Job hunting is tough enough without having to deal with bogus employment agencies and recruiters. It’s a shame that in today’s job market, there are some con artists out there trying to prey on vulnerable people. If you’re looking for a job, here are some tips to protect yourself.
How to Identify a Phony Employment Agency Recruiter
A bogus staffing agency may have a professional looking website and not have any complaints on the Better Business Bureau or other online sites. There are no surefire cues, but here are some warning signs:
- The number you call back on to reach the recruiter is patched through to an area code or prefix different from the one on the agency’s website. This may indicate a Skype number. The so-called recruiter may actually be in India or some other overseas country. If you call the number back and can’t get through, it’s definitely a red flag.
- An interview is conducted online through Skype or similar service with a staffing company that doesn’t include any representatives from the company you’ll be working for. At some point in the interview process, you should have an opportunity to speak to a person at the company you’ll be working at.
- You get a job offer without ever having contact with someone from the office where you’ll be working.
- You’re asked to send paperwork with personal information, like your driver’s license or social security card, to the staffing agency in a rushed fashion. Regular snail mail transmission is discouraged. They’re very eager to have it emailed, faxed, or sent by courier or express delivery. This is a huge red flag for identity theft.
- It sounds too good to be true. The pay is top rate, the hours are flexible, they’re flexible about giving you a 1099 as an independent contractor or W-2 as a regular employee.
- They ask for money. If you’re asked to pay for their service or take a test, it’s a red flag. Legitimate employment agencies make their money from the employers.
Steps Job Seekers Can Take for Protection
- Don’t put a home phone number or street address on your resume. Use a Skype or easily changed cell phone number or post box address if necessary.
- Call the employer directly to verify that the position and your candidacy is legitimate.
- Don’t send any documents with personal information until you’ve called the employer yourself and verified the legitimacy of the job offer.
- Don’t put your street address on your resume.
- Check the employment agency out. Look at their website. Does it look professional and give a physical address? Check the Better Business Bureau and Google their name. While not finding anything suspicious isn’t a guarantee of legitimacy, something might turn up, so it can’t hurt to check.
It’s unfortunate that there are people out there lacking any conscience who prey on others. Whether they’re employment agencies or dating partners, there are those out there who will study you and try to prey on your vulnerabilities to their advantage. I can’t explain how their twisted minds deal with their evil ways. Do they justify it because they see themselves as victims in life? Are they just pure evil and aren’t capable of remorse? It doesn’t really matter. Report them to the appropriate authorities, take defensive measures, and rest assured that eventually they’ll get the misery they deserve. What goes around comes around.
Freelancing is challenging and it’s easy to make mistakes in getting hired. These mistakes can harm not only your income, but freelancer reputation as well. I hope the following advice will help you avoid some of the bumps along your road to success.
Freelancing Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way
Research Your Client – Many sites that post freelance jobs, like Elance and Freelancer, will display information about the employer, such as feedback from other freelancers, number of paid jobs, total amount paid, etc. This can provide valuable clues about their integrity and potential for future work with this client. It can also raise red flags, such as when they have no payment history, the payment method isn’t verified, or they have a number of unpaid jobs.
Don’t Communicate Off-Site About Freelancer Terms – If the site has a method for describing job terms, make sure to include all the details regarding the tasks involved, deadlines, and payment terms in the form provided on the site. Even if you’ve discussed terms through messages on the site, repeat them in the main page that evidences acceptance of the job proposal.
Always Nail Down the Price – Some job postings are vague about payment terms. Always get a written agreement that defines precisely how you will be paid, including:
- Amount – This might be fixed price or hourly. If it’s hourly, make sure to agree on the number of hours authorized. If it’s an incremental or piecework rate, define the rate and amount of work to be performed. For example, a blog post assignment might be paid on a per word basis, so define the amount per word and the number or range of words to be written.
- Payment method – Specify whether a credit card, Paypal, etc. will be used if the payment method isn’t already defined. If there are associated fees, be clear about who will be responsible to incur the fees or additional charges.
- Time of payment – Will you be paid in a lump sum, incremental amounts as milestones are achieved, and on what exact date(s)?
- Never work on spec – The client should have an opportunity to see your work portfolio prior to hiring you for the job. If they’re satisfied with the examples, they shouldn’t have a problem with paying you to get a job done. Escrow arrangements can resolve any doubts about delivery, and Paypal protection may also apply.
- Don’t Give Your Work Away – Some employers will try to get you to submit an initial project at a greatly reduced rate or even free, with the promise of future work. This is usually a scam, and simply a bad business practice that you shouldn’t agree to. It may be tempting when you’re having dry spell, but don’t set yourself up to get used by an unscrupulous employer this way. Look for employers who have integrity and the financial backing to pay a fair price.
Written by Dana Altman
Have you ever worked for a friend? Are you still friends?
Written Contracts – Are They Always Necessary?
A fellow blogger and close friend recently asked me to do a small freelance job and I accepted her offer via email. I helped her out for free when I was steadily employed, but told her I can no longer work for free now that I’m getting my freelance copywriter business off the ground. I’ve thought of this friend as a sister for several decades, due to the history we shared in our youth. I didn’t think it would be necessary to sign a formal work agreement, especially for only fifty dollars.
I thought about how many times I’d told others to always have a contract signed. Suddenly, I felt like a big hypocrite. I imagined what would happen if my dear friend decided to stiff me. While content writing isn’t making me rich at the moment, I’d be upset about more than money. Failure to get paid would be more upsetting because of the statement it made about our friendship. It’s frustrating to waste my valuable time and efforts, but I would be deeply hurt and demoralized to be used by a friend that way. Many others out in the business world- government agencies, corporate entities, etc. already mistreat me, I sort of expect it from others now. However, I still cling to the belief that I can count on my friends to value and respect me. It would really throw me for a loop to be taken advantage of by someone I considered a best friend. I’d hate to think she valued saving fifty dollars more than she valued our friendship or me. While I don’t value myself according to how others do, but it would still sting.
Drawing Boundaries in Business
I decided rather than risk losing a good friend or my faith in humanity, I should just refuse to work for a friend again. If someone offers me a job, I will accept only if the money is more important to me than the friendship. That’s just how it’s going to have to be now. I’ve learned over the years I must set healthy boundaries. Pain has been a motivating factor in setting up boundaries, I’ve established more than a surveyor’s map by now. I prefer to erect boundaries before, rather than after the suffering, but don’t want to become isolated inside too many barricades either. If you’ve been burned by a friend and have since set the same boundary, please share. If you think I’m going overboard, I’d like to hear from you too.
Written by Dana Altman