Are you being scammed by your career firm?

By Sharon Graham.

The economy is bringing out the career services scammers. Lately, I have seen two or three examples of the old Bernard Haldane scam that was featured on the investigative TV show W5 a number of years back. The career firm allegedly deceived its clients to obtain advance fees for its services. In the early 2000’s Five U.S. state consumer ministries and one Canadian province took legal action against Haldane and ordering $300,000 in refunds to scammed clients.

How the scam works

You, the unsuspecting job seeker, are contacted and invited in for an “interview” with the career firm. Since you are looking for a job, you’re interested and you go in. The offer seems too good to be true. They offer to find you employment in return for a retainer fee – anywhere from $3000 to $5000 or above. But, the guarantee is fantastic. If you are not employed over a stipulated time, you’ll get your money back. Only if they get you a job within that time they’ll charge you the remainder – another $2000 or so.

Sounds great, right? If you can get a job without searching for a job and if someone else does all the work, you’re willing to pay for it.

Sounds great? Think again

What’s wrong with this scenario?

  • The firm takes an initial retainer of about $5000 with a $2000 balance from you upon successful placement.
  • The firm presents you to companies, representing itself as a recruiter and offering the employer a high-level job seeker for free.

If you have not figured it out yet, ask yourself this:

  • Who is the firm working for? You or the employer?
  • Does the firm have incentive to place you when they already have $5000 upfront?
  • Does the employer have a reason to believe that the firm properly screened you? What makes them want to consider you?

Spotting red flags

Be very, very careful – especially in this economic environment. It seems to me that there are many more scammers than ever posing as reputable career firms. In some cases, they bring you into fancy offices just to “wow” you with their slick sales pitch. Sometimes they do the whole thing virtually – over the internet and by phone.

Before you purchase anything, consider these red flags:

  • Generally, reputable career firms do not need to approach you unless you have approached them first. Think twice before forking out money if the firm initiates the conversation by phishing (sending a spam e-mail or calling you directly.)
  • If the career firm is calling you and your spouse into the office to do a “selling” job, they may be poised to close the sale before you leave the office. Any good career firm will give you a quote without requiring you to come into the office and make a decision on the spot.
  • Good career firms do not promise placement. It is impossible to make this promise because the job of doing an effective job search is yours – not theirs. And, most sensible employers don’t hire people who don’t even have the ability to approach them directly.
  • If any firm takes more money from you on the promise of getting you a job, they have little incentive to make a good match. High-level retained recruiters get paid by the company when they fill an opening. This is so that they can do the best job of finding a good fit for the company and the candidate.

Bottom Line

  • Ethical recruiters work for the employer and are paid by the employer
  • Ethical career firms work for the job seeker and area paid by the job seeker

As an advocate for ethics and integrity within the Canadian Labour Market, I am very interested in hearing from you. Have you experienced this scam? How did you deal with it? Thank you for reading my blog! 

Sharon Graham is CANADA’S CAREER STRATEGIST and author of the top-selling BEST CANADIAN RESUMES SERIES. Founder and executive director of CAREER PROFESSIONALS OF CANADA, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment and career transition, Sharon provides career practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians.



  1. there are so many scams running on the internete so watch out’`~

  2. there are always scam everywhere so we should always be very careful when dealing with others~*,