TheLadders: More Cirque Du Soleil Than Evil Empire…

cirque

Many of you know that a few of us FOT Peeps attended the #PositionAccomplished Summit at The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District of New York City last week.  Given the mix of trench HR Pros’, Rockstar Consultants (like Mark Stelzner), and the Three Wise Men of Recruiting (Gerry Crispin, Kevin Wheeler, and John Sumser), we had a vibrant conversation ranging from widely accepted Recruiting Myths to the possibility of “modeling the intent” of the Job Seeker and Hiring Organization.

However, each of us found ourselves privately asking one another, “Why exactly are we here again?”  After taking some time to digest the event, I have come to a deeper conclusion than simply the notion that we’d collectively provide a positive PR bump.  Personally, I believe it’s because of the fact that TheLadders truly cares about their perception among us HR Pros and Recruiters.  They want to know why our Industry has so vilified them, and frankly, I don’t blame them.  For them to improve their relations and perception with us, they’ve taken real initiative to better engage in true dialogue.  Ultimately, they don’t need us; they’re doing just fine.  At the same time, they’re too intelligent of an Organization to turn a blind eye.

We can say whatever we want, but the proof is in the pudding – people are using TheLadders as their primary source and they’re getting jobs.  Further, TheLadders is growing – BusinessInsider claims the company was on pace to break the $80M barrier last year, up from $70M in 2009.  On the surface, an extra $10M in top-line earnings seems negligible, right?  Wrong.  That’s a growth rate of 14.3%, during the worst economic period dating back to the Great Depression.  Not bad, Friends – not bad at all.

Before I go too much further, let me be open that I understand the criticisms of charging Job Seekers.  I’m not buying them, though.  Here’s why: Consumers have too many options out there and can be paralyzed with information.  It’s difficult to discern the good from the bad, and frankly, bad advice is rampant and on the rise with the advent of Social Media.  So, on one hand, Job Seekers are paying for some level of quality-filtering of content itself.  There is value there.  Further, the act of paying creates a level of accountability that leads to firm action.  Many of us have gyms in our homes, yet still pay over $40 a month for a gym membership, driving there each day to work out.  Why?  Personally, I believe it’s because the act of handing over cash moves us to take action.  The stakes are higher.  Sorry, but I just can’t move with the Sheep on this one . . .

Below is a list of my personal observations from the event.  Note that they’re only mine and don’t represent anyone else’s at FOT –

#1 – TheLadders Execs are not “HR/Recruiting People”.  In my opinion, this is no mistake.  When you listen to them speak about Talent Acquisition and more esoteric concepts like “modeling the intent of both the job seeker and the hiring organization”, you realize that their frame of reference is much different than the norm we see in our industry.  In other words, they don’t operate with the same constraints we’d see in our space – they see a blank slate, and here’s the bottom line: It’s working.  Further, their Chief People Office, Kevin McManus, isn’t what we’d define as an “HR Guy”.  Listen to him speak for two minutes, and you realize he’s actually a really smart had that sees HR as a means to drive far-ranging impact to the bottom-line.  If you’re in HR and need some inspiration about what could be, he’s worth taking a real look at.

#2 – TheLadders is a high-energy environment.  The office environment is open and collaborative, somewhat like a trading floor of sorts.  Each employee is rocking a triple-screen monitor.  We can say whatever we want about early 20-somethings interfacing with $100k job seekers, but I can tell you what I personally observed, and that was a highly engaged and caring group of young people that took their job very seriously.  While I wasn’t able to speak to anyone individually, I noticed a group that appeared truly committed to their cause.

#3 – TheLadders builds into their consumer products a true understanding of Human Psychology.  For example, when a Job Seeker checks into their dashboard, there is a picture of their “Job Search Advisor” along with phone and email contact information to help the seeker feel more comfortable with their search.  While this is a real person (to anyone who might be wondering), I’m not sure how many calls these “Advisors” might be taking. However, I do know that the perception alone of having someone there who is willing to lend a helping hand when we need it helps us feel less isolated during the search.

#4 – TheLadders marketing is brilliant.  While receiving much criticism from our space, the latest commercial isn’t about us.  They’re not looking to appeal to HR or Recruiting; they’re looking to appeal to Job Seekers.  When it comes to marketing, sometimes an advertisement has to be outlandish or it just doesn’t stick.  Yes, TheLadders pushes the boundaries.  Big deal.  If you’re going to spend millions on air time, you better go big or go home, just like HotJobs did.

Further, what you’ll find on their website isn’t hard data on how many people are getting interviews or receiving job offers, etc.  In reality, this data would be extremely hard to compile because the resume advice you receive on TheLadders might lead to a job opportunity outside of those positions directly posted on their job board.  Can they actually track that?  Not really.  So what you will find on TheLadders is marketing that appeals more to the emotional, right-side of the brain than the left.  People buy with emotion and then try to justify logically, so I get it.  The pictures and Facebook-style updates (as testimonials) show the job seeker certain individuals who look like them, feel like them, have families like them, and conquered joblessness just like they will as well.  Perhaps they could take a page from Match.com and “commission some research” that TheLadders leads to more interviewws and job opportunities than their Competitors.  Ok, maybe not :)

#5 – There is no “Mahogany Row”.  While I didn’t have the opportunity to see the C-level “War Room” myself, I was surprised when Alex Douzet told me that all Execs work in the same space together.  While he mentioned this does create some Recruiting challenges, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a key part of their success.  Alex confirmed this by stating that, “Execs here have to be open to transparency as we’re all working toward a common objective.”

#6 – History proves that there is always room for a Cirque du Soleil.  Cirque found an opportunity between the Circus and Broadway, combining the best of both by creating their own “Blue Ocean” category.  This is exactly what TheLadders has done.  They’ve taken the best of the traditional Job Boards, Career Coaches, and Resume Assistance, combining them to create their own category.  Years ago, the majority of our Industry said they’d never make it.  Well, they did… which again speaks to point #1 above.

And sure, I understand that HR and Recruiting Peeps are going to read this and rail against the “moral depravity of charging Job Seekers”, but let me ask all of us a question: Since when did we become the Association for Job Seeker Advocacy?  Isn’t it ironic that we openly admit, as an industry, that we could do a better job handling Candidates and Job Seekers, yet we take out all of our frustrations on TheLadders?  And for a concluding thought to ponder, how about this one: I would suspect the lionshare of calls into the early 20-somethings at TheLadders surface around our own shortcomings while keeping the Job Seeker focused on not taking anything personal as they continue to fight on in their search.  At the end of the day, the young people operating in their call center just might be doing us a pretty big favor, and for that, I can’t help but appreciate the job they’re doing.

So, are there some things TheLadders can do better?  Sure, and they admit that.  They’re trying, and that’s all we can ask.  Their efforts to engage us indicate that they’re actually listening.  But to build an $800M USD valuation in such a short amount of time means that you’re going to have to take risks – it just is what it is.  Possibly the biggest lesson we can take away from their success is that there is always room for a new category that disrupts the status quo in a positive way.  We could all take a page from that book.

FOT Background Check

Josh Letourneau is the owner of Knight & Bishop, an Executive Search and Human Capital Intelligence firm, with an emerging focus on Social Network Analysis (SNA). Nope, not like MySpace, but more like who is connected to whom in organizations and how does that impact their influence on decision making and P.O.V.s. And you can learn more about all of this on his new blog .

29 Comments

  1. Wow. This misses the point altogether.
    The issue isn’t that they charge job-seekers. Lots of people charge job-seekers, from job coaches to resume writers. Who cares? If people are willing to pay for a service, great.
    The issue is that they LIE to job-seekers and engage in fraudulent business practices. They claim they offer a service that they don’t offer. I would bet money that a lawsuit is in their future, and it will be well-deserved.
    Engaging in fraud is bad enough under any circumstances, but it becomes extra reprehensible when the target is people who are desperate and vulnerable.
    Have you read Nick Corcodilos’ exposes on The Ladders? He makes such a convincing case that I can’t see why Fistful of Talent continues to turn a blind eye to their fraudulent practices.
    It’s disappointing to see writers sent on an expenses-paid junket and then turn out posts like this one.

    Reply
  2. April says:

    I have no problem, as a job candidate, paying for services from The Ladders.
    The problem: The Ladders doesn’t seem to be providing me any services as a job seeker.
    1. Jobs that are available on their site are available in 3-4 other major job boards and on the individual companies’ careers pages.
    2. Many jobs don’t pay close to 75K, much less the 100K advertised.
    3. The job seeker help – like the “resume review” that’s promised – Is a generic review that is used again and again to upsell paid resume review services. (The exact same resume review, word-for-word, was sent to 3 different job seekers: different industries, levels of experience, and different “consultants”.)
    It can charge all it wants, be filled with engaged people working their hardest, and have a great business model.
    However, until they actually begin to deliver on their promises, they are an untrustworthy organization.

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  3. Well said, April. I want to know who put out this meme that the criticism of The Ladders is about charging job-seekers. It seems like a deliberate straw man to me, since all the meaty criticism of them has been about something else entirely (fraudulent practices).

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  4. Martin Burns says:

    My biggest complaint – and I’ve had to deal with this from the hiring side – is when people would call to ask about a job they saw on The Ladders, or to follow up on an application they’d made. I’d have to explain to them that we didn’t list on The Ladders, that the job had been closed for months (in a few cases, for over a year), and that the job paid well less than six figures. The best part? They’d get mad at _me_, claiming false representation – “why would you tell The Ladders that this job pays more than six figures?” I’d have to explain – again – that The Ladders never called us to verify, that we didn’t list the jobs there, etc. I think they were more angry at getting tricked. Nobody likes to admit to getting suckered.
    I blogged about this once, after repeated calls to The Ladders didn’t seem to get them to stop crawling our career site. My main, and selfish, goal, was to stop the angry calls from executive job seekers, as it was a time-suck. Instead, The Ladders CEO made pesonal calls to complain to my CEO, CFO, and President the next morning. This was not a fun day for me.
    Apparently, they really do care about their image – as evidenced by the sweet junket to NYC they just laid out for a bunch of people I tend to respect, and calling to complain about random bloggers. I just wish they cared more about providing a great product to their paying customers.

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  5. Allison and April, I get it that I’m diverging from the sheep here. Trust me on that. In fact, I’ve been critical of TheLadders in the past. However, after going up there and interfacing with their Execs, as well as learning more about their operation, I can tell you that there is more to the picture. As with anything, we have to “seek to understand and then be understood” – this is what TheLadders is trying to do. I truly respect that.
    The notion of “engaging in fraud” seems overly sensationalistic. Can you elaborate? What are they lying to Job Seekers about? As a Seeker, you’re paying for a quality filter because of the avalanche of information out there today. In terms of their “resume advice”, the truth is that 99% of them aren’t good. Those that follow the formula endorsed by TheLadders just look and come across better – as an Executive Recruiter, I know (for a fact) that TheLadders format has a higher probability of moving you forward in the hiring process.
    They did inform us that they are attempting to filter out jobs that only meet the $100k criteria, however they do admit that it’s $100k total comp, not base salary. It is, by definition, an imperfect practice. And yes, I understand the criticism. Frankly, this is one area that I agree with each of you.
    @Allison, to your comment about FistfulofTalent continuing to “turn a blind eye”, please note that not everyone at FOT agrees with my take. And that’s ok. We’re not robots and have our own ability to think critically. I’m just offering an alternative perspective.
    I also understand that I’d personally be criticized with this post, such as, “It’s disappointing to see writers sent on an expenses-paid junket and then turn out posts like this one.” Let me defend my stance, however: If an Organization, TheLadders, or otherwise, was willing to pay for your flight and hotel to attend a meeting with some of the brightest minds in our space, would you turn it down? All of us went up there with a slight air of skepticism, but we wanted to learn more. I noticed open-mindedness among the group, which was no surprise. We wanted to dig deeper and see if the constant criticism was warranted. Just as TheLadders did, we wanted also to “seek to understand and then be understood.”
    In closing, I can honestly say that TheLadders understands our criticisms, and I do believe that want to improve not only their perception, but their ability to deliver. I can’t blame them for involving us in this process – it’s sure better than shutting us out. Just my $.02 – blogging is op-ed, after all!

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  6. April says:

    @Josh: “one of the sheep” – really?
    I’m not arguing with you about many of the things you posted. What I’d like for you to understand is that no matter how great The Ladders wants to be, they first have to deliver what they say they deliver.
    They don’t.
    Just because “99% of them aren’t good”, doesn’t give The Ladders a free pass on providing generic “your resume is bad” advice just to upsell. If their format is really that great, then they should be open and sell that. Why don’t they say – we have a better format that opens doors for executive candidates. For $x, we’ll work with you to create that format. They don’t do that.
    In closing – The Ladders needs to deliver what they say they deliver. When they do that, I’ll leave the sheep. While they operate the business as usual, I’ll continue to view them with a cynical eye.

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  7. James Papiano says:

    I agree with much of this: the Ladders and the rest of the recruitment and employment universe should be granted time to see effectiveness and errors and then adjust; a lot of people will pay money for something based on emotions; etc.
    But I am not sure it is enough to look at how much money they are making and imply that this is good for the talent market. Commercial success is not always linked to real improvements or advancements.
    Yes, the Ladders gets big props for innovating, for taking a stand, and experimenting. Without that we couldn’t have anything to talk about. They also get credit for inviting different communities into their conversations. And there in lies the highest and best opportunity for innovation at the Ladders: keeping this dialogue going across the various communities as a way of finding out what wants to happen next in the evolution of this field. No one perspective has the answers that will move the whole ecosystem of recruitment to the next level.
    There is much to admire about a business that succeeds in the market. But thats not where true innovation ends. My hope is that the Ladders continue a “meta dialogue” about their offering, model, the talent market and the larger employment and economic environments.
    Using the social network to sort out overlapping and conflicting interests is good way to start.

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  8. The sheep, really? That seems like an odd characterizing.
    Regarding their fraudulent practices, read this from Nick Corcodilos:
    http://corcodilos.com/blog/1390/theladders-job-board-salary-fraud
    and
    http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/newsletter/OE20090120.htm
    I’d be interested in seeing you or them address those allegations — rather than this straw man complaint that they charge job-seekers (which, again, isn’t something most people have a problem with).
    As Nick has shown, even this statement that you cited from them is a lie: “it’s $100k total comp, not base salary.” It’s often not anywhere near $100K, even with total comp thrown in. They are LYING.
    They are selling one thing and delivering something different.
    And I have no problem with people going on corporate-funded junkets. I do, however, have a problem with letting that buy positive spin for the funder.

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  9. TM says:

    As a $100K job seeker (have since gotten a job using a free site), I could see right through The Ladders. It seemed like a site for people looking to make $100K not those of us already there.
    I was a passive job seeker so I wasn’t willing to pay for their service. I signed up for their “free” preview and within 2 days, realized the only thing of value were their articles. Which I too could find elsewhere (at least content wise).
    Having worked in HR and Finance I’ve gotten good at spotting “fluff” and let me tell you, no matter how many freebies a company gives me…if they have nothing to provide of value…it is FLUFF. The Ladders is a horrible scam that just has the money to keep going.
    Unfortunately some people will overlook the obvious when given freebies. Due to my experience with them (and who am I but their target audience) I believe anyone looking for real solid information and $100k jobs should steer clear of The Ladders.
    I have to question why Josh would promote this company being that they are clearly not providing the service they say they are. I would also be interested in knowing if Josh would be willing to pay for their service and if he has used The Ladders to hire anyone.

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  10. TM says:

    I love FOT and can’t understand why your site would promote this service.
    BTW, I read Nick’s blog regularly and Allison DAILY (even get her updates emailed to me). The fact that they too find The Ladders crappy speaks volumes to me.
    Come on FOT…open your eyes about this company!

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  11. Can you elaborate? What are they lying to Job Seekers about?
    Sure, Josh, let’s elaborate.
    1. Salaries of jobs. Check the links to my blog that others have posted above, and other blogs including Laurie Ruettimann’s The Cynical Girl. Paying members of TheLadders wind up interviewing for jobs < $100k, then cancelling their memberships, while Ladders continues to ding their credit cards for the monthly fee. (And, according to reports, Ladders refuses to issue refunds, citing its credit card billing policy.)
    2. Salaries of candidates. Employers pay Ladders for $100k+ candidates. Here’s a quote from a Ladders customer service rep (on the phone), in response to this question from an employer who inquired, How does TheLadders know these people are in the proper income bracket?
    “Not the proper income bracket, but I know that they have enough money that they’re willing to use our service. So those are the two kind of initial qualifiers.”
    Who is lying? The customer service rep?
    More Ladders customer service transcripts: http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/newsletter/OE20090120.htm
    3. Exclusivity of job postings. My blog and many others are rife with reports from paying Ladders customers who find Ladders’ “exclusive” postings listed for free elsewhere. When they pay to buy “exclusive” listings, and Ladders’ customers complain loudly that they’re getting sloppy seconds, some state attorneys general should be counting up the complaints.
    4. Job listings directly from employers. Ladders clearly scrapes other job boards and posts positions that the employers never agreed to put on TheLadders. Ooops. Sometimes employers get upset. See the comment above from Martin Burns. Burns is not alone; I’ve cited employers who got quite angry, because dealing with candidates who found such fraudulent listings on TheLadders costs them time and money – and it’s been going on for years.
    As a Seeker, you’re paying for a quality filter because of the avalanche of information out there today.
    Yep, Josh, and after they pay TheLadders for a quality filter, Ladders customers claim they don’t get it. See the previous postings on this thread.
    As for TheLadders’ earnings growth and it’s “innovations,” the online porn industry can claim the same. But even the porn industry admits it’s selling you a fantasy — not the real thing. The most one could say about TheLadders’ claims of “exclusivity,” “ONLY $100k+ jobs” and “ONLY $100k+ candidates,” is that you’re paying to wash your hands with gloves on.
    Now, TheLadders has flown industry luminaries to a conference, decanted the “exclusive” elixir — and this defensive PR measure has blown up in the company’s face because someone in the group spit out what he says was nothing more than KoolAid.
    The PR isn’t working. The resulting comments (scroll up) from job hunters, HR folks, hiring managers and others leaves a lot of egg all over the apologists’ faces. And they didn’t even get paid. (Even the porn industry pays.)
    How about we raise the standards in this industry, and start telling the truth?

    Reply
  12. i’m going to speak on behalf of FOT to first say that as a collective, we aren’t in agreement about The Ladders. there are a lot of questions that many of our bloggers have, there’s skepticism… but there is also an undeniable respect for their marketing and technology chops. we might not all like the message or strategy of their marketing and advertising, we might not all like their business model itself. but they have effectively created a buzz through both earned and paid media. you can’t deny that it’s impressive. so some of our crew might endorse them. others, including me, do not. but i won’t take away any of my respect from an entrepreneurial perspective for what they’ve created however.
    and… for spurring an interesting and spirited dialogue about and within our industry and some of the vendors in this space, i think we’ve also got to give them credit. the continual evaluation and re-evaluation of products and services in our industry is important. but our words and discussion here isn’t really what matters. we’ll continue to provide diverse perspectives and then from there, it’s up to the consumer, whether on the job seeker or employer side, to read, gather facts, weigh differing opinions and then make intelligent decisions by using their buying power to keep businesses like The Ladders afloat, or not.
    so, thanks for being part of the discussion. either way. and hopefully it will help people to make informed decisions.
    JL

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  13. I’m going to take a moment to make a final comment here because I understand that my take is extremely unpopular –
    Allison, I like Nick Corcodilo’s blog. I agree with some of his take about TheLadders, but not all. Blogging is op-ed, and the links you point to above are opinion, not a PhD dissertation. Most Headhunters I know (including myself) dislike Job Boards, particularly those that are aimed toward our target market ($100k or above talent). Ultimately, I read other thoughts and opinions, compare and contrast them to my own (as well as others), and then form an my own opinion. And that opinion is fluid, not black and white. I think this is what most critical thinkers try to do – understand different sides of the debate and form their own basis.
    When I say “sheep”, I’m not literally suggesting that you or anyone else is standing on an Irish mountaintop wearing a coat of white wool. I’m suggesting that groupthink typically prevails until someone says, “Hey, wait a minute. There might be more to this story than we’re being told.” This is much different than your insunuation that I was “bought” – we don’t know each other personally, but I’d suggest you talk to any of my close professional friends and colleagues if you think that I’m ‘that kind of guy’. I keep it real, admittedly almost to a fault. Sometimes you have to be willing to take a few arrows in your back when you pioneer a new perspective on what is an empty frontier.
    Regarding your usage of the word, “junket”, I admit not using this term in my everyday vernacular. As such, I looked it up and found, “a journey taken for pleasure at the expense of the public.” Here’s what I can tell you about “pleasure” – I went up there with a 102 fever and endured the most turbulence-ridden flight of my life landing in an NYC snowstorm. However, like most happy people, I found a way to find some pleasure despite what was an otherwise challenging trip. I took some Theraflu, wore a warm coat, and tried to make the best of my 24 hours with friends and those I respect.
    As I’ve mentioned, I’m simply providing a different opinion. Doing so doesn’t turn me into Darth Vadar or some evil dictator! :) When you ask me to “respond to the allegations”, I must also say that I’m not a spokesperson or attorney for TheLadders, and that sounds like some form of interrogating statement.
    TM, you didn’t pay for TheLadders. Done deal. You mention you are/were a “Passive Candidate”, and it that is true, why even look at TheLadders or any other board in the first place? Apparently there was no perceived value exchange, so I commend you on finding other avenues to get to the information you need. Not all Job Seekers are so savvy – Social Media has created an avalanche of conflicting information and there is value in being able to cut through the “fluff” you mention. As far as you mentioning that you RSS Nick’s and Allison’s blogs daily, I commend you for that as well. If you agree with their opinions, particularly about TheLadders, then you’re reading what you want to read. FOT is a multi-contributor blog, so you may agree with some of our opinions, but not all. That’s the draw of FOT – we’re all different, unique, and have our own take. More importantly, we’re willing to diverge from the masses – you learn to develop some pretty thick skin when you blog and willing to assume a non-popular position.
    As I mentioned, I was also skeptical of TheLadders before going up there. I’d like to consider myself a rational person so I kept an open mind – what I learned is that the perception of TheLadders is ‘off’ in our space. They are trying to do better and that’s all we can ask about any company. Yes, there are some warts, but there are also some things to respect, such as those I lay out in the post.
    Nick, just saw your comment. I understand your disdain for TheLadders. I can’t speak to people being charged after they cancel – in all reality, I was unaware of that, but it is certainly a reason to be mad.
    Here’s my thought: Your take is an easy one to agree with. It’s easy to stand up and yell, “Yeah, what Nick said!” I’m not that guy, though. While you do make some good points, you’re not 100% accurate. I’m sorry, but it is what it is.
    As far as insinuating that I’m somehow keeping the standards in our industry low and I’m not “telling the truth”, I don’t appreciate the personal innuendo. Read any of my posts and you’ll see I always keep it real – I’m the same guy that has taken Corp America to task for having non-Veterans leading Military Recruitment Departments, as well as thrown the entire Human-Capital argument out to the dogs. These are highly unpopular opinions. The challenge here is that I’m willing to flex and appreciate where you’re coming from, but why can’t you step back and understand that some of I’m suggesting might be worth some thought as well? Not everything is black and white, and maybe, just maybe, TheLadders is a company that is trying to get better.
    Personal statements against me for supposedly “lying”, somehow being paid by TheLadders, being “bought”, lowering out industry’s standards, etc. are unfounded. And it’s the personal attacks for taking an unpopular stance that are what’s wrong . . . not taking the unpopular stance itself.
    P.S. It’s comical that this topic, among all others I’ve written about, generates the most heated debate :) I mean, seriously? There are much bigger fish to fry, Peeps! :) In fact, for every one negative comment/post/etc. about TheLadders, there are thousands from Job Seekers about us and our profession. That’s keeping it real. The time has come to get off TheLadders back and start looking at ourselves. It’s nice to have a Red Herring in the mirror room, but everything starts with us at the individual level.

    Reply
  14. Josh: I’m calling you out. You asked, “Can you elaborate? What are they lying to Job Seekers about?”
    I answered your question, which now appears to have been gratuitous.
    If you really have standards for public discourse, it’s your turn: Respond to the examples I gave you.
    Respond to Martin Burns, who provides one of the most damning indictments of TheLadders’ business practices that anyone could: TheLadders posts jobs without the permission or knowledge of employers, thereby causing them embarrassment and unnecessary costs. This is an ongoing practice: I have published and cited other examples of Burn’s experience.
    What I’m posting is not opinion. It’s evidence provided by Ladders customers — and, in the case of Martin Burns’ company, victims. Your opinions notwithstanding, let’s talk about the substance of the complaints, and about Ladders’ practices, which clearly seem to be systemic.

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  15. Josh, I did understand the sheep reference :) But I think it’s an odd characterization because objecting to The Ladders’ unethical and fraudulent practices isn’t “just going along with the crowd.” It’s doing an honest analysis and seeing that they are in fact really unethical and fraudulent.
    You’re not being criticized here because your stance is unpopular. You’re being criticized because you wrote a column that, well, read as apologist promotion for a company that is, again, unethical and fraudulent. It truly read like a paid promotion for a company that tried to buy positive press from bloggers recently.
    And as I said earlier, the straw man device really bothered me — saying that some people object to The Ladders charging job-seekers, and then knocking down that argument. But that is NOT AT ALL why people object to them, and it seemed deliberately disingenuous (and indeed, like a red herring) to frame it that way. (Unless, of course, you weren’t aware of the substance of the problems with The Ladders and mistakenly assumed it was their practice of charging job-seekers … but if that was the case, now that people are filling you in, I’d be interested to hear if your opinion has changed.)
    The fact that you might respect their marketing and technology chops doesn’t trump the fact that they are engaged in highly unethical behavior, promising something that the company knows full well it doesn’t deliver — and it’s the lack of recognition of that in your column that was so alarming to many of us.
    I don’t really get what all of this talk about keeping it real is about, but I do know that very, very serious issues with how The Ladders operates have been well documented — and never disputed in any substantive way by The Ladders itself. And it’s puzzling to me not to see an acknowledgement of that here, and to instead see what certainly came across as cheerleading for them.

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  16. Lruettimann says:

    Josh,
    You probably know how I feel about bloggers. We’re not journalists. We have opinions.
    I respect your opinion but I think The Ladders is a piece of s**t organization that monetizes the job seeker by charging for access to information that already exists on other free sites.
    That’s sketchy.
    I just think it’s an awful business model. I’m embarrassed for any recruiting or HR professional who would do business with them. And let me say something about the qualify of candidates: anyone who PAYS for a subscription to The Ladders isn’t the kind of bright, intelligent, savvy candidate I want to hire.
    Still Your Fan,
    Laurie

    Reply
  17. Paddy says:

    Alison/Nick,
    You do yourselves no favours with your scurrilous remarks about Josh.everywhere and anywhere you present a one-sided jaundiced view to anyone who will listen that theladders is evil personified .
    Your attacks have become jaded and your inability to engage in a discussion without attacking the credibility of someone who disagrees with you is disturbing – and bad mannered.
    In the final analysis Josh was suggesting that theladders company which being far from perfect are nonetheless attempting to address contemporary issues in modern day recruitment and for that they should be heard. Your rabid responses indicate something else at work and are inelegant and unfair.

    Reply
  18. Paddy, it’s not scurrilous, jaded, unfair, or bad mannered to point out major ethical (and perhaps someday legal) problems with a company in response to what read as a promotional piece. And no one is saying The Ladders is evil personified — just that they’re highly unethical and that their business model is based on fraudulent practices.
    Like Nick, I’m hoping Josh will address the substance of the points that have been raised here.

    Reply
  19. It seems to me that Josh was so impressed with his trip to NY that he felt the need to refer to those who take issue with the business practices and advertising of the Ladders as “Sheep” What was the purpose of that? Most negatives seem to be the result of personal experience and independent opinion. Not a mindless “me too” by mindless followers.
    After making that call he seems shocked that anyone would return his denigration with what he feels is a personal attack.
    This piece is in my opinion a shining example of paid public relations/lobbying by a company, that worked (it got them some good press) and didn’t work (created pushback to the blogger and more bad press).

    Reply
  20. Sandra, you’re wrong. For the record, the post did work. It’s an alternative viewpoint; nothing more, nothing less.
    My viewpoint diverges from the prevailing groupthink, aka “The Sheep”. To define my usage of the term, it’s a metaphor that the groupthink is “The Sheep”. It’s not literal.
    The final analysis is this: The Ladders has some warts, but I truly believe, based upon my exposure and conversation with Execs & Staff, that they are a company trying to get better. They do some things really well (above) and need to improve in others.
    Nick, I can’t personally speak to the issues you lay out. However, I can (and have) stated that if job seekers are being charged post-cancellation, I think this is a big problem.
    As far as your “call out” goes, here’s my take: I don’t work there and am presenting an alternative viewpoint that there are some things the company does well. That’s a fact as well — The market validates it; not you, not me, but the open market. We can opine all we want, but it’s just conversation at the end of the day.

    Reply
  21. dawn hrdlica-burke (@dawnHRrocks) says:

    In an ideal world–I agree the ladders seems sketchy: 75K vs 100K and web crawlers isn’t ideal. But what IS ideal in the world of job seach (from the hiring side and the search side).
    I also think at this point there is NO excuse for the Ladders to not have some data to back up their claims, effectiveness or results. If eharmony can have data…the ladders can have data. Track something,somehow to give job seekers the complete 360 view before they jump on board.
    But let’s get real peeps. The cost is $35 a month. And from what I can tell—no contracts? (someone correct me here if I am wrong)? Let’s put this in perspective. It’s like the taco-bell “beefish” fiasco. If I want filet minon I ain’t getting it for $99. For $35 bucks what the heck do job seekers expect, the corporate world to come running after them after low-cost service. A service, that does seem to offer more than the average board.
    From what I can discern…if you are in Des Moines and don’t have exposure to the rock star recruiters/ headhunters/ corps you find in DC, NYC or ATL—$35 bucks for some advice doesn’t seem eggregious.
    And if you hate it or think you’ve been rooked…then drop the b**stards. The real sheep are job seekers thinking they should be in the 100K range but don’t have the discernment to drop a service if they don’t like the results.
    I imagine there have to be SOME customers of the ladders that feel it is worth it. So why not explore?
    I don’t buy the desparate and vunerable job seeker in this category of job seekers.
    Don’t get me wrong…I don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of…but what about personal accountablity?

    Reply
  22. Josh, do you not see how defensive it seems to call people “sheep” and accuse them of groupthink for reaching different conclusions than you? I can’t figure out what that accusation is based on, given that the people I’ve seen with objections to The Ladders have based those in actual facts and analysis (as opposed to some of The Ladders’ apologists, who so far hasn’t been particularly forthcoming with citing facts to back themselves up, in fact).
    Not resolving people’s credit card billings is the least of the issues here (and the most defensible, really — it’s easy to attribute that to a technical glitch as opposed to a fundamental problem with how they operate), so I’d be interested in hearing your response to these core questions:
    - Do you not think it’s terribly troubling that The Ladders promises “only” $100K+ jobs yet admits that it has no way to know if that’s what it’s posting or not?
    - Do you not think it’s terribly troubling that The Ladders promises “exclusive” job postings that are in fact not exclusive by any stretch?
    - Do you not think it’s troubling that employers are complaining that The Ladders wastes their time and harm their credibility with job-seekers by posting their jobs as $100K+ jobs when they aren’t?
    Are you disputing the accuracy of these facts, or do you just not think they’re a big deal? I’m genuinely trying to understand your position, and I’m struck by the lack of direct response to these things.

    Reply
  23. Allison, I don’t find it defensive to categorize groupthink as “sheep”, but I understand that it may be an upsetting reference. I apologize for that. It wasn’t my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings with my usage of the term. Seriously, as a blogger, we utilize terms that draw upon mental schemas, but the goal isn’t to literally harm anyone. Get a rise out of someone? Sure, but to hurt their feelings, not so much.
    Here are my responses to your questions, however keep in mind that I do not work there and am not a part of their PR team. In fact, it would be nice if one of their PR reps took the liberty to respond to your questions because I’m not adequately equipped! Also, what I’d like you to see is that your questions are being delivered like I’m Colonel Jessup on the stand – I’m not. I didn’t order the “Code Red” – lol :)
    - Do you not think it’s terribly troubling that The Ladders promises “only” $100K+ jobs yet admits that it has no way to know if that’s what it’s posting or not?
    My answer: I agree this is problematic, but I think “terribly troubling” is too extreme of a categorization. I think they need to do a better job of filtering – I can’t be sure, but I do believe that they want to improve this based upon our conversations with them. That’s just my opinion.
    - Do you not think it’s terribly troubling that The Ladders promises “exclusive” job postings that are in fact not exclusive by any stretch?
    My answer: In this case, I would agree with your take of “terribly troubling”. It is not right to list a job as “exclusive” if it is not. Again, that’s just my opinion and frankly, we did not discuss this.
    - Do you not think it’s troubling that employers are complaining that The Ladders wastes their time and harm their credibility with job-seekers by posting their jobs as $100K+ jobs when they aren’t?
    My answer: I agree this is problematic, but I wouldn’t say “terribly troubling”. To me, again just my opinion, usage of Craigslist-style solutions like BountyJobs are “terribly troubling”. However, we all knwo that the Employment Brand takes a hit when your jobs are posted all over the web – nobody wins. Again, just my opinion.
    My final analysis was that TheLadders does some things extremely well, and I believe they’re trying to improve within the areas where they’re not. In regards to the follow-on questions about some of the business practices of TheLadders, I’d say the only ones that truly fall into the “terribly troubling” (i.e. extreme) side of the spectrum include charging Job Seekers post-cancellation and promising “exclusive” positions that are not, in fact, “exclusive”. To me, filtering “only” $100k jobs is probably a tough endeavor when salary ranges aren’t posted. And as far as harming “credibility” of Employers, I’d say it’s definitely problematic, just not to the extreme.
    To conclude, let me be open that I am not being paid by, and I have not been paid (in the past) by TheLadders. These are just my opinions. Only time will tell if The Ladders does try to improve – if they don’t, I’ll have been “wrong.” If they do, I’ll have been “right.” The reality is that I’ll probably be right in some ways and wrong in others – none of us have a crystal ball. It’s on them now . . . and with all the traction this post has gotten, I hope they listen up and get to work! :)
    So now that I’ve gotten the criticisms of TheLadders out of the way, what do you think about the following (represented in my post):
    #1 – TheLadders Execs are not “HR/Recruiting People”. In your eyes, is this a benefit or a negative? I say positive, some say negative.
    #2 – TheLadders is a high-energy environment. Someone told me the avg age is 24, which led to interesting discussions behind-the-scenes. Do you think 24 yr olds in entry-level roles are equipped to help $100k+ Job Seekers? Our group’s thoughts were mixed.
    #3 – TheLadders builds into their consumer products a true understanding of Human Psychology. Good or bad? I say good in terms of Marketing, potentially problematic in delivery when Job Seekers start calling.
    #4 – TheLadders marketing is brilliant. Agree or disagree? I believe so only because they resonate – the commercials are odd/weird/funny/strange, which I think generates conversation.
    #5 – There is no “Mahogany Row”. Good or bad? I love it. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like it.
    #6 – History proves that there is always room for a Cirque du Soleil. Relative to our industry, do you agree or disagree? I think we can call take a page from their book in this regard.

    Reply
  24. Quote: “#4 – TheLadders marketing is brilliant. Agree or disagree? I believe so only because they resonate – the commercials are odd/weird/funny/strange, which I think generates conversation.”
    Nothing about their sleazy soft porn ads is brilliant. I (along with quite a few others) find them disgusting.
    In fact I might in this case be a “one issue” guy on the Ladders topic. That issue being – any company that could OK that kind of garbage must make quite a few other decisions that come up on the wrong side of the good/bad line.

    Reply
  25. Thanks, I appreciate you responding to that.
    To be clear, I don’t think anyone’s feelings have been hurt by the “sheep” reference. My point was that accusing people of being sheep or having groupthink (both the same thing, essentially) is a bizarre thing to say here, since I see zero evidence of that; to the contrary, I see people forming independent conclusions based on facts.
    I am glad to hear that you think it’s troubling that the Ladders promises something they don’t deliver. I agree with you that filtering “only” $100K jobs is a tough endeavor when salary ranges aren’t posted — but the fact that it’s tough doesn’t give them license to lie and say they do it when in fact they don’t.
    To answer the questions you posed:
    #1 – TheLadders Execs are not “HR/Recruiting People”. In your eyes, is this a benefit or a negative?
    I don’t see it as either positive or negative when it comes to their execs, but I do think it’s a huge negative that their (non-exec) staff who allegedly offer resume help have no expertise to apply (and it shows).
    #2 – TheLadders is a high-energy environment. Someone told me the avg age is 24, which led to interesting discussions behind-the-scenes. Do you think 24 yr olds in entry-level roles are equipped to help $100k+ Job Seekers?
    No, I don’t think 24-year-olds are generally well-equipped to directly help $100K job-seekers. Do other stuff for the company? Sure.
    #3 – TheLadders builds into their consumer products a true understanding of Human Psychology. Good or bad?
    I haven’t seen much evidence of this understanding of human psychology — the “job search advisor” picture that you mentioned seems more like marketing to me, especially given the reports from so many former customers that they couldn’t actually get decent personalized advice from the company.
    #4 – TheLadders marketing is brilliant. Agree or disagree?
    I’m apparently the only person who doesn’t have strong thoughts on their marketing, good or bad. I wouldn’t call it brilliant, but it’s certainly more attention-grabbing than some of their competitors. Of course, the real problem comes in when they try to actual deliver on those promises.
    #5 – There is no “Mahogany Row”. Good or bad? I love it. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like it.
    I’m basically neutral on this because I don’t have enough information to have a solid opinion, but if your best shot at getting transparency out of your execs is to put them in one common office, there’s a problem.
    #6 – History proves that there is always room for a Cirque du Soleil. Relative to our industry, do you agree or disagree?
    If the argument here is that The Ladders has combined the best of several categories, no, I profoundly disagree. From what I’ve seen, they do a terrible job of delivering on the services they sell, from resume-writing to identifying jobs. They’ve perhaps combined the WORST of several categories, in fact.

    Reply
  26. Josh,
    If I am wrong about this post not working it’s because I am of the school of thought that bad press generated by expression of positive opinion in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary defeats the purpose of something like The Ladders PR attempt.
    It’s my take that not all press is good. Sort of like watching a car wreck. You can’t take your eyes off it, but you really hate what you are watching.
    The circus analogy is interesting. As PT Barnum said, “there is a sucker born every minute”.

    Reply
  27. Bill Johnson says:

    You have seen more than enough evidence, directly from paying customers of TheLadders who’ve been DEFRAUDED, to know better than this. And by accepting a paid junket, you’ve crossed way over the line of ethics even for a blogger. You’ve totally devalued your own currency. TheLadders is a fraud and we all know it.

    Reply

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