It is not just difficult to find a job these days, it is scary! New grads essentially have little to no experience and most entry level jobs ask for 2-3 years of related experience. New grads do need enough money to cover their costs, but entry level professional jobs pay an average of say $14-15 an hour, which is below a living wage for a single adult when considering cost of living in California. So ads that promise up to $1000 a week are quite tempting. New grads send out tens and hundreds of resumes and hear nothing back. So when you actually get a reply right away with an invitation to an interview, that's exciting!
Especially for new graduates with all the challenges they're facing and who have little experience with finding a professional job, it is easy to fall for scams. Job seekers will go on craigslist, indeed.com, monster.com, simplyhired.com, and all the other job posting boards, and think they're safe there. Well, maybe not so much on craigslist, but at least on the others. So the first thing to realize is that EVERYONE can post ANYTHING on these job sites. The first thing to keep in mind is that all of them are full of scams. Obviously, there are also many legitimate job postings. Here are a few hints on how you spot the scams, and some resources to read up on to learn more about what a scam looks like.
TOP 12 SIGNS THE JOB POSTING IS A SCAM
1. If it sounds too good to be true, it really is!
Period. "Well, maybe there IS a company that actually cares to pay me enough..." Bullshit! They don't have to give their money to entry-level employees... they're the least important. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you find a REAL job.
2. A legitimate job has a precise job description.
If is is vague, it's most likely a scam. If they tell you what they DON'T do, but don't tell you what they DO do, it's most likely a scam. Why wouldn't they just tell you? Well... because you'll really be doing something else than what you think you're applying for.
"NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY" =
"EVERYONE DUMB AND DESPERATE COME TO US"
3. "No Experience Necessary"
EVERY legitimate professional entry-level job wants you to have some sort of experience. That's why internships and campus involvement are so important! They don't tell you that for nothing! If the add says "No experience necessary," that's code for "Everyone dumb and desperate come to us."
4. You have to have a degree! It's not optional!
If you are looking for a professional job, a degree is a core requirement. If you want to get into marketing, finance, accounting, education, counseling... you name it, you need a degree. Even legitimate sales positions want you to have a degree these days. There is no such things as a professional job without a degree anymore! That's what happened 30 years ago. Not anymore! You got a degree for a reason. You take a job that pays you for it!
5. Promise of High Pay
Entry level jobs are hard to get and usually not well paid. Companies simply don't have to pay you well... enough other candidates will gladly take the job for less. Also, legitimate entry-level jobs have a salary or at least an hourly wage. Legitimate companies usually don't advertise what they will pay you (because you don't discuss that until after you're offered the job, and you are supposed to know that it is somewhere around $15). If a job listing focuses on the money you'll earn, discard it. The more closely it spells out how and what you are paid, the more likely it is to be a scam. You don't have an entry level job to make money. You have it to get experience.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO DO SALES, STICK WITH WELL KNOWN BRAND NAMES
6. Commission-Based Jobs
With or without promise of base pay - Red flag! Any commission-based job is more than likely a scam! Any commissions-only job is most definitely a scam AND a pyramid scheme. That being said, some sales jobs are commissions only, such as real estate. That's because you will essentially run your own business. Now THAT is legitimate. If you're working for someone else though, report to someone else and take someone else's work instructions, but you will only be paid on commission: Run! If you are going to do a sales job, you stick with large, well known name brands that are very clear on what your base pay is and what expectations are.
7. Growing or Expanding Company
It's code for "There is no one to train you and we need you to do everything for probably free." On top of it, you will have a name on your resume no one knows.
8. Immediate Openings for "a large number of people" or "only 2 spots left"
There is no such thing as an immediate opening. Even companies that need someone right now take a good two months for the hiring process until you're offered the job. It's something I personally don't understand, but it's just the way it is. Immediate opening probably don't even exist at McDonalds... the only place they do exist is in commission-based sales. Why is that? You're not really employed. No paper work, no extra hassles for their HR people to go through... you just start selling.
9. Apples are Apples, NOT Oranges - even if you paint them orange and spray them with orange scent.
Direct marketing is a fancy word for sales. Direct marketing is NOT marketing. It's sales. The term should really be outlawed. Those are the commissions-only jobs. Those are cold call and door-to-door sales jobs. Those are the jobs where you sell stuff no one needs while not making any money. Those jobs force you to use pressure-sales tactics that will make you go home every day hating your job. Those are the jobs that will look horrible on your resume because the industry you REALLY want to be in knows which those companies are.
Now, if that's what you actually WANT to do, I suggest you look for sales jobs or call center jobs. Look for those that plainly state that this is what it is. THAT's legitimate.
IF THEY HAVE TO SELL YOU THE JOB, YOU RUN!
10. Offering You Personal Growth
That's really code for: "We can't pay you." Now I know we all care about growing personally and your employer does want you to be happy with your job... but they could really care less about that when finding a candidate. You do not work there to grow personally, you work there to grow the company because you know what you're doing. If you're a good professional match, you'll like your job and you will automatically experience personal growth. It is not the employer's main concern for you to grow personally, nor should it be. There are laws about that. There are laws about personal interview questions they're not allowed to ask. If they're trying to sell you the job because it'll fulfill you personally, you start running! If they have to sell you any job at all, you run! How many unemployed people are there again (4 million in case you forgot)? YOU need to sell THEM that you're the right candidate (remember, it's hard to find a job these days) - If it's the other way around, there is something very very wrong!
GOOGLE "NAME OF COMPANY, SCAM"
11. Nowhere to be Found Online
Now before I start: I did do my internship at a legitimate PR agency with no presence online. They were not to be found online. BUT their clients could be found and linked to them. They were integrated into a large production company that COULD be found.
My point is: Every business wants as much exposure as possible. It's the point of having a business. If they can't be found online, it's fishy. It they're supposed to have a portfolio or a client-base, it better be there for the world to see. That's something companies are proud of. It endorses them, it gives them a reputation. If you can't find nothing but a website with vague or general statements about what they do (or even worse: Inspirational quotes and fun pictures of employees), it's most likely a scam.
Instead of just googling the name of the company, google "name of the company, scam." See what that brings up. You'll probably be surprised. Cancel your "interview" immediately.
12. BBB Rating
Now you would THINK that a Better Business Bureau rating would tell you if the company is legitimate. Sadly not true. That's because customers rate the business. If the customers are happy, the rating is good. If employees aren't happy, different story. Also, the BBB gives better ratings to paying members, which is why the head of the LA area BBB resigned in 2010 over a scandal about this sort of thing.
So do check out the BBB to see if they have a bad rating from the get go. And then your decision should be easy. But even if they have an A rating, still do your research.
PRIME EXAMPLE: THE "SO CAL GROUP"
A company that's recruiting relentlessly is the So Cal Group. I found their ad on craigslist. A friend of mine found them on monster.com. It sounded good. I googled them and found their website. Full of happy employees, inspirational statements and vague statements of what they actually do. Pay structure and training schedule is spelled out precisely to the dot on the i and the cross of the t. Personal growth is emphasized. No portfolio or client base listed. They say they do marketing, but don't specify what exactly it is that they do within marketing. You can't find anything expressly wrong with it, but you also can't find any precise information about what they actually do and what YOU would actually do. BBB rating is an A-, but it doesn't specify where the minus comes from. It really doesn't specify anything there either.
So I applied and figured it can't hurt to check it out. The very next day, they sent me an email telling me to call them. When I didn't call immediately, THEY called ME just a couple of hours later. NOW I was suspicious...I mean, I think I'm pretty darn good at what I do, but I don't think I am THAT essential for a company to not be able to wait a few hours to hear from me... my unestablished reputation in the business world must just be stellar... Fortunately, I was in a spot with no reception when they called and I told the girl I'd call right back. I didn't do that before doing some more research. I now googled "So Cal Group, scam" and guess what...
Check it out. I spent an hour reading all the devastating comments before I had seen enough (I could have read another hour) and came out enlightened. I also found names of other companies, as well as the mother company, that operate in the same way. I called them back and told them I was no longer interested. This goes back to my first point: If it sounds too good to be true, it really is! DO NOT BE FOOLED!
*Disclaimer: I am in no way explicitly or implicitly stating that the So Cal Group is a scam. I am merely stating my findings and I am giving proper resources to back them up. The readers may draw personal conclusions from my factual statements.
ABOVE ALL: BE WISE!
It's easy to ignore warning signs when you're desperate for a job. Do not make the mistake of falling for scams. Not only will you have a horrible experience if you actually were to take the job, but you would start out your career on the wrong foot... this is supposed to be your professional start into a wonderful and reputable career, where you learn the basics and the industry. Don't soil your reputation before it could even be established! Do not get into a line of work you do not want to be in with no expectations of transferring into the department you actually do want to be in, just because it promises to pay well. IT IS NOT WORTH IT! This first job is your most important one! CHOOSE WISELY!