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Published on: Monday, November 08, 2010

The Scam Artist All-Star List


As we all know, there are top 25, 50 or 100 lists for almost everything. As we all also know, it seems that whenever something awful happens, be it large or small, man-made or natural, there are always some folks lying in wait to take advantage of people when they are down and at their most vulnerable.

We read about it every day: con artists scamming seniors, sub-prime lenders, quacks selling phony cancer cures, or those who think of ways to take advantage of people whose lives have been shattered.. The list is dreadful, long and always makes you wonder how or why one person would do something like that to someone else. Even more depressing is the fact that lots of these people are actually parents!

At any rate, what got me going on this subject was a question an ExecuNet member asked on a weekly teleconference that I host. Members can ask anything they want to on any subject — be it about ExecuNet, executive job search, executive search, headhunters, or whatever.

In this case, the question was: "Are professional career marketing services effective and worth the cost to assist in landing an executive-level position?"

Every time I am asked about this topic I have to take a deep breath before responding and compose myself so that I don't sound quite as angry as I feel.

Technically, we are out of the recession, but when you are still trying to find a job, it sure doesn't feel like it! Given the current economic environment, many suspect companies have re-surfaced, as hundreds of thousands of people try to fight their way back from the recession.

In any event, in trying to pass along a few tips to the caller in terms of "red flags" when it comes to services that claim they can work magic for you, it occurred to me to post some highlights here for others who aren't ExecuNet members but are equally vulnerable.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind if before signing a check:

Beware firms that "guarantee" placement, promise an astoundingly high success rate, or a job in a certain period of time. Of course, they won't really put it in these specific terms, but it will be implied.

Be careful if asked for big bucks up front. Outplacement services and executive recruiters are normally paid by companies not individuals, so these scam firms will often have names that suggest they are in the same arena and might explain their services as "retail outplacement" or "reverse recruiters" to try to legitimize themselves in the prospects' eyes when, in fact, they have no intention of providing the sort of help that the legitimate career services firms and practitioners do. The fact that the career services industry is unregulated makes it very easy for the unethical firms to pass themselves off as legitimate.

Go to the company's website. Is there easy-to-find contact information with names, addresses and phone numbers? Are there pictures and bios for the management team? Research them online too.

Conduct thorough due diligence. These firms are masterful at initially creating positive search engine results, but once a steady stream of complaints build online and/or with the Better Business Bureau or sites like RipoffReport, they go out of business and change names. They are all-stars at walking the legal line.

Worse, they know that most of their "marks" are in transition and therefore don't have the money to take real legal action and/or are too embarrassed at falling for the scam and just want to move on. Point being, they know their risk is very slight at best.

Watch out for the bait and switch. They have many ways to get leads such as: posting bogus positions on job boards, making a pitch to get you into their offices: "This job has been filled, but your background makes you perfect for..." They also scan résumés on public job boards and reach out to those whose backgrounds look like they were in jobs that paid well enough to to write a five figure check.

They are exceptionally strong sales closers. Every contact is to draw you closer to writing a check or handing over your credit card. They will often invite you to bring your spouse or significant other to the office with you so as not to change your mind.

Don't be tempted by an "easy" solution. Job search is not an easy road, and there is certainly a tendency for most of us who have paid for a service to sit back and wait for the service to be delivered.

Bottom line: As the old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it's too good to be true."

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Dave Opton's avatarDave Opton
Dave Opton founded ExecuNet in 1988 to provide a trusted environment where senior-level executives could build career opportunities by facilitating connections to other executives, experts and key market insights. Dave has drawn upon his 35 years of experience in human resources to develop and grow what has become the leading business and career membership network for executives and senior managers. A widely recognized executive career management expert, Dave is regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Fortune, Fast Company, and other leading business publications. Mr. Opton received his BA from Indiana University.

Posted by Jacqueline Myers
09/21 @ 03:37 PM
Great article. Thank you for spelling it out for the job candidate. You would think that all of us in search mode and with the experience along with the intellectual prowess we have wouldn't fall for these things. Wrong! I know some individuals that have been recently laid off and are heads of households. They need positions as soon as they can find them. I am going to pass the article along to them. Luckily, I did not make any of these errors but, some of them were tempting.
Posted by Felipe B
05/23 @ 09:20 PM
Where can I find information regarding ExecuNet's performance - jobs posted, jobs filled, etc. I am considering becoming a member but would like to see some stats before I commit.
Posted by Jon
04/26 @ 04:16 PM
I noticed that ResumeNotRequired has a less than favorably BBB rating.
It seems that they've also been recently sued by a previous client and lost in Fairfax County General District Court.
For an company within an industry that relies heavily on reputation theirs seems to be concerning.
Posted by Vincent Dabney
04/26 @ 02:27 PM
Hello Debra:

Thanks for the feedback, and I could not agree more that seeking the appropriate resource for finding a job starts with the applicant knowing and understanding her/his needs based on a thorough self-assessment, market assessment and career strategy. My question has more to do with how one who is armed with a clear, informed set of career objectives, differentiates the talented career management service providers from the unremarkable performers. My brief exploration in this industry has identified some troubling gaps between quality of service and needs of applicants.
Posted by Vincent Dabney
04/26 @ 12:30 PM
Hello Dave:

This article is very timely as I am currently transitioning from consulting and an educational sabbatical to full-time employment. My questions and concerns have less to do with identifying the career management scam and more bout differentiating the unremarkable, but nevertheless legitimate service providers from the exceptional performers. All firms claim to be exceptional, but 23 years of executive experience across many industries tells me a different story.

What advice do you have for the executive that is very discriminating and looking for high-performing organizations?
Posted by Anela
02/21 @ 10:43 PM
BASIC INTEREST: Property/Facilities Management and Construction.
Posted by Bob
12/16 @ 01:04 AM

I was scammed by ResumeNotRequired (RNR). Thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours wasted. I guess my desire for a career change allowed me to be naive, trusting them and their contract.

Horrible experience
Posted by Bob
12/16 @ 01:01 AM

Unfortunately, I was scammed by ResumeNotRequired (RNR). I guess I was so desperate I became naive and trusted them and trusted their contract.

Horrible experience.
Posted by PastEmployee
11/10 @ 09:45 PM
As a former employee of Advanced Career Technologies aka: ITS, Americas Job Network, Mckenzie Scott I would like to plead with any and all prospective clients or employees to reconsider doing business with them or any other name they decide to change the company to in the future. Having been behind the scenes I saw first hand the way they do business. Having potential employees take money out of their own pocket to start working with an extremely high turnover rate to never be reimbursed is very unethical in my eyes. But that's just where it starts. Clients pay out hundreds if not thousands of dollars of money they in many cases cannot afford in the hopes this company will find them a new position. This doesn't happen for most clients. They end up in the same place they started in: Unemployed. The only difference being now they are in a very hard financial situation usually due to depleting savings, assets 401k's and credit cards to pay for this service. Within the recruiting department There are unethical practices in place such as discrimination and asking questions to prospective employees that are illegal. I was told when being hired as a recruiter that the sales force was given "hot leads". This was supposedly people that had responded to an ad for the service and had filled out a questionnaire to see if they were a good fit for the service. Sounds great right? Come to find out they own over 200 domains and websites that advertise job postings related to all industries and job functions. These "hot leads" are people who believe they have applied for a job, not applied for a job placement service. The owner and his son both have a convincing story as to why the company has changed it's name due to a consultant telling them it was better to consolidate to make the services easier to understand for clients. But every time new complaints arise online and in the media the company changes it's name and corporate name. I beg of you to do your research as not all companies of this type are scams but i can tell you from first hand experience this company has no ethics from the ground up and still to this day operates illegally when it comes to hiring practices.
Posted by Dave Opton
05/27 @ 12:36 PM

Certainly you should not be "paying" someone to get you a job. No one gets anyone a job other than you.

That said, there are plenty of very legitimate services that can be and are of great help in preparing someone for a successful job search and coaching them through the process.

The issue, of course, is to know how to separate the legitimate individuals/firms from those that are simply out to get you to write the biggest check they can.

The ease with which the Internet makes it possible to communicate simply compounds the problem.
Posted by Michael Repoli
05/27 @ 12:04 AM
I am a CPA delaying retirement because of permanent damage to my retirement savings.
Because I have my resume on the internet I get emails and telephone calls each week.
Most are people trying to sell me their services to get me a job. I have clearly stated to these folks I am NOT going to pay anyone a fee to get me a job. The employer should pay the fee or advertise on their own, not using an agency.
The latest thing I am seeing is people writing to me telling me they can help and there is NO FEE. The gimmick??? They want to sell me a franchise.
Also, there is one particular job in the West Palm Beach area which is a one year contract for someone with substantial tax experience which is paying only $35 hr. Apparently they are not getting qualified applicants because I seem to get a call every two or three weeks from two or three of the same companies, one of which is "Radiant" I believe. These folks are probably using a US number and calling from India,because they all have the same accent. If they knew anything about HR or the accounting profession and they have seen my resume they should not have to be rocket scientists to realize someone who is a former managing partner of a public accounting firm is not going to work for $50k or $75k yet they continue to call.
Posted by Steareemarp
05/26 @ 10:23 AM
Hello. What better or ?
Posted by John
04/24 @ 05:39 PM
I wanted to find out the scoop on AMC Tampa executive recruiters.

Posted by Dave Opton
01/31 @ 06:27 PM

I could not agree more.
Posted by Paul M. Mathews
01/31 @ 05:53 PM
As a career coach and passionate about transition, the economy and the stress of unemployment, I am very sensitive to the bottom dwelling scammers with "too good to be true" promises during a "time share" sales process. They are damaging our industries, outplacement and career coaching. We need to get back to a world of under-promising and over-delivery and restore a reputation of an industry created by people who wanted to help people under stressful situations because we are great at it. Paul M. Mathews-Hire Aspirations-The Birch Group
Posted by Dave Opton
12/08 @ 01:45 AM

Appreciate your posting the survey results from your LI group, from the discusssions that our members have on the same subject, I would guess their results would be at least as high if not higher.

Part of the issue that an organization such as ours which is neither a career marketing firm or a job board, but rather a 22 year old private career and business network for senior level executives is that somemtimes people who do not know us simply make an assumption as to what we're about. It's frustrating sometimes.

If you feel it would be helpful to either yourself and/or anyone else in the LI group that took the survey, I would be more than happy to lead whoever would like to join me on a tour of ExecuNet so that they could really understand that not only are we not in the same arena as the types of firms I was trying to warn readers about, but indeed we have worked for years to help people avoid falling prey to them.

Feel free to contact me if you or anyone else in the group would like to take me up on my tour offer.
Posted by Michael Repoli
12/07 @ 06:38 PM
I want to commend you for the great discussion on placement firms and career coaches. I recently was approached by a recruiter first asking if I was interested in a Tax Director position in DC paying $500k. I informed them I didn't want to live in DC and wanted to stay in the south - so they came back to me with a position for $300k in South Florida. I asked if the employer paid the fee and I was told yes, but since then have not heard from them. Coincidence? I think not. I told them for the money they were talking about in salary, they could find a tax attorney with more credentials than I have. (I am a CPA with heavy tax experience but cannot command $300k or $500k). Seems to me I was being baited.
Posted by Fred Held
12/06 @ 07:58 PM
Guess what, I can do the 99% on and in fact have. I have done it for friends of mine. when you have 1100 contacts some one you know works at the target company.

YES I CAN. I am proud to share that I have a 99% success rate making the connections for clients with targeted decision makers which they designate; contacts, not offers or placements, are my guaranteed deliverable.

So you are saying that each jobwiz client 100 out of 100 has found a job while working with you. That is truly outstanding and unusual. Keep up the great work. I believe you. Know one ever lies on line.

Every JobWhiz client has landed as a result of our joint efforts. I am happy to introduce individuals evaluating my services to a client reference.
Posted by Scott Overholt
12/06 @ 05:05 PM
To Debra and others like her, I do not consider you on the list of scam artists, even though your client pays your fees. The first sign of a scam artist is THEY call YOU. My wife recently absolutely needed a coach because she had not been in the job market for ten years, her resume was three levels too junior for her current position, she had neglected her network, and was flailing away at the online job sites all day. She needed the proper focus, and we agreed to and paid a flat fee for defined services from a person I have known for years. We were happy with yes2yes, the service we used (this is not an advertisement for yes2yes, and the site admin can delete the reference if appropriate). But there is a client reference. The coach didn't promise a job. the coach only promised to make my wife the best job searcher she could be, making the best of what she had to work with. If you expect more, folks, buyer beware.
Posted by Fred Held
12/06 @ 02:57 PM
Recently a group in LI conducted a survey of its members. The survey asked how effective were Career companies such as your. Over 50 people answered with NO ONE POSITIVE ANSWER. Not only were the answers negative there was some passion and emotion behind the answers.
On the other hand I have never seen one such company that can say "we have worked with 100 people and 80 of them are happily employed" Can you?l
Posted by Victor Parrott
11/23 @ 06:51 AM
I filled out the SET marketing questionnaire. When I spoke with an agent about SET and what it stood for, he said it was used for marketing and wasn't an acronym. The sent me a hardbound book (2010 Edition!) by Robert J. Gerberg, The Professional Job Changing System.

They wanted $3,500 and it could take up to 20 weeks with their "plan." It was a risky decision,do I skip paying rent and hope I land a job in the next two weeks or do I keep doing what I've been doing?

I opted to pay my rent but I'm still unemployed.
Posted by Alex Sokolik
11/22 @ 06:49 PM
As a former Land Development /Acquisitions exec,I am finding it very difficult to get past HR for Siting /Acquisiitons for Wind /Solar Firms.
May I attache a resume?
Kindest regards,
Alex Sokolik
Posted by Alan Booth
11/22 @ 05:03 PM
I am NOT a career coach in any form but an experienced job transition person who has changed careers 4 times through networking; i,.e. connecting to key people for advice on both me and how my way of thinking/experiences might lead me to XXX profession. Those people I have engaged are the absolutely best people that helped me in my search for new assignments. Now as an executive coach, people who connect with me for regarding referrals to a career coach tell me what they are really looking for is [1] someone to hold them accountable for maintaining a high energy search and [2] the emotional support to help in maintianing a sense of self worth and motivation.
Posted by Linda M. Van Valkenburgh, MS. Owner & Executive Ca
11/14 @ 01:56 PM
It's a shame that the scam artists ruin it for the legitimate coaches. When a potential client comes to my office, I am often surprised at how many are not interviewing me - so I help them along.

I suggest inquiring about the coach's education, years in business, nationally and internationally recognized coaching credentials and certifications, pending certifications and through which organization, CEU's, dated testimonials on letterhead, displayed testimonials in the office and on the website, and are there frequent and current written articles and blogs by the coach to show immersion in their profession, etc.

This may help differentiate the good from the scam!

I invite spouses to come in. But its so they can ask questions, too.... I believe it's a family decision considering the amount of time and work I am about to spend with soemeone's spouse. It's certainly not to corner the job seeker into a forced commitment.

After years of a failed business model that trusted everyone, only to be burned by a great percentage and left without funds to pay the bills or myself, I also changed my business model. Coach's can be hurt too.

So I guess there are two sides to every story. Shame on the dishonest who make it hard for the good coaches AND the good clients. There is no perfect system. (but I for one am doing my best and hope reputation speaks for the rest)!

Always my best,
Every success -
Linda M. Van Valkenburgh, MS
Owner & Executive Career Coach
My Executive Career Coach, LLC
Stamford, CT
Posted by Dave Opton
11/13 @ 05:46 PM
Obviously this is a subject that strikes a nerve in all of us and to that end; I would like to thank everyone who has contributed both their comments, experiences but also their "tips" which help to enrich the "list" that we started with.

I hope that you are helping to continue to spread the word.

There are thousands of people who can and have benefited from the expertise offered by career management professionals, some of whom have taken the time to add their comments here as well and I have heard from others privately.

If you are a member of ExecuNet or not, anyone who is thinking about retaining career help and as part of their due diligence wants to bounce the name of the firm off of me, feel free to contact me.
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