Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beware Recruiters Bearing Special Offers

We all know this economy is tough, particularly for job searchers. Everyday there’s a new article on the new poor, the mancession, or the desperation of the unemployed. With more people out of work now than in a generation, there’s definitely a market for employment services, like recruiting firms and resume writers. But as you go forth into the job market these days, make sure you’re doing your homework. It’s easier than ever to be taken in by a scam company. Take these exchanges for example:

Rick G. of New Careers Online desperately wanted me to join his executive recruiting firm’s pool of applicants. He sent me a series of emails, inviting me to visit his company’s website, and watch their “Market Tour” video. After a few weeks of non-responses, he finally wrote me to say:

Dear Kate:

I wanted to try contacting you one more time to gauge your interest in learning more about what we can do to help you with your search.  I noticed you did not watch the Market Tour as of yet as well.

If you are in a serious job search and interested in continuing the process, please let me know of a few dates and times that might work for you and I will look to get you on the schedule.

If I do not hear from you, I will archive your information and certainly wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Thanks! I do hope to hear from you soon!

Rick G., Senior Consultant
phone: (877) 555-9623

I decided that with this kind of persistence, I might as well look up the company. The results were disappointing, as I wrote back to him:

Dear Rick,

I appreciate your effort, but I am not interested in work with you or your company. A simple Google search has revealed multiple red flags to me, most notably that "newcareersonline.com scam" is a suggested search in Google, your company has multiple iterations of its name and URL which suggests that you aren’t always above the board in doing business under one name, the first ten pages of results are pages owned by your company which indicates SEO manipulation, and for a job placement firm, it's odd that your CEO has zero connections on LinkedIn. {Note: since January, Mr. Gerberg has added 26 connections}

You should also Google yourself. I was not heartened to hear about your recent job loss and subsequent troubles with the IRS.

All the best,


Rick did respond to my email, and kindly agreed to stop contacting me. He skipped over the IRS rant reference, but was very professional, minus the fact that his reply came back in Comic Sans font. (Note: it is never a good idea to use Comic Sans as a font in any professional email. Unless you are a circus clown.)

Keep Rick in mind the next time you get a “great offer” from a recruiting firm. From my research, the New Careers Online (“scam”?) would have cost me several hundred dollars for a rewritten resume, and other services that I can get for free from my Career Services Office at my alma mater, Simmons School of Management.

Another tactic to be wary of is the “free” job board that also sells resume writing services. For a lark, I signed up on JobFox.com to see what all the fuss was about, and from the day they got my email address, they have been sending me email after email telling me that I should pay them $500 to rewrite my resume, plus $30 a month to be an “Advantage” member. After a one-month experiment, I still can’t tell the different between a basic and Advantage member. Needless to say, I wish I had my $30 back.

The first emails of their pay-by-installment resume writing services came from Melinda Wickham. I have no idea if Melinda is a real person or not, but I ignore the messages after the “free review” of my resume came back. Ignore enough emails on Gmail, and Gmail will mark them as Spam for you. I think they must have noticed, because yesterday, I got this email from a new JobFox recruiter, Peggy Patelino. It was roughly the same email that I’ve been getting from Melinda for weeks, but with one difference: the signature.

I'm writing to offer my assistance in your job search. I head up Jobfox's $100K team, which is focused on helping our highest paid members succeed in the job market. While the unemployment headlines are scary, I'm happy to report we're helping smart candidates get jobs…

Peggy Patelino
VP, Resume Services
Monday - Friday 9:00am - 6:00pm ET
Saturday 9:30am - 1:30pm ET

While I may have doubted the existence of Melinda Wickham, I am pretty sure that Peggy Patelino is not a real person. Real VPs do not send out emails with other peoples’ email addresses in the signature.

I wrote back:

Dear Peggy,

I notice your email ends with Melinda Wickham's email address. Don't you have your own?


And she wrote back:

Good catch

I’m not sure how that happened.

My email address is resumecritique@jobfox.com.



Yet another reason to not believe Peggy—VPs don’t have generic email addresses.

So if you are like many job seekers out there (or non job seekers with email addresses that have been picked up by CareerBuilder and the like), double check those “special offers” of employment services. Google the recruiter. Read the fine print. And please, if you have a Career Services Office at your disposal, don’t pay $500 for a generic resume rewrite.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Interview with Susan Docherty of General Motors

In this week's New York Times Corner Office, Susan Docherty of General Motors is interviewed. I always like to highlight the female executives from this feature, and here are a few of my favorite quotes from this piece.

On where to sit in meetings:
I always sit at a different chair. Because when I was in different roles in this company, I saw a lot of leaders sit in the same chair, think the same way and talk to the same people. And I said to myself: “When I become a leader, and I have a big team, I’m not going to play favorites. I want to be a dynamic leader.” And I think being disruptive, and not always being predictable, is healthy.
 On inclusiveness:

In terms of my style, I’ve had to work hard at being inclusive. I may have an opinion, and I may already know where I want the answer or the decision to go. But I make my team members feel valued by asking them: “What do you think? What would you do? What would your idea be?” And I don’t do that to keep people on their toes. I do it because I often get new insights and new ideas from people who are looking at things with a fresh set of eyes.

 On building diverse teams:

I like building teams with people who come from very different backgrounds and have very different experiences. I don’t just mean diverse teams, in terms of men and women or people of different color or origin. I like people who have worked in different places in the world than I have because they bring a lot more context to the discussion. That’s something that I value a tremendous amount.
I make sure that when I’m looking at people for my team, it’s not just what’s on their résumé — their strengths or weaknesses or what they’ve accomplished — but it’s the way they think. I can learn twice as much, twice as quickly, if I’ve got people who think differently than I do around the table.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's In A Name?

I'll just admit it: I am just as excited about the Apple Tablet as Steve Jobs wants me to be. However, like many people, I was a little put off by the name "iPad." I didn't make the connection to Kotex right away, but I was disappointed that they didn't go with the other rumored name, iSlate. The sleekness of the name is far more suited to the sleekness of the product. Yes, iPad follows the trend of "iP" names in the Apple line--iPod, iPhone--but iSlate just sounds better. And yes, I had a good laugh over the MAD TV skit from 2007:

But Apple isn't the only company guilty of not thinking through its naming conventions. There are plenty of historical examples.

The Chevy Nova: sadly, Snopes has debunked this one, but the story still lives on as a lesson of lost in translation. Technically, "No Va" means "doesn't go" in Spanish, which (supposedly) made the Chevy Nova unpopular in Spanish speaking countries. If you're selling internationally, make sure you know what your product name means in the local language. What message do you send your potential customers when you sell a product called "bite the wax tadpole?"
Universal Technical Institute: If you decide to pick a long name, but market yourself by an acronym, try to find  a name that won't boil down to a common infection of the excretory system. Especially when that infection outranks your company on Google for a search for UTI.

And this lovely blog, Bad Product Names has a fantastic collection of worse ones, like Pen Island, which turns into penisland.com for a URL.

What naming gaffes can you come up with?