they havent chosen to do so on the posting itself.
Alishia: Well, Andy, I mean...it's YOUR tagline: The most $100k+ jobs, all in one easy-to-search site. Our mission has always been to make your job search as quick and easy as possible. We work hard to bring you the best $100k+ jobs around over 25,000 a month!
Andy: I stand by that statement Alishia and assure you that we make every possible effort to ensure that all of our positions pay $100k+
Alishia: I think you cannot guarantee this claim if you do nothing to verify your information. It is totally irresponsible to make a claim you cannot backup.
Alishia: Needless to say I am very disappointed and feel that I have wasted hundreds of dollars using your site and will be sure to let my colleagues know about my experience.

No matter how TheLadders tries to spin it to an irritated customer or on its web site, TheLadders does not control jobs it sells to its paying customers. The site is not "exclusively" for $100k+ job hunters and it does not "exclusively" post $100k+ jobs. Right there on TheLadders web site, it says "Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates." TheLadders is lying.

UPDATE: March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OKs Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices

There is simply no getting around the statement that, "Many of the positions on our site are linked directly to from external job boards." TheLadders works just like every other job board that siphons scum from the swill pot, and sells straws to desperate job hunters who believe that for 30 bucks a month they can get exclusive access to the trough of "REAL RESULTS."

Just how insidious and brazen is this corrupt racket? Very. TheLadders has "exclusive partnerships" with The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek Online. These are the endorsements that prop it up. What more need a Human Resources executive say to justify spending millions on TheLadders job postings?

Nothing has changed since I wrote about Job-board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter in 2003. The implied endorsements and blessings of major business news publications are what enables TheLadders and other operations like it to continue to fleece job hunters and employers alike. Bernie Madoff, founder of the biggest financial scam in history, and Marc Cenedella know one thing: If you're going to fleece anyone, go for well-heeled suckers -- people in high income brackets who are more likely to believe bigger lies about money and success. (Bernard Haldane and his diaspora discovered this a long, long time ago.) Having big-name partners like The Wall Street Journal gives new meaning to brazen and insidious.

Thanks to Alishia for not dismissing TheLadders' marketing lies and for demanding a high standard of behavior from companies she does business with. Now if only America's corporate Human Resources managers would raise their standards and stop funding and propping up yet another online career racket -- maybe we could get this floundering economy back on track by making America's employment system a lot more honest.

Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter®

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I just downloaded How to Work with Headhunters. Excellent! I will recommend that each of our Executive MBAs get this book. It's a very comprehensive treatment of every aspect of recruiting, search firms, career management firms and more. I especially like the Back of the Napkin section at the end. Looks like you thought of everything!

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Anderson School of Management


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