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Truth In Advertising

July 10th, 2008 · 8 Comments

BLUF: Deceit is a stupid way to start any business relationship.  But in the world of Google and social media it can and will come back to bite you.  I’m climbing on my soapbox now…

Help wanted on Flickr by Egan Snow

A good friend sent me a job posting that was on MediaBistro.  The job described was a perfect match so I applied for it.  It turns out that that job didn’t exist, and never existed.  The recruiter had created the posting to gather emails and resumes.

I wrote an angry email to the recruiter telling them they were being deceitful and to remove me from their database.  The reply included the following:

“We wrote a general posting and purposely made it look like a ‘general’ posting. That general posting is currently on our site including this line: “We service a variety of clients ranging from Fortune 100 powerhouses to small boutique digital ad agencies. They all have one thing in common - they trust and depend on Aquent…The same posting on our site has the city listed as New Jersey indicating that there is no specific city.

…Aquent does NOT make a practice of attempting to deceive its talent or prospective talent. We make every effort to set realistic expectations with everyone we work with.”

My response included this:

“You are creating postings for the purpose of collecting emails and resumes with no specific product to offer the respondent to your ad.  If you were selling hard products in a brick and mortar store you would be clearly guilty of fraudulent advertising. The flaw is in writing a job posting to begin with, no amount of fine print or qualifications in the posting will circumvent the fact that you have no job (product) to offer with the ad.

Surely you can find a better way to contact qualified candidates where you can begin your relationship on a honest footing?  Because a relationship begun in this manner will never be mutually beneficial.  I will always know that you are deceitful and I can therefore never trust you to be honest with me or to work with my best interests in mind.

I suggest that you reexamine your moral perspective on this.  And please honor my request to remove me from your database.”

Last week I attended the Digital Publishing & Advertising Conference and during the Keynote Panel, a man proudly introduced himself from the stage in this way; “My job is to make loans online, by any means necessary,” he is a VP at CitiGroup. Hearing him describe himself in that fashion sent chills down my spine.

The point here is that CitiGroup, Aquent, and too many others in the service industry feel that fraudulent or misleading advertising is fine.  Advertising non-existent products simply to gather information on qualified prospects is accepted as the norm.

I won’t be using CitiGroup or Aquent any time soon.  And companies who employ these tactics will find that the web and the power of social media will be following them. Google has a very long memory. Hopefully the shame and social pressure to do the right thing can cause people to do this type of wrong thing less often.

NOTE: I thought long and hard about whether to include ANY names in this post, company or individuals.  I decided that individuals are not to blame, but that the pervasive attitude accepting these tactics at the companies and in the industries is to blame.  Therefore I excluded the individuals but included the companies- hoping that the notoriety of this blog post will begin to turn the tide.  (If you would like to help with this effort Digg, or Sphinn or StumbleUpon, the article with the company names as keywords.)  And by the way I’m still looking for a job…although not at CitiGroup or Aquent.

Tanks for reading,

Chris

Tags: Dear Mr. Reasonable · Reasonable Social Networking · Reasons For Net Marketing

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Trula // Jul 10, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    That is really wrong. I don’t even get the ‘why’ behind the whole collection resumes… what do they do with them?

  • 2 Steven Lubetkin // Jul 11, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Has anyone alerted MediaBistro to this abuse of their job board?

    As to Trula’s question, they collect resumes because they are a “contingency” rather than a “retained” search firm. Contingency firms are like commission-only sales people.

    They find public job listings and throw a bunch of resumes at them, and if something sticks, they get a fee. So they need to have a steady stream of good looking resumes to throw at the clients.

    Needless to say, posting fake ads to gather resumes is not considered an ethical practice by most recruiters.

  • 3 Chris Kieff // Jul 11, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Trula, I think that Steven gives you great answer to your question.

    Steven, my question is why is your final sentence qualified by the “most recruiters”? Shouldn’t it be unequivocal? Every recruiter should know beyond a shadow of a doubt that fake ads are wrong.

  • 4 Matthew T. Grant // Jul 11, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hey Chris -

    My name is Matt Grant and I work in Aquent’s corporate marketing department at our headquarters. I heard about your post here from our local office, as well as through Google alerts (where it had gotten “Dugg” by a friend of mine, Greg Verdino), and wanted to thank you for raising this issue. I do not think that we or any other firm should be posting ads for jobs that do not exist. (Although, as I understand it, the New Jersey office does have job openings that are similar to the one described in this particular posting.)

    I went back and read the job posting in question and have to agree with you that it sounded more like a posting for a specific job than a “recruitment” posting. I contacted the New Jersey office and asked them to add the following header to that posting: “NOTE: This is a general recruitment posting that we are using to find people with the qualifications listed below. It does not refer to any specific job opening” - which they have done.

    As a next step, I will be speaking with our VP of recruitment to make sure that we are addressing this at an operations level company-wide. I believe that any “recruitment” posting should be clearly identified as such. If it is not clearly identified, then I believe we open ourselves to the accusations of deception you are making here.

    That being said, I don’t have a problem with recruitment ads in general. Since we are in the temporary staffing business, our clients call us because they assume that we have someone in our database who could help them out on fairly short notice.

    We work hard to maintain a robust talent pool so that we can respond as quickly as possible to our clients’ needs. Frankly, we wouldn’t really be doing anything of value if we simply posted a job ad when we got a particular request from a client - after all, they could do that themselves, and in many cases already have.

    I hope this addresses the concerns you voiced about our recruiting practices. If not, please contact me so that I can make sure that we are not frustrating or putting-off others in the future.

    Sincerely,

    Matt Grant

  • 5 Chris Kieff // Jul 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Matt,

    First let me commend you for your efforts to effectively monitor social media and it’s ability to impact your company.

    As a marketer and consumer I have no problem with advertising in general. It effectively pays my wages, ( or will one day again soon when I find a new job.)

    Assuming that you are successful in changing your corporate policy towards ads to clearly indicate to the recipient what they are for, then I would have no problem with them. In that case you will be advertising exactly what you are offering. Please be sure to notify me regarding your efforts to change company policy, I would be very happy to follow up this story with another blog post.

    However, I still have a problem with these ads being listed with true offers of employment. I would assume that this type of ad violates the TOU, or it should.

    There should be a separate place for them on job sites, or there should be a clear indication with colors or icons, that they are not offers of employment. But that is a matter for MediaBistro.

    Thank you again for your response and please keep me informed of your efforts in the future.

    Sincerely,
    Chris

  • 6 David Reich "my 2 cents" // Jul 12, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Good for you. Companies using deceptive practices should be exposed, and the two you mentioned certainly are being deceptive. There’s enough business to be had without resoorting to trickery.

  • 7 Justin Foster // Jul 15, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Chris - Excellent post. It was encouraging Aquent not just blow this off. The bottom line: the era of coercion is over. All companies are transparent eventually.

  • 8 Chris Kieff // Jul 16, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Justin,

    I agree it is encouraging to see Aquent following the Social Media and caring about what’s said. The challenge will be for them to actually follow through and make these changes to their operations.

    Tanks for reading,
    Chris

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