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CareerBuilder's New Ad Campaign:
What's a sucker worth?

Quite a number of Ask The Headhunter readers work in Human Resources. If you're one of them, I like to think you're part of an elite force of the more progressive folks in HR. I want to save you a lot of money and a lot of time, but you have to hear my fantasy first. (You job hunters will benefit, too, so sit back and enjoy this.)

Here's the fantasy. You're the HR manager. I'm the job hunter. Mary, over in the marketing department, needs to fill a job. She's waiting for you to give her some resumes that you gathered. In this fantasy, I give you $150 bucks. (I smile a wicked smile, and you arch an eyebrow.) You take all those resumes you collected and you bury them under your desk. Then you give Mary my resume. $150. Everybody's happy.

But you'd never do that, or I'd cancel your Ask The Headhunter Newsletter subscription. Except here's where the fantasy turns into reality, and we all wonder if we're in a nightmare. There really is $150 changing hands, and a big stack of resumes is getting buried, and ol' Mary is going to blow her top when she finds out.

There's an advertisement being circulated via e-mail by CareerBuilder, the jobs site that's owned by three big newspaper chains, Gannett, Knight-Ridder, and The Tribune. The ad displays a computer screen-shot: the "results page" that an employer sees after it pays $565 to search through CareerBuilder's resume data base. But the ad is directed at the job hunter. Here's what it says:

Be Found First by Employers! One way employers fill positions is by searching and selecting candidates from the over 6 million resumes in our Resume Database. Would you like them to see you first?

The screen is mocked up to show the ad recipient's name right beside the title of "her resume". She's at the very top of the list of candidates being reviewed by the employer. All the employer has to do is click that resume and the interview ball starts rolling! (To view a facsimile of this ad, which was actually received by a reader who passed it on to me, click here. Please note that the image file is about 100kb. The only modification I've made is to obscure the name of the recipient, who prefers to remain anonymous.)

Hmmm. How does this job hunter get to be #1 out of 6 million resumes? The ad tells all:

"When you get a Resume Upgrade your name will be moved towards the top of the list in the resume database of millions of candidates. Our Titanium level upgrades show up in up to 95% more search results! Upgrade your resume now!

Is this possible? Among the 6 million resumes in the CareerBuilder database, which are funneled in from some of the best newspapers in the country, I can pay to move my resume to the top of the list that employers pay to search? Wow! Tell me more!

Wanna get ahead of the 6 million other suckers?
All I had to do was go to CareerBuilder's Be on the Top of the List page. And right there I found the answer. For a mere $150 I could get the "Titanium Position Upgrade" for my resume, which will be "applied for 30 days for better position in the search results". I can pay off CareerBuilder to bury all the other resumes and get ol' Mary to choose me first!

No, way, I thought. Isn't that cheating? Won't Mary be furious when she finds out? Why would she? It turns out the HR manager is paying CareerBuilder, too! (Don't you love it when at the end of the play, everybody turns out to be guilty?)

CareerBuilder's web page for employers says an employer can "Search Resumes" for $565. So I called the number, 877-235-8978, to learn more. For $565, the CareerBuilder rep confirmed that they'll let me search their entire resume data base. "Really?" I asked. "Does that mean I'd have access to all the resumes that people submit through all of CareerBuilder's newspapers around the country?". Yep! If I'm an employer, I can enter my search criteria, and I'll get a list of all the matching resumes. However, I can open and read only 300 of those resumes each day. But no sweat; who has time to read more than 300 resumes a day anyway?

Everybody pays!
So now I'm starting to get it. Pay attention, or you might get lost here. If you're an employer, you pay $565 to search for the resumes you want (say, by city, by skills, and so on). That gives you a huge list of matches from which you can pick 300 resumes that you can read in full, and from which you can select candidates to interview. Got that?

If you're a job hunter, you pay $150 to boost your resume higher on the list of resumes that employers will see when they do a $565 search. Of course, if 300 other people like you pay for the Titanium Upgrade first, well, that could change things. After all, there are 6 million resumes in that database. Not everyone can be first. Not even almost everyone. Got it?

Well, now I think we all get it. There's something wrong with paying somebody off to get a job interview. And there's something wrong with charging employers to "search" a resume data base where the "results" have been bought and paid for in advance. This is where I hope Ask The Headhunter pays off for the savvy HR folks who come here looking for a few nuggets of useful information.

(If that doesn't grab you, talk to your equal opportunity employment officer. If you recruit primarily from among those who can afford upgrades, are you discriminating? The "employer side" of CareerBuilder could not explain how the upgrade service would affect an employer's search for candidates. "That's something you'd have to ask the job hunter side." The job hunter side, at 866-438-1485, explained that there's no discrimination because anyone can bump their resume up by modifying it regularly, though those who pay for the upgrade are getting the benefit of the better positioning. Yah. The rep went on to say that they hope job hunters who boost their resumes are also qualified. Yah.)

Here's the bottom line. $150 is changing hands. Positions in the resume stack are being bought and paid for. HR is paying to search loaded lists. Mary is waiting for her HR department to deliver candidates.

So, who wants to sign up first? The $565 sucker, or the $150 sucker? Who wants the lead role in this fantasy?

Nick Corcodilos
Ask The HeadhunterŽ

It's Got Teeth
It Bites!

For more about the compromises in editorial integrity that have become commonplace since the newspaper industry has gotten into the online job-board business, see Job-Board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter.


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