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Risky situations for job-seekers

Friday, August 8, 2014 - 7:13 am

This last recession may have been tough on job seekers, but it’s been a boon for those who would prey on unemployed workers.

Here’s a quick list of five situations to watch out for while job seeking.

1. Pay-for-the-computer employment offers. In most of these cases, poor grammar is a tipoff that something is wrong. Major companies simply don’t use phrases like “these best thing” when soliciting employees.

Another clue? When the entire interaction is conducted via instant message. Real interviewers don’t resist being spoken to directly and real employers don’t hire without meeting the candidate.

Other warning signs include employers who contact you out of the blue, having “discovered” you online, interview processes that move unnaturally fast and culminate in offers almost instantly, and of course, the request for money before your job can begin.

2. Work-at-home offers in general. Of course there are legitimate opportunities to work from home – but you’re not likely to learn about them from a sign on a telephone pole. Generally speaking, the opportunity to work from home is something you discuss with a current or potential employer while being evaluated as an employee overall. The first order of business is to determine your fit for the job and vice versa; the location of the work is important but definitely a secondary consideration.

3. Commissioned insurance sales. Ouch. Let me first apologize to the legitimate agents and agencies engaged in selling insurance of all kinds. And now let me warn job seekers: The minute you post your resume on a public job board, expect to be told by one or several unsolicited employers, “You are just what we need in the exciting world of insurance.”

That’s not to say you couldn’t excel in insurance sales. And to their credit, many of these programs pay you during a brief training period. But taking weeks or months from job search to chase this option may not be in your best interest.

4. Networking marketing. To be honest, I haven’t been seeing as many of these programs as I did in past recessions, but I still feel compelled to warn against sales programs that feel more like religious meetings than business enterprises. Anytime you have to be pumped up so fervently just to sell hand cream, I have to wonder about the situation. At the bottom of my list is any program that requires payment for training or the purchase of inventory.

5. Your cousin’s startup. As an avid entrepreneur, I include this last item with reluctance. But as enthusiastic as I am about business startups in general, I have to acknowledge that job seekers can be particularly vulnerable to vague offers of future earnings from friends and relatives who are trying to launch a business. If you encounter this situation, just be sure to set your own limits before jumping in. A few months or a few thousand dollars might not be critical losses in the long run, but more could create a serious setback for you if the effort displaces better options.

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.