Career Column: Beware 'Executive Marketing' Firms

By Dave Opton

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Executive career advice from Dave Opton, founder of ExecuNet.

Dear Dave:

I've recently been contacted by an executive marketing firm that promises to introduce me to several top executives in my industry in addition to providing access to unadvertised job listings. I've been looking for a new position for over a year now and I'm willing to try almost anything. However, this firm's services will cost more than $3,500, and I'm a bit leery of paying so much money up front. Any advice?



Dear Elizabeth,

Having spent nearly 40 years in the Human Resources industry, I've lost count of how many executives have told me they've fallen prey to so-called "executive marketing" firms that never delivered the services that were promised.

Career marketing scams are not new, but the number of complaints against these companies has recently increased along with the number of executives looking for jobs -- as many career marketing firms search the Internet for resumes then target unemployed executives.

Keep in mind that no matter how much money you spend, the only person who is ever going to get you a job is YOU. Furthermore, you are dealing with an unregulated industry so the old adage of buyer beware is very much in order.

This is not to say that there are not any number of thoroughly professional, well educated, and very successful career counselors who may help with the development of your career. However, when evaluating career management companies and their services, there's simply no substitute for thorough research.

Following are a few steps you may want to consider:

  • Visit your local small claims court and review its records to determine if there are any claims against them;

  • Use the Internet to learn more about what others are saying about the company in question. In particular, www.jobscams.com or www.execcareer.com;

  • Request and check references; and

  • Read any contracts or agreements very carefully to ensure that you and the company or counselor have a common understanding about what services will be delivered. For example, are the unadvertised job listings posted on another company's Website? Is the "access" you'll receive known or welcomed by the company or recruiter listing the positions? Specifically, how do they plan to introduce you to executives and how many?

    Hope this is helpful.


    Dave Opton is CEO and founder of ExecuNet, an online career services center for executives. Questions can be sent to Dave at deardave@execunet.com, he can't answer each individually but look for yours in an upcoming column.