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Monday, June 17, 2024

Column: Too good to be true

When’s the last time you actually won an iPod for being the one millionth visitor to a website or a free vacation to a tropical island?

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine scored an interview for an amazing job, which promised quick promotions and benefits like attending sporting events, cocktail parties, etc. I was excited for my friend, but it sounded too good to be true. When I Googled the company, the first thing that popped up was the word “scam.” I found countless warnings from former employees who had been lied to about the nature of the position. Reluctantly, I forwarded the info to my friend, hoping the news wouldn’t disappoint her too much.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Be warned that there are people out there who want to take advantage of job seekers. Employment scams can take many forms and they’re more common than you think. Some scams have reportedly involved identity theft, so exercise caution before handing over your Social Security number or any financial information. Here are some tips to identify and avoid them.

1. The source. Websites like Craigslist and Monster.com can be great resources for students and recent grads. But because anyone can use these sites, they are also available to scammers. Exercise caution when sharing your personal information. You are much less likely to be scammed on Aggie Job Link and industry/company websites, which are more carefully monitored and screened.

2. The first contact. Usually you should be approaching a potential employer first, not the other way around. Beware of opportunities that appear in your UCD e-mail if it does not specify the source of referral. Some recruitment scams contact job seekers, claiming to have wonderful opportunities for them that do not actually exist. Legitimate companies know that the talented people will come to them and will rarely engage in this type of recruiting (at least for entry level).

3. Vague qualifications. Employment schemes want to open a wide net to attract as many people as possible. The job descriptions for these positions will be very vague. Legitimate positions generally list specific qualifications such as preferred majors, previous related experience, computer skills, etc., whereas a scam may only require “an outgoing personality.”

4. Quick promotions and significant benefits. The following is quoted from a recent job ad: “First year=$47,000, second year=$78,000 and third year=$103,000,” not to mention the commission, expense accounts and full health insurance the posting boasts. For an entry-level, non-technical job, this posting is unrealistic and is littered with red flags.

5. Mention of sales or commissions. Commission-based jobs are often disguised as something else. A company might advertise a position using buzzwords with a title like “Marketing, Communication and Sales Coordinator” when it is actually based on demanding sales quotas and work hours. Legitimate commission-based jobs have a good niche for certain personalities, but they are not for everyone and have a high turnover rate.

6. Google it. It’s a simple step, but a very telling one. Read reviews posted on consumer advocacy or fraud report websites. Reviews may be mixed, but remember that the positive testimonials could easily be planted.

7. Any mention of an “application fee” or “training costs.” An employer will pay you for your talents and contributions, not the other way around. Once you hand over a check, there is no guarantee you will see that money again, no matter what the recruiter says.

8. “Just sign here …” Never sign a document before reading it. Employment scams may pressure you to sign quickly on the spot by downplaying the importance of the contract or by saying that it is essential to move you through the next steps of the hiring process. Ask if you can take home a copy to read over first.

9. If you did get caught in a scheme, don’t let it get you down. It can take six months to a year to find a job, especially in the current economic conditions. Whether you only exchanged a few emails before you realized the dishonesty of the business or you ended up working for them, know that it wasn’t your fault. There are also resources on campus that can help you in these situations.

10. Expand your job search strategies. Don’t be afraid to look outside California. Taking a job in another state will make you a more competitive candidate down the road than accepting any job that “pays the bills” in state. Moreover, a majority of jobs are never posted online. Common wisdom says that only 20 percent of your search should involve looking for jobs on the internet. In the remaining time, network with family friends and colleagues, build up your LinkedIn profile and develop yourself as a strong candidate for future positions.

JENNIFER KIM has 10 weeks to cover many topics. So I’ve posted a mini-column on the importance of cover letters at my blog at careertalkwithjen.wordpress.com. Jen can be reached at jsnkim@ucdavis.edu.

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