Who Pays?

Topics: John Sumser, Reviews, by John Sumser

theladders commercial

Desperate to please. Isn’t that who gets the job most of the time? Are the critics really mad because theLadders out-cynicals the most cynical?

Who Pays?

Have you noticed the noise about whether or not job hunters should pay for help? The controversy swirls around theLadders (the $100K plus jobsite). Various pundits, most of whom seem to be recruiters, are unsettled (sometimes vehemently unsettled) by the idea that a job hunter could or should spend money in pursuit of the next job. There’s even an international component.

While there is an occasional voice of reason, the piling on continues.

I wonder whether the HR and Recruiting professionals who are a part of the mob calling BS on The Ladders understand the implicit conflict of interest in their stance.

It’s odd, don’t you think, that the people who benefit most from job hunter ignorance are the most vocal in their criticism. After all, if prospective employees can easily find their way through the huge volumes of data, would they really need so much career advice and support? Hands down the loudest critics are those who benefit most from job search ignorance.

It would be something different if this was a chorus of hiring managers decrying the idea that sifting through job data is a value added service.

Let’s take a closer look at the question of who pays for job hunt assistance. Isn’t it really the case that the candidate always pays?

  • Lets start with badly designed employment websites. They are the vast majority. The extra time that a candidate takes to search through a badly executed site is precisely a cost to the job seeker. Candidate pays.
  • Who ultimately pays for executive recruiting fees? There are only two possible answers: stockholders or employees. Doesn’t it seem likely that a candidate’s salary would be higher if there were no headhunting fees? That the compensation budget for a given position is part salary, part recruiting fee? Candidate pays.
  • If you make the short list and are interviewed for the job, who pays for your time and effort? Candidate pays.
  • If you apply for a job by sifting through a kajillion jobs from Monster, SimplyHired, Indeed or some other source. Candidate pays in time and effort.
  • In the days of the newspaper, you had to have a subscription to see the jobs. Candidate paid.

Simply, the candidate always pays. The critics are making a distinction between cash out of pocket and the cost of waiting, inconvenience, lost opportunity and unnecessary effort. Seems like a distinction without much merit. Candidates can and do pay for all sorts of services.

There’s a double irony in this kerfuffle.

The history of Monster.com is instructive. During the time of their hyperbolic growth, the web was full of dark criticism of the Monster culture, pricing and sales approach. While the folks at Monster central put in some effort to change the company’s reputation, the hard reality was that strong criticism is a symptom (and maybe even a cause) of strong growth.

In a high growth phase, any publicity is good publicity. The critics may be a part of theLadders growth engine.The louder the noise, the faster the growth.

I was a part of the group invited to New York to get to know the Ladders. With the wind at their back and taller mountains to climb, the company is investing in a variety of ways to get their story out. The junket to the tony Standard Hotel is just a tiny part of theLadders charm offensive. The Ladders is trying to buy attention and credibility as it moves in the general direction of an IPO (my interpretation).

The folks at the top of the now 400 person organization are real veterans (and winners at that) of the dot com era. The two cofounders got to know each other as central figures at HotJobs, the company that introduced super bowl advertising into our industry. Back then, HotJobs invested the equivalent of a quarter’s worth of revenue in the super bowl ad. The IPO and ultimate sale to Yahoo are a part of the DNA at theLadders.

What I saw during the time I spent with theLeaders at theLadders was pretty instructive. The company is growing. Their ambitions are big. They know what they’re doing.

Like Monster before them, the company is full of machismo, arrogance and certainty. These are essential elements for a team headed towards the public markets. An IPO is a window through which you pass, not a destination in and of itself. The get together seemed to be an attempt to reach out and understand the limits of the market.

But, they weren’t really looking for answers.

As the bunch of us wandered through the corporate offices, it was hard to ignore the effect of having their current commercial running on endless loops on huge monitors all over the place. The 400 twenty-somethings working in the din of a bullpen with no offices seemed immune to the writhing bodies trying to desperately please the boss (that’s the commercial). If the job hunter pays business model starts the controversy, the latest ad campaign throws gasoline on the fire.

Desperate to please. Isn’t that who gets the job most of the time? Are the critics really mad because theLadders out-cynicals the most cynical?