Employment Agencies & Placement Firms

Most employment agencies are reputable and have your interests in mind.  However, some are all too willing to take a substantial sum of your money and forget about all the promises they made to you.

Job hunting can be stressful.  Before you contract for any job-hunting services, ask yourself what type of assistance you need and whether the services offered are necessary and worthwhile.  Ask specific questions to determine precisely what services you will be purchasing.  Consider how you will be able to verify that services are being provided.  As with any contract, read it carefully before you sign it and before you pay any money.  If the sales representative makes promises that are not contained in the contract, the written contract (not the verbal representations) controls the transaction.  Beware of firms that request money up front before they will send you the contract.  If you cannot read the contract before you send money, you are better off looking elsewhere for services.

No employment agency or placement firm can guarantee you a job.  An employment agency’s claim that there are large numbers of openings does not mean you will want those jobs or that your skills will match the employers’ job descriptions.  Find out whether the employer will reimburse you for the fee you paid to the agency before you sign any contract with an employment agency.  If the answer is “maybe,” you won't know for sure until you discuss this with the potential employer.  Do not count on the employer reimbursing the fee to you.

What will happen if you pay the fee and do not get a job?  Ask specific questions about refunds. Are refunds provided?  Under what circumstances?  What must you do to obtain the refund?  Some refund requirements are quite strict and if they are not carefully adhered to, you may lose out on any refund.  This could mean no job and no refund.  Make sure you understand the refund requirements before you sign a contract with an employment/placement firm.

You should check with other employment firms that offer similar services and compare costs, services, verifiable placement ratios, refund provisions, references, and whether or not the employer pays all or part of the agency's fee.  Many employment firms include resume and job counseling services as part of the package.

Employment Agency Red Flags

You may see ads for firms that promise fantastic results.  Many of these firms misrepresent their services, promote out-dated or fictitious job offerings, or charge high fees in advance for services that may not lead to a job.  Before spending money responding to placement firms or completing placement contracts, you should:

  • Reject any company that guarantees employment.
  • Be skeptical of any employment-service firm that charges first, even if it guarantees refunds.
  • Get a copy of the firm’s contract and read it slowly before paying any money.  Understand the terms and conditions of the firm’s refund policy.  If oral promises are made, but don’t appear in the contract, think twice about doing business with the firm.
  • Don’t fall for high-pressure sales pitches.
  • Be aware that some listing services and “consultants” write their ads to sound like jobs when, in reality, they’re selling general information about getting a job.
  • Be wary of firms promoting “previously undisclosed” federal or state government jobs. All federal positions are announced to the public on www.usajobs.gov. All state jobs are announced on dhr.idaho.gov.

“Work-At-Home” Opportunities

The economy has also spurred a resurgence of individuals offering to show consumers how to set up Internet businesses, particularly on eBay.  Companies charge outrageous fees ($10-$20,000) for software, written materials, and telephone coaching that never result in the type of wealth promised.  Fast-talking salespeople, who claim consumers can make thousands of dollars, target senior citizens.  These transactions occur over the telephone after consumers express an interest in receiving information about home-based businesses.

Mystery Shopper Promotions

Some stores hire research companies to evaluate their quality of service.  These research companies use mystery shoppers to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience.  Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research companies and never charge a fee to register or for training.

Fraudulent promoters use newspaper ads and e-mails to create the impression that they can help a person obtain mystery shopper jobs.  These solicitations usually promote a website where you can “register” to become a mystery shopper — after you pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.  You are likely to find out later that you paid money for a worthless service and no real job.

You should never pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business.  The shopping ”certification” offered in advertising or unsolicited e-mail is almost always worthless.  Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck.