While supporting jobseekers as career development practitioners, counsellors or coaches, we often carry the unrealistic burden of knowing everything about everything. Those we work with look to us for guidance and answers on a wide range of career-related topics, including good and bad companies to work for.
2020 gave rise to an always present but now mainstream avenue of work focused on remote, virtual or telecommuting options. With the increased accessibility and availability of these roles, it’s becoming difficult for career specialists to determine which of these remote or virtual opportunities and companies are legitimate and which are potential scams. Not only are career practitioners expected to possess expertise on the local area/country job market, but now virtual or remote opportunities make it so you need to have expertise in all markets, across the world, in nearly every industry.
In this article, I focus on three actionable ways to determine if a job opportunity is a scam to help your clients make informed assessments of opportunities in a quickly changing hiring landscape.
Lack of online presence
Online presence is a simple yet highly effective way of evaluating job opportunities. On a base level, if the company has no website or Google address, be worried. Nearly everything is online now. If you come across a company that doesn’t have basic information or an elementary social media presence – even LinkedIn – get skeptical.
For small businesses of one or two people that mostly deal in referrals, marketing and advertising may not be priorities for them, which can explain a lack of online presence. But for the most part, there should at least be a Facebook page, Instagram account or some kind of online listing to validate what the company does, who they are and whom they serve.
If a company doesn’t have a physical location, but they operate out of a co-working space, work from home or even a Starbucks one a week, I would advise folks attend the interview to hear more about the role and company and to ask critical questions to assess their interest level. However, if an employer invites an applicant to a home address, or the address is linked to another business or a commercial lot with no buildings, I’d say that’s a pretty suspect situation.
“With the influx of remote-only opportunities, it may be harder for jobseekers to spot some of the red flags when they don’t have a chance to do any in-person interviews.”
With the influx of remote-only opportunities, it may be harder for jobseekers to spot some of the red flags when they don’t have a chance to do any in-person interviews. According to CNBC, complaints about scams for certain business and job-related opportunities have spiked this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, including but not limited to fraudulent employment agencies, job counselling, overseas work, multi-level marketing schemes and chain letters.
Interviews or tours of a company’s headquarters, office or base of operation are a great way to assess the validity of what a company is promoting, such as their workforce size, collaboration style or positive atmosphere. If your client is interviewing for a fully remote or virtual role, it is important for them to ask more critical questions to determine if the company is legitimate and to evaluate the support they offer to virtual employees.
Questions might include:
- How often do employees meet as a team?
- Is the founder still part of the management structure?
- Do you ever get together in person such as on trips or in co-working spaces?
- How do you manage your time as a remote workforce?
- What are some of the challenges your business faces working virtually?
- How often does the company invest in training and support for virtual staff?
Money up front
If a company requires someone to pay up front for the chance to interview, I wouldn’t trust it. An interview should just be a conversation to explore whether the relationship will be mutually beneficial. If an employer likes what they hear, they can make an offer right away or a candidate can decide to continue moving through the hiring process to learn more about the role and reach a decision on accepting the position, should an offer be made. But until an offer is made, advise your jobseekers to not invest any money, intellectual property or massive amounts of time or energy into the company for free.
If you are working with someone who did pay a scammer, take action immediately. Advise them to report the company to the local and federal government agencies responsible for businesses in your area. Secondly, be sure they protect their finances by contacting banks and credit card lenders to notify them of the situation. You can also advise them to freeze their credit, which will disable new accounts such as credit cards being opened in their name.
Restoring faith in the process
It’s important to remember scam jobs, opportunities and offers make up very little of the legitimate hiring practices happening every day. While jobseekers should be aware, educated and skeptical about too-good-to-be-true opportunities, there are amazing legitimate companies offering flexible work arrangements, higher-than-average salaries and employee autonomy.
Check websites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn to find folks that have worked for the company before. If you can find people willing to have a conversation and give honest feedback about the company, that can go a long way in reassuring clients’ concerns about a future opportunity. If your jobseeker is looking for a remote role, have them check out job boards that specialize in that medium of work, like FlexJobs, or freelance networks such as Fiverr.
With complaints about fraudulent business opportunities and work from home plans on the rise this past year, advise your jobseekers to do their research, ask the hard and critical questions during interviews and protect themselves financially from any potential threat. Advise folks to remain open and genuinely committed to the job search process and to keep in mind these few actionable steps to ensuring they are making educated decisions in assessing job opportunity quality.