Help Wanted: Finding a Government Job While Avoiding Scams
Federal Trade Comission
HELP WANTED … FINDING A JOB
I saw an ad in the newspaper for jobs in corporate finance. I faxed my resume to the 800-number listed and got a call from a woman who said her company works with businesses to find employees to fill their positions. She said the service would cost me $495, but the fee was fully refundable if I was dissatisfied or found a job on my own. She guaranteed me interview opportunities and told me that if I found a job through her company, there was a good chance my new employer would reimburse me for the fee.
I never got any interviews, let alone a refund, and now I can’t even get the company to return my calls.
—paraphrased from a sample complaint letter to the FTC.
If you’re looking for a job, you may come across ads for firms that promise results. Although many of these firms may be legitimate and helpful, others may misrepresent their services, promote out-dated or fictitious job offerings, or charge high up-front fees for services that may not lead to a job. Some ads may direct you to call a toll-free 800-number. Once you’re connected, you may be switched to a pay-per-call 900-number without your knowledge, or you may be asked to call a 900-number without a proper fee disclosure. Both practices are against the law.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sues businesses that fraudulently advertise employment openings and guarantee job placement. Consumers who respond to these ads think they’re contacting a bona fide placement service that’s seeking candidates to fill specific jobs. Instead, they’re reaching a business that rarely helps consumers get employment through its “services.” To make matters worse, these businesses invariably charge advance fees — ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars — for their “services,” typically imposing the fees without consumer approval, or promising — falsely — that most or all of the fees ultimately will be refunded.
Government Scams and Myths
Types of Employment Service Firms
When you’re looking for help in finding a job, it’s important to understand the differences among employment services. Many terms, such as employment agency, personnel placement service, executive search firm, or executive counseling service are used interchangeably. Find out what services a firm offers, how much the services cost, and who pays. If you’re required to pay the fee, find out what you’ll owe if the employment service fails to find you a job or any leads.
Six basic types of service companies/agencies offer consumers help in finding a job. They include: public employment services; employment agencies; executive search services; temporary help services; executive counseling services; and job listing services.
- The federally-funded and state-operated Public Employment Service, also known as the Job Service, operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The Employment Service provides Internet access to America’s Job Bank (AJB). On any given day, this national resource lists hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. It also provides links to numerous employment and training programs in each state, including programs for people with disabilities, minorities, older workers, veterans, welfare recipients, and young people. There are some 2,300 points of service nationwide; about 1,700 of them are full-time, full-service offices. The Employment Service provides its services free to both employers and job seekers. Openings range from entry level to technical and professional positions. Visit www.ajb.dni.us for more information.
- Employment agencies or personnel placement services work to fill specific positions available within companies. Their purpose is to bring applicants and employers together. Often, the hiring company pays the placement fee, but when state law permits, you and the employer may share the fee or the fee may be billed to you after you’ve been hired. Employment agencies usually are licensed in the state where they do business.
- Executive search firms or executive recruiters are hired by businesses to find the “right” person for a particular job within an organization. Recruiters sometimes are referred to as “headhunters.” The executive who is hired doesn’t pay the fee; it’s part of the agreement between the hiring business and the search firm. Executive search firms usually subscribe to a code of ethics established by industry members; some firms are licensed by the states where they do business, as required by state law.
- Temporary help services supply workers to businesses on a temporary or as-need basis. Businesses pay an agreed-upon wage to the temporary service for work performed by the employees. The temporary service firm pays the workers, not the temporary employer.
- Executive counseling services or career counseling services help job seekers with career directions and decisions more than with job placement. They may offer services like skill identification and self evaluation, resume preparation and letter writing, and general information about companies or organizations in a particular location or job field. Fees can be as high as $4,000, and payment often is required before services are provided. You’ll probably have to pay this fee even if you don’t find a job. Placement is not guaranteed. State law dictates whether executive counseling firms are licensed.
- Job listing services or advisory services sell information about getting a job in the U.S. or abroad. They often use pay-per-call 900-numbers to do this. They do not provide actual job placement. Information may include lists of job openings, general tips on conducting a successful job search or interview, and broad guidance in resume writing. These advisory firms often require an up-front fee for their listings.