Career Consulting Firms

When you need a job, searching the want ads in the newspaper or on the Internet can be frustrating, and you may be convinced that a career consulting company will help you secure a good position faster.  Some may promise to identify your marketable capabilities, target appropriate positions, and develop and implement an effective marketing program for you.  However, listing services and “consultants” often place nonspecific ads that seem to offer jobs when, in fact, they may only prepare resumes or share employment information.

You should be cautious about these ads and never pay for such services up front before you actually have a job.   Ask yourself:  “Am I getting my money’s worth?”

Do you know how to recognize a company that is not offering to fill genuine job openings?  Perhaps you have been enticed by a newspaper ad listing lucrative federal government jobs or paralegal/legal secretary positions.  This may be in the guise of a “job fair” set up for a specific, limited time; and the ad or the company’s name may imply that it is a state-approved program with connections to major employers.  Think twice about dealing with a roaming career consulting company that sets up in a hotel room and then moves on, and watch for statements such as:

  • “NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS (large print) for job development program (fine print).”
  • “Convicted criminals and illegal aliens need not apply.”
  • “Homeland Security positions available.”
  • “Tuition or referral fee (fine print).”

What you may really be paying for is nothing more than an application for a general position that is not available, or a take-home course to study for the civil service exam.  To avoid being taken in by this kind of scheme, you might be interested in what the law requires of such companies.  Georgia law [O.C.G.A. Section 10-1-393(b)(13)] stipulates that their advertisements must contain this statement:  “A career consulting firm does not guarantee actual job placement as one of its services.”

In addition, you and the company must enter into a written contract covering all the terms of the agreement, and upon your signature you must be furnished a copy.  The contract should include:

  1. The name and address of the firm;
  2. The date of the transaction;
  3. All details of your agreement; and
  4. The following statement, signed by you and a representative of the company:  “The provisions of this agreement have been fully explained to me and I understand that the services to be provided under this agreement by the seller do not include actual job placement.”

You may report a violation of these requirements to the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection

Note: The type of company described here is not to be confused with a legitimate “headhunter” service whose client is a business, frequently a corporation, truly seeking to fill a professional position.  The recruiter contacts you or other likely prospects, not the reverse.  He or she works either on retainer or on a contingency basis.  The employer, not you as the prospective employee, pays the “finder’s fee” and signs the contract with the search firm if you accept an offer of full-time, permanent employment.

The scenario is different when you are placed with a company at an hourly contract rate, in which case you would be considered an employee of the recruiting firm.  The firm would represent both you and the hiring authority and would properly enter into a contract with both of you, earning a standard markup on your wages for the duration of the contract.

Questions to ask a recruiter

More tips for job-hunters