By David Burden | , Should You Invest Money in Your Job Search?

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A big part of my job is networking with job seekers. Sometimes I’m calling to share a particular opportunity with them. Other times, they’re reaching out to network and learn what I’m seeing across industries. I’m always happy to take a networking call and explain how I can be a part of their job search strategy. A question that people often ask is “How are you paid?”. Even if they don’t ask it, I’ll bring it up and also share this article from the FTC with them. Re-reading this resource recently, I started thinking more about the career transition process and some common questions that come up with candidates and people in my network. Here’s my advice on when to invest money in your job search.

Should I pay for help with my job search?

Job hunting, especially if you’re unemployed, can be a very stressful time. Out of the blue, someone says, “For a little money down I can solve your problem.” It’s attractive. I get it. But it’s also easy to fool someone who wants to be fooled. Trust me, I know.

Should I pay a recruiter to “get me that position that isn’t even posted?” 

No. Organizations pay recruiters to find people for jobs- not the other way around. As a third-party recruiter, it is unethical for me to take money from someone in exchange for presenting them for positions for which I am also being compensated by the employer.

I’m also under contract with the organization and while I have a lot of autonomy, I’m their agent and I have the obligation to present the candidates who are the best match for their needs, not “my favorites.” Besides, what would happen if I allowed the “second best” candidate to influence my decision and then the placement didn’t work out? In that case, my reputation takes a hit, and I end up running a replacement search or I refund the fee. Neither of those options are good.

If I pay someone $500 they’ll give me THE resume that will get me the interview. I should invest money in this job search necessity, right?

Look, if writing isn’t your thing, or you haven’t done a job search for several years, a resume can be TOUGH to write. It may be worth investing in thisGood technical writers aren’t cheap. 

BUT, if you choose to pay a resume writer, ask lots of questions. How long have you been doing this? In what fields, at what levels?  What do you know about career paths in my industry?  Do you have metrics that demonstrate your claims?  A “good resume” for director-level roles in Electrical Engineering will be VASTLY different from C-level roles in Logistics -and Retail/Wholesale will have its own flavor. There needs to be give and take between you and your “vendor” here but this will still be your project, not theirs.

It may be worth having a professional help you organize your professional experience, show you formats and keywords, etc. But, ask these questions before you start: Who owns the final product? Do you get a digital copy that you can alter for each opportunity? Is that extra? What will they charge for a “customization”?

As a recruiter, I have to tell you that there is no such thing as THE resume. I ask my candidates to tailor their resumes to the opportunity under consideration. There are times that your volunteer experience at the animal shelter might merit eight lines if you’re applying for something in animal welfare or pet foods. If you’re an accountant and the animal shelter needs an accountant, play this up. If the local widget factory is advertising for “the exact same role,” the shelter is a line at best.

Do I need an executive coach? 

You might. That’s not my forte. I try to add value to my candidates’ day every time I speak with them by sharing what I know of their field, relating what I know of the processes and missions of organizations in their space, and suggesting some changes to the resume/cover letter based on what I know on who the organization wants. I do strategy sessions and debriefs with my candidates before phone/video interviews and again after the onsite interview. Even if you don’t get the job, if you work with me, you’re going to learn something, make new contacts in your space, and do some creative cross-pollination as you interact with the hiring authorities. All of this adds value to the candidate experience and for the organization, but it’s not executive coaching, clinical counseling, or anything close.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you hire an executive coach: What would I gain from a coach vs. a mentor? What is my coach selling How does my coach define success? What is the pathway to achieve it? Is this “coaching” actually a soft sell for other “job placement services?” That’s a BIG red flag.

The bottom line is this…  

Sometimes you need a pro, but be careful before you invest money in your job search. Ask questions and don’t let happy talk and sweeping generalizations sway you. 

If you invest in professional services, how will you know you got your money’s worth? What guarantee or recourse do you have if the desired outcome isn’t achieved? Did you run the service provider through the Better Business Bureau or even google the name with the terms “fraud, or scam”? This generally pulls up The Better Business Bureau, The Rip Off Report, and other similar sites. Do they have references? Not “testimonials.” Do your homework. Find real people that you can network with and ask about this- not a quote from “Sally in Idaho” on their website. Like Yelp, you can’t trust all reviews, but if there’s a pattern here take note.

So why should I work with a recruiter if I’m a candidate- especially if they don’t work for me?

Good question.  That’s the topic of my next blog post.

Stay safe.  Ask questions.  Know your worth.