Since the first job boards came online, entrepreneurs have been trying to find ways to create a true headhunter-class service for job hunters and employers. The objective: to be able to charge the top fees headhunters do. Hey, a smart, no-barriers-to-success business mind should be able to figure it out. So it began. Bill Warren’s Online Career Center — the true granddaddy of job boards — launched on a gopher system, quickly followed by Monster.com and others. Niche boards followed, and “executive” services sprouted — and came and went, and came and went. No one was able to crack the headhunter code. No online service has been able to charge, say, $30,000 to fill a position.
So, these wanna-be’s started to do the next best thing: Lie. Headhunter.net offered a higher-class service, based on nothing more than its name. More recently, TheLadders was launched as the job service offering “the most $100k+ jobs.” For $180 per year, you get access. To what? Well, it’s not clear.
TheLadders uses the term “$100k” — $100,000 — 23 times on its About page. $100k appears four times in one paragraph of just three sentences. This is headhunter country, and Ladders comes right out and says it caters to “executive-level” people — and to HR departments seeking them. The message is that Ladders isn’t your run-of-the-mill jobs site. It’s “expressly for the $100k+ job seeker.” The promise is that, “Never again will you find yourself trolling through mid-level or bogus job listings on other, less-targeted job boards!”
And there’s the test: Bogus job listings. Bogus methodology. Bogus promises. Bogus business practices. If Ladders can rise above that, then they truly are who they say they are. But, it must walk the talk. And it doesn’t. It fails so embarrassingly, miserably, and transparently that TheLadders should just shut up, shut its doors, apologize to its investors, customers and advertisers, and Marc Cenedella should go home and start a chain letter, because it would be a more honest business than he’s got now. (According to his clients, he writes something akin to that, which he sends them regularly, and they want it to stop.)
I’ve been watching TheLadders, and I’ve critiqued it based on what I’ve seen — and based on what its customers and my readers have shared with me. My critique is also based on what I’ve learned from independent resume writers — third-party contractors who were paid by TheLadders to help start its resume services, until Ladders finished picking their brains and dumped them — to start its own resume services. And those resume services seem to reflect the quality of the company’s other services. What can you say about a company that charges you $1,375 for a resume, but you’re not allowed to talk to the resume writer? Anyone who has fallen prey to the Bernard Haldanes of the world knows the story: A sharp point-man sells you career-management services. You fork over your money. And you’re assigned to a greenhorn you’ve never met. Who is really writing all those $1,375 resumes?
Early in my review of TheLadders, the company did my research for me. I held the material back because I wanted to gather my own information before drawing conclusions. I admit it; I don’t like job boards. But I can always hope. So I kept an open mind. Maybe Cenedella had figured it out. But, everything I’ve seen puts a shine on the first solid piece of data about TheLadders that ever came across my desk. It’s an e-mail from a recruiter who works at TheLadders. It reveals how the company recruits for itself — and it must be judged on this, because this is what it’s selling: Expert recruiting and placement services.
Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella’s own words are the best way to characterize this e-mail: “Look, people don’t get to the $100k+ level by making rookie mistakes like this.”
Here’s the e-mail I received last fall, when Ladders was recruiting resume writers to write “executive-level” resumes. I’ve deleted the recruiter’s name, but the e-mail is otherwise un-edited. (The poor greenhorn doesn’t deserve to have her name turn up like this in a Google search the next time she goes looking for a job.)
Subject: Resume Writer Opportunity @ TheLadders.com
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2007 17:01:09 -0500
From: “[deleted]” <[deleted].[deleted]@theladders.com>
Hi Nick –
I’m a recruiter at TheLadders.com, and am working on many internal hires – our company and business is growing quickly! In fact, I’m currently recruiting for a full-time Staff Resume Writer position. Our resume services are a successful and growing line or our business, and we’re at a point where we’re looking to strengthen our team. Your name came up in conversation as a talented Resume Writer who really knows the industry. Will you consider a full-time opportunity at The Ladders.com?
I’ve attached a copy of the job description. Please let me know if this is an opportunity you may be interested in!
137 Varick Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10013
I am a headhunter. If you Google “headhunter”, my web site, asktheheadhunter.com comes up #1 or #2 — as it has for the past eight years or more. I’m not famous, but I’m a reasonably prominent name in the business. I don’t write resumes for a living. I’m not looking for a job, because I run a company that I own. A few minutes on my web site will tell you I’d never take a job with a job board. Next to a chihuahua with no opposing thumb to hold a pencil or tap a keyboard, I am probably the least likely candidate for a job as a resume writer. Even a headhunter-in-training would know to Google my name before thinking to get in touch with me about a resume-writing job. A recruiter working for a company that helps executives land $100k jobs wouldn’t waste the juice that runs between two synapses on a passing thought about me.
And, no professional resume-writing company would ever offer me a job.
Cenedella should go home and eat his own dog food: “Look, people don’t get to the $100k+ level by making rookie mistakes like this.”
Cenedella’s entire busines is one big rookie mistake. It’s a rickety ladder that goes nowhere. What else is there to say? What other test is there? TheLadders uses the same random recruiting tricks to hire its own staff that it delivers to its paying customers. There’s nothing “executive-level” here. It’s greenhorn operators dialing for dollars. Worse, Ladders customers — for all they know — are being served by chihuahuas that Ladders hired via that e-mail recruiting campaign that bombed my e-mail box.
No one at any salary level should waste a dime or ten seconds on a job service of any kind that can’t recruit effectively for itself. And any HR clerk, recruiter, manager, or executive who wastes his or her company’s and shareholder’s money on TheLadders should be fired and restricted to finding their next job… via TheLadders.
The problem with job boards is simple, and it is fatal. They are not job- and people-finding services. They are data base companies. They churn data. While some are based on clever algorithms, they are all dumb, thoughtless, mindless data bases. (Want proof? Look at the Google ads on this page. They are generated by a very expensive, sophisticated data base. The ads include some job boards because I can’t stop them all, try as I might. Watch this: JOB BOARDS SUCK! The ads are still there. Mindless.) The managers of job boards invest massive resources in their data bases; they invest nothing in content, knowledge, advice, guidance, or insight to serve their clients. They invest in hardware and software. That is the product — not jobs, not resumes, not hires. That is why they don’t work.
It’s not just my judgment, but a judgment of the market: Nothing that job boards offer is worth more than the loose change in your pocket, because that’s all the market will bear for their services. And that’s all they’re worth. So, why are they lying to you, and why do you want so badly to believe them?