If you are looking for a job, you might come across employment ads that were placed by employment assistance businesses.
Although many of these firms may be legitimate, many others misrepresent their services, promote fictitious and out-dated job listings, or charge large upfront fees for services that often may not lead to a job.
Some ads might direct the potential client to call a 900 telephone number for job information. You will be charged either a flat fee or you will be charged by the minute for each 900 call, and the charge usually is much greater than the toll for an ordinary long distance call.
Other ads may ask you to visit the company's place of business for assistance in résumé preparation, letter writing, and interviewing skills.
Choosing an employment service company
Do not judge an employment service company by its name.
Classified advertising and telephone book listings do not always make clear the differences among employment services. Many names are used loosely and interchangeably.
It is important to find out what services the company offers, how much those services cost, and who pays the fee.
Before you contact any employment service company, follow the suggestions listed below. In addition, before you pay or commit to pay for domestic or overseas job placement information, contact the company and have them send to you in writing what you will get for your money.
- Consider your needs carefully. What type of employment assistance do you need and how much are you willing to spend for that assistance?
- Know what a 900 number call to an employment listing service will cost before you make the call. Reputable companies will state these costs upfront. If you have fraudulent 900 number charges on your phone bill, ask your telephone company to delete them. Although the company is not legally obligated to do so, many times, if you have been a consistent and faithful customer, they will delete them.
- Before you sign a contract, ask any employment assistance company you contact if you or the employer pay for its services.
- When you are required to pay, ask the company if payment must be made before services are given and if you are required to pay even if you do not find a job.
- Look for an employment service company that regularly fills the sort of position you are seeking. Although only 10 to 15 percent of a company’s employment needs are advertised in newspaper or trade magazine classified ads, they are good sources for finding specialized employment agencies as well as employment positions.
- Realize that employment service companies can promise only to help you find a job; they cannot guarantee that they will find you an appropriate job that meets your talent or ability standards.
- Check with your local consumer protection agency and state attorney general’s office to find out whether they have received any complaints about an employment company that interests you. You also can ask these agencies about state laws governing employment service companies.
- Always read the contract carefully before you sign it. Do not feel you have to rush into any decision. You should thoroughly read and understand all provisions of the contract before you sign it. If verbal promises are made, make sure they appear in the contract, because the written contract is the legal document, not what is said or promised verbally.
There are six types of service companies that offer assistance in obtaining employment: public employment services, employment agencies, executive search services, temporary help services, executive counseling services, and job listing services.
Public employment services
The federally funded and state-operated public employment service, also known as the Job Service, operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
There are some 2,300 points of service nationwide, of which approximately 1,700 are considered full-time, full-service offices.
The Employment Service provides its service free of charge both to employers and to job seekers. Openings range from entry-level positions to technical and professional positions.
The Employment Service provides access to the Interstate Job Bank, a nationwide source of job opportunities.
It also provides links to numerous employment and training programs in each state, including programs for the disabled, minorities, older workers, veterans, welfare recipients, and youth.
Employment agencies or personal placement services work to fill specific positions available within companies.
Their purpose is to bring applicants and employers together. In many cases, the hiring company pays the placement fee.
In other places, where law permits it, the fee is either shared by the employer and the job seeker or is billed directly to the job seeker once his or her job has been secured.
Employment agencies are generally licensed in the state in which they do business.
Executive search services
Executive search firms or executive recruiters are hired by businesses to find the right person for a particular job within a company. These recruiters are sometimes referred to as headhunters.
The executive who is hired does not pay the fee; fee payment is part of the agreement between the hiring company and the search company and could be as high as an amount equal to one-third of the potential employee’s annual income.
Executive search companies usually subscribe to a code of ethics established by industry members, and some are licensed by the states in which they do business, as required by state law.
Temporary help services
Temporary help services are companies who provide workers to businesses on a temporary basis.
Businesses pay an agreed-upon wage to the temporary service for work performed by its employees. Workers are then paid by the temporary service firm, not by the temporary employer.
Executive counseling services
Executive counseling services or career counseling services assist job seekers more with career decisions rather than with job placement.
They may provide such services as skill identification and self-evaluation, résumé preparation and letter writing, and general information about companies in a particular geographical area or job field.
Fees could be $4,000 or more, and payment is often required before services are provided. You probably will have to pay this fee even if you do not find a job.
Placement is not guaranteed and executive counseling companies may or may not be state licensed.
Job listing services
Job listing services or advisory services sell information, sometimes through 900 telephone numbers, about obtaining employment in the U.S. or abroad. Information may include lists of job openings, general tips on conducting a successful job search or interview, and broad guidance in résumé writing.
Advisory firms often require an upfront fee, which usually is charged even if you do not find a job through the firm.
Be aware that some listing service and advisory companies may place ads that appear to offer jobs when, in fact, the firms are selling only employment information.
Free employment information
There are a number of free sources of employment information, in addition to newspaper and magazine classified ads.
- Job service offices usually post job vacancies. They also provide some counseling and referrals to other job resources.
- Local and county human resources offices and information referral services usually offer placement assistance. In addition, they can give you the names of other groups that can help.
- University and college career service offices usually limit their assistance to students or alumni, but some may let you look at their job listings. They may be a good reference for free job information.
- Local libraries also can be a good source of information. Ask the librarian to direct you to material that can help you write a résumé, conduct an interview, or compile a list of companies you might contact about job openings. Most libraries have a good selection of specialty magazines and newspapers in which you can search for a job in the classifieds, as well as Internet access in which you can search online.
As you begin a job search, there is no way to predict how it will go. Most likely it will require a focused and persistent effort on your part.
Although without a doubt the most effective method of finding a job is through your personal contacts—friends, family, or acquaintances—there are instances in which employment service companies can be helpful and effective, especially when you have exhausted all your personal contacts.
However, before you decide on a particular company, investigate it thoroughly.