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A View From the Deck: Watch out for the Hiring 'Predators'

In this installment of 'A View From the Deck', local author J. Wiley Dumas relates a horror story about unscrupulous hiring practices, and some tips to avoid these hiring 'scams.'

In this rather dismal economy, it's not surprising that many people are looking for additional sources of income. In a time where it now takes at least 2 incomes just to keep your heads above water, people of all ages are seeking additional employment.

And sometimes, that job search can become a horror story to rival anything Hollywood has ever offered. There are some very unscrupulous people out there who are taking advantage of both recent college graduates and the middle and upper-aged. In fact, no one is immune to the predators out there who are simply looking for bodies to fill non-essential positions.

A friend of mine recently went to a job interview for a marketing firm in the Greater Hartford area. When I saw him a few days later, the story he related to me made me so angry that I felt that these dishonest hiring practices had to be brought to light.

Rather than write about his experiences though, I did the next best thing: I applied to the same company, in order to get the facts. The following is an abbreviated description of my personal experiences.

NOTE: I will not name the company referred to in this posting. Suffice it to say that their website now states 'Under Repair.'

The ad I answered read "Entry-level marketing and sales associate sought for immediate hiring. Will train. Motivated team atmosphere and highly-professional." I called the given number and spoke to the lady who answered about my desire to apply. Imagine my surprise when she scheduled me for an interview THAT AFTERNOON. This leads to rule #1:

If they're in a hurry to interview you, use extreme caution.

I punched the given address into my trusty GPS and eventually found the location. Rule #2:

If the company is working out of a hotel room, turn around and go home.

Now I was always taught to dress 'Business Professional' anytime one was meeting with a prospective employer. And since this was a marketing firm, dealing one on one with various upper and mid-level managers of various business concerns, I assumed (Deadly practice, I know) that I would be meeting others dressed in similar, if not better, attire. Imagine my shock when I met with the HR director (or so the cardboard sign on her desk said) and she was dressed in jeans and a (very) frilly top. Rule #3:

If they don't dress for success, you won't have any.

We began the interview with the typical chit-chat, my resume was reviewed, and while it mentioned that I had no formal education in Marketing, only 'Real-World' experience, she said that I would be a "perfect fit" for their organization. Rule #4:

If they're too quick to hire, despite your lack of qualifications, this is not the place for you.

I was told that I could begin training the next day, and was given a time and place to meet my 'Team.' The next morning I found myself outside of an electronics retailer and met up with my teammates; twenty-somethings just out of college, who looked at me wearing my suit as if I was some type of fossil left over from the Paleolithic Era. Our team leader was a young man who had very little command of English, (or even Spanish, for that matter) and got testy when I asked him to repeat a few things. I was partnered with a young woman and told that we were to canvas all of those coming out of the store and give them fliers for the satellite cable company that we were representing this day. Then he loaded the rest of the team into a minivan and drove off. Rule #5:

If you find yourself handing out fliers, you're better off flipping burgers.

After a few hours, I asked my comrade when the training began. She told me in no uncertain terms that there was no training. She had been at this for 3 weeks and had yet to return to the 'corporate' office. "I need the money," she moaned at one point, "but this isn't what I expected to do with my degree. I thought I was going to be part of helping businesses to market their products. I guess I am, but it just seems like a scam." That's when I found out that we would be paid on how many people chose to subscribe to the cable service. No reimbursement for gas or food. No salary. Just the forlorn hope that someone would choose to switch their cable supplier. After 3 days of this, I had all the information I needed, so I called the HR director back and informed her that I would not be returning. "Okay," was her only response, and then she simply hung up.

Unfortunately, hiring scams like this are nothing new. Back in the 80's, it was selling magazine subscriptions. Companies like this target the young, recent graduates, and more and more, the middle and upper-aged. They are seeking nothing more than bodies, with no desire to treat them as anything more than cattle. These companies use ambiguous job descriptions that lure in those not worldly enough to see through the hype. They promise "Be a part of the fast-paced, exciting world of ____," then fail to follow through on anything.

Treat this as a Cautionary Tale, if you are so inclined. One can understand the rush to become employed in this day's job market, not wanting to be beaten out of a job by another. But take the time to research the potential employer first before you schedule an interview. Reputable companies can be researched on-line, and through the Better Business Bureau.

Have questions ready not only for the interview, but prior to it. Ask if Business professional or Business casual is preferred. Don't be afraid to overdress. Looking professional is nothing to be ashamed of. Find out if the position is commission-only, salary, or hour-based. Does the company offer benefits such as a Health Care plan, Retirement, or Life Insurance? And most importanly: Find out exactly WHAT it is you will be doing. If the answers you get are ambiguous or distracting, politely thank them, get up, and LEAVE. Chalk it up to experience gained and go grab a burger (maybe even filling out an application while you much on your fries).

For my friend and that young woman I was teamed up with, this advice comes too late. But for those of you out there considering additional income, take heed, remember the rules, and research the potential employer before you call to schedule an interview.

It can save you a great deal of heartbreak.

Sic vis Pacem, Parabellum,

J. Wiley Dumas

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

J. Wiley Dumas March 02, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Fred, you are making some excellent points, and yes I was sceptical, but like I said, I knew going in that it was a scam. I was exhibiting an attitude of 'desperation', as many people do, trying to get a job. But your points are dead on. Don't allow desperation to overcome common sense.
J. Wiley Dumas March 02, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Jim, while the term "marketing' has indeed become a catchall, there ARE several reputable marketing firms out there. But you are correct in that there are many 'businesses' that lure people in with that term. As I've stated, it takes careful RESEARCH to determine if the company is not only on-the-level, but the right fit for you.
Jim G. March 02, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Well, we could go around and around on what constitutes "reputable" marketing but I'll stand by my comment. The only ads I've seen in years that contain the word "marketing" are for some variation of the high-pressure sales-promotion job that at best is one step up from a scam. Ads for legitimate positions are very few and far between. If it's for a "marketing" or "sales opportunity" or "survey" job without specfics about the employer, location, requirements (= has to have some besides being breathing), compensation and duties, it's a scam; pass on it.
my bootstraps. March 04, 2013 at 07:55 PM
I disagree that 2 incomes are neccessary. My husband makes less than $30K annual and we are homeowners living within our means by eliminating unneccessary spending. No cell phones, no television, no car loans, no prescription drug costs. People must choose what their priorities will be. Now that I no longer work a job I hate, (being a waitress) I am free to work meaningful jobs for free as a volunteer. I give of myself to the community and have faith that all my monetary needs will be met. I do spend alot of money on food, as we purchase organic and local fruits and veggies, raw milk, and grassfed meats. I quit drinking beer a year ago, saving about $15/week. This enabled us to maintain our standard of living despite rising fuel and food costs. Many small changes amount to BIG savings. We recently purchased our first home for <$100K in an older part of town, paying low taxes and sending our child to catholic school. This year, I will plant my first backyard garden to reduce my grocery expenses which, incidentally, are twice my housing costs. Our healthcare costs are minimal since we eat a healthy diet and get plenty of fresh air and sunshine. I think families should have a parent home and volunteering most of the time during the child-rearing years, to give the next generation an example to follow. If you can't find a job, like so many in this economy, my suggestion would be to become as simple and self-reliant as possible and stop thirsting for monetary wealth.
Jim G. March 04, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Applause, MB. You've figured it out, too. I would only change your last sentence a bit. Monetary wealth is not the problem; we will all need some degree of such 'wealth' in our later years when income is no longer possible. The problem, more exactly, is the endless waste of family resources on useless goods. Everyone would be better off if they understood one simple fact: There is no such thing as "disposable income." It isn't even necessary to live a self-reliant life if you learn not to waste what you earn - and most people waste a majority of their lifetime wealth.

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