Labor and Employment

Job Search Companies

Using job search companies to fill a vacancy or to find a job can be a very risky venture. Although many headhunters or employment assistance firms are legitimate, there are others who misrepresent their services, promote outdated or fictitious job offers, charge high fees to job searchers or place employers at risk of lawsuits.

Types of Employment Services

They go by many names- employment assistance agencies, headhunters, executive recruiters, executive counseling services- and with some important differences, they all perform one or more of the following services:

  • Advertise jobs
  • Screen applications and resumes
  • Refer potential candidates to employers

There are basically six types of employment service firms that have some important differences:

Public employment agencies. Also known as Job Services or Job Banks, these are federally funded and state operated employment service agencies that provide job vacancy listings and some limited employment counseling services.

Employment agencies. Also known as personal placement services, these agencies have agreements with employers to fill specific positions. While the employer usually pays the placement fee, the successful job applicant may have to reimburse the employer.

Executive search firms. Also known as headhunters or executive recruiters, these firms contract with employers to search for specific types of candidates to fill high-salaried professional or managerial positions. The employer pays the search fee. Most executive search firms operate under a professional code of ethics

Temporary help services. Also known as temp services, these firms contract with businesses to supply temporary workers on an as-needed basis. The temporary service firm, not the temporary employer, recruits, screens, hires and pays the temporary workers.

Executive counseling services. Also known as career counseling services, these firms help job seekers sell themselves to potential employers by providing such services as skill identification, self-evaluation, resume preparation and letter writing. The job seeker pays a large upfront fee and there is no guarantee of job placement.

Job listing services. These firms do just that, list job openings. They may also provide some advice on conducting a job search, interviewing and writing a resume. They also charge an upfront fee and frequently use 900 numbers.

Employer Concerns

If you are an employer who is thinking of using a job search company to help you fill your vacancies, you should consider the following:

  • The cost of hiring a job search company
  • The methods they use in supplying job candidates, such as exclusive use of the Internet or other recruitment and applicant screening methods, may subject you to discrimination lawsuits
  • Job recruiters may give misrepresentations about promised interviews or guaranteed employment
  • Your reliance on recruiters or headhunters to comply with laws concerning the retention of job applications

Your best response to these practices may be to provide a disclaimer on your application form stating that:

  • The application does not create an employment relationship
  • Any employment relationship will be terminable at the will of either party
  • No promises or guarantees of employment are binding on the employer
  • The employer is an equal opportunity employer

Job Seeker Concerns

Before you consider using job search companies to help you find a job, you should do the following:

  • Be suspicious of any promises or guarantees, particularly from firms demanding that you pay upfront fees
  • Do not give out your credit card or bank account information unless you are familiar with the firm and have agreed to pay for something
  • Review the firm's contract with you before you pay for anything
  • Do not feel rushed and avoid high-pressure tactics that want to you pay immediately
  • If the firm can't answer your questions or gives you evasive answers, it probably isn't legitimate
  • Remember, the listing service or employment counselor cannot offer you a job, only the employer can do that. So, be wary of false promises
  • Check with the employer to ensure that the job listing you are interested in is really valid

If you have a problem with a job search company, you should contact your local consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau, the state licensing board or your state Attorney General's consumer protection office.

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