5 signs the job offer you received might be a scam

Since the great recession the job market has taken a big hit. One of the age groups having a particularly tough time with the unemployment rate are college students and recent college graduates. Their unique combination of naivete, desperation and eagerness for a real job creates a perfect storm for unscrupulous “employers” to target them.

Many of these so called employers are actually looking to fill commission only sales jobs. They typically involve telemarketing or door-to-door sales. They expect their recruits to pound pavement for upwards of 12 hours a day, sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods. They usually aren’t even selling a product people want and encourage the use of high pressure sales tactics to close the deal. Some companies sell services such as telecommunications, investments and insurance. Others sell products such as vacuums, meat, office supplies and magazines. Sadly, these are the most reputable of the scam artists.

More insidious companies have all the above characteristics and add an alternate means of profit by way of recruiting. They encourage you to recruit other people to do the same job you signed up for in exchange for a cut of the sales from those under you. This is a modern day (and borderline illegal) version of a Ponzi, or pyramid scheme. Another common (friendlier) name for this type of operation is multi-level-marketing program or MLM for short. There are some legitimate MLM programs but many are not.

The worst of the worst in this industry combine the above two business models and add insult to injury by charging all recruits a fee to either sign up for their program or buy useless materials for it. The other companies were just wasting your time and gas, these guys actually charge you money to be duped.

They fear Google

Since the majority of the web has moved to a powerful, omniscient search engine, many fly-by-night companies are finding it harder to dupe prospective salesmen to do their bidding. Inexperienced job seekers who would have been fodder a decade ago are quickly wising up to scam artists by Googling the name of their company and finding pages of warnings about their tactics.

Just like bacteria evolves and mutates to resist antibiotics, these snake oil salesmen are adapting to the post Google era. Fortunately, I’ve written you a prescription for the latest strain. The following are signs your job offer (or the job you are thinking of applying to) is a scam:

1. They contacted you first

How often do comic book collectors get approached by super models and asked on a date? If you have a bare-bones resume on Monster and companies are contacting you first, you should be suspicious right off the bat. While the economy has improved a little bit it is still largely an employers market. If your resume lists your last job as Taco Bell and companies are contacting you first, be wary.

2. The person who contacted you is a President, Vice President, District Manager, etc.

Again, unless you’re a former Fortune 500 executive this should be a huge red flag. If a reputable company does contact you first, the highest ranking person will probably be some type of manager or a human resources recruiter. It would be extremely rare for anyone at an executive level or above to contact an entry level employee. A District Manager may sound more believable, but the word manager is often used to loosely describe a block in a pyramid (scheme), which brings us to our next sign:

3. The position you are being offered is an “entry level” management or marketing position

Entry level management positions don’t exist. In fact the phrase itself is an oxymoron. No company, not even McDonald’s is going to make you any kind of manager unless you already have experience. By definition, experience as a prerequisite would make the position non entry level. You might think that because you have a college degree in management that you can somehow bypass experience and get an entry level position.

I am here to tell you that you cannot. I would know, I have a management degree. The only exception to this are internship programs. They are normally only offered by large companies and have little to no pay. They also do not make you a manager immediately. They require you to shadow a manager so you can gain experience.

4. They have a wide variety of open positions

If any company has dozens of positions available (under a wide variety of job titles) this is another red flag. The economy is far from fully recovered, and even if it was it would be very rare for a company to be rapidly recruiting at all levels. Companies recruit when they have vacancy. Usually, a position opens up when someone is promoted or discharged.

If you see positions available for clerk, manager, district manager and executive all for the same company then double check the address for the business; it should end with Twilight Zone. On what planet is a company recruiting an entire hierarchy of workers at once? Not ours, that doesn’t make sense. What they’ve done is renamed the same job a dozen times to attract as many keyword searching job seekers as possible.

5. They promote quickly

They promote quickly because technically you receive your first promotion when you find someone of equal or lower intelligence to join the company “under” you. If they promise you will be a manager or “director” or any other word that implies you run something after a short period of time, it usually implies you will be handling other recruits and profiting off their backs. The main way schemes like this fail is when the company runs out of gullible people to recruit. This leaves the lowest level managers with no income, or worse a loss (if they paid to join).