Run For Your Life If You Hear The Name Smart Circle!

Since the great recession the job market has taken a big hit. One of the age groups having a particularly tough time with the unemployment rate are college students and recent college graduates. Their unique combination of naivete, desperation and eagerness for a real job creates a perfect storm for unscrupulous “employers” to target them.

Many of these so-called employers are actually looking to fill commission only sales jobs. They usually aren’t even selling a product people want and encourage the use of high pressure sales tactics to close the deal. Sadly, these are the most reputable of the scam artists.

More insidious companies have all the above characteristics and add an alternate means of profit by way of recruiting. They encourage you to recruit other people to do the same job you signed up for in exchange for a cut of the sales from those under you. This is a modern-day (and borderline illegal) version of a Ponzi, or pyramid scheme. Another common (friendlier) name for this type of operation is multi-level-marketing program or MLM for short. There are some legitimate MLM programs but many are not.

They fear Google (Google search Smart Circle scam)

Since the majority of the web has moved to a powerful, omniscient search engine, many fly-by-night companies are finding it harder to dupe prospective salesmen to do their bidding. Inexperienced job seekers who would have been fodder a decade ago are quickly wising up to scam artists by Googling (Smart Circle) the name of their company and finding pages of warnings about their tactics.

Just like bacteria evolves and mutates to resist antibiotics, these snake oil salesmen are adapting to the post Google era. Fortunately, I’ve written you a prescription for the latest strain. The following are signs your job offer (or the job you are thinking of applying to) is a scam:

1. They contacted you first

How often do comic book collectors get approached by super models and asked on a date? If you have a bare-bones resume on Monster and companies are contacting you first, you should be suspicious right off the bat. While the economy has improved a little bit it is still largely an employers market. If your resume lists your last job as Taco Bell and companies are contacting you first, be wary.

2. The person who contacted you is a President, Vice President, District Manager, etc.

Again, unless you’re a former Fortune 500 executive this should be a huge red flag. If a reputable company does contact you first, the highest ranking person will probably be some type of manager or a human resources recruiter. It would be extremely rare for anyone at an executive level or above to contact an entry-level employee. A District Manager may sound more believable, but the word manager is often used to loosely describe a block in a pyramid (scheme), which brings us to our next sign:

3. The position you are being offered is an “entry-level” management or marketing position

Entry level management positions don’t exist. In fact the phrase itself is an oxymoron. No company, not even McDonald’s is going to make you any kind of manager unless you already have experience. By definition, experience as a prerequisite would make the position non entry-level. You might think that because you have a college degree in management that you can somehow bypass experience and get an entry-level position. I am here to tell you that you cannot. I would know, I have a management degree. The only exception to this are internship programs. They are normally only offered by large companies and have little to no pay. They also do not make you a manager immediately. They require you to shadow a manager so you can gain experience.

4. They have a wide variety of open positions

If any company has dozens of positions available (under a wide variety of job titles) this is another red flag. The economy is far from fully recovered, and even if it was it would be very rare for a company to be rapidly recruiting at all levels. Companies recruit when they have vacancy. Usually, a position opens up when someone is promoted or discharged.

If you see positions available for clerk, manager, district manager and executive all for the same company then double check the address for the business; it should end with Twilight Zone. On what planet is a company recruiting an entire hierarchy of workers at once? Not ours, that doesn’t make sense. What they’ve done is renamed the same job a dozen times to attract as many keyword searching job seekers as possible.

5. They promote quickly

They promote quickly because technically you receive your first promotion when you find someone of equal or lower intelligence to join the company “under” you. If they promise you will be a manager or “director” or any other word that implies you run something after a short period of time, it usually implies you will be handling other recruits and profiting off their backs. The main way schemes like this fail is when the company runs out of gullible people to recruit. This leaves the lowest level managers with no income.

6. You can’t find anything about them on Google, or they have multiple names.

Since Google quickly reveals testimonials from past victims, predatory companies have to change their names constantly. Even a company that’s never done business with anyone should have half a dozen Google listings from business directory sites who added them simply because they registered a business in their county or state. If you can’t find ANYTHING on Google (other than their own website), chances are that the company is very new.

Multiple names could indicate past troubles with the law, employees or customers. Be sure to thoroughly vet each name you come across on Google as well as the BBB and other official websites.

7. You have no idea what the company actually does.

Scamshop Inc. is a fast growing company in the heart of Bakersfield. We specialize in a unique customer to representative experience by ensuring maximum efficiency across all channels. Our vast array of products and services allow us to serve a wide variety of consumers in the area.”

Wow, sign me up! That sounds totally legitimate, I can hardly fasten my tie I’m so excited!

That’s how they’re hoping you’ll respond at least. If you notice, that quote says a whole lot of nothing. It might as well start with Lorem Ipsum because you’re going to glean about the same amount of information. I recently researched a company like this in my area. Not only did they have a horribly ambiguous mission statement like that on their website but they were too lazy to change it on all their other partner sites. If you’re going to build multiple pyramids at least change the hieroglyphs!

The fact is these companies don’t really do ANYTHING other than sell products no one wants or aggressively recruit more people to expand their hollow empire. No customer, if they even have any, will ever visit their website. In fact, they probably won’t even tell customers the company name for fear of bad reviews. The entire purpose of their website is to be a facade to job seekers. This is especially evident if:

8. The company website (or brochure) talks mostly about its employees

If you look at any reputable companies website it is 99% designed for the customer and there is a tiny little link at the bottom titled “Careers”. The typical Sleazecorp website will have a picture of a group of young adults sporting forced smiles and wearing cheap, ill-fitting suits. It will preach the gospels of Sleazecorp and how wonderful it is to work there. Very often they will have Facebook style party pictures of outings and other events. They might even have a few pictures of someone holding a large, novelty sized check.

This could be you!

These are all meant to brainwash you. Think about it logically, why would a company waste the most valuable real estate of its website showing pictures of its cult members? I think that question just answered itself.

9. The interview feels more like a sales pitch than an interview

A normal interview should focus on the interviewer asking job related questions in an attempt to measure your knowledge, skills and abilities and rank them according to the ones required for the job. They may spend a little bit of time discussing the companies benefits and culture, but the majority of the interview is spent getting to know you and evaluating you.

Interviews at predatory companies often feel more like a sales pitch; they focus on selling you on working there (usually because it is commission only, or a fee is required to start work). The old saying “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is” is very relevant in these situations. In this economy and any economy short of the next bubble it is largely an employers market. The recruiter simply does not enter the interview trying to win the candidate over, they have many candidates to choose from. This would be akin to the super model trying to convince the comic book collector to date her; it just isn’t going to happen.