Check out this Wall St. Journal article about how many outplacement firms suck. (Outplacement firms are hired by some companies doing lay-offs; they ostensibly help laid-off workers find new work, by helping with resumes and cover letters, coaching, etc.) Unsurprisingly, it turns out that many of them offer lame boilerplate advice that isn’t helping anyone.
Some of the highlights from the article:
* At a mock lunch interview, one guy “was scolded for not following his coach to the restroom to continue the conversation. The other says he was chided for ordering diet soda because it suggested immaturity.” And one woman was chastised for ordering cranberry juice, because “it could be interpreted as a sign of a urinary-tract infection.”
* At least some of the cover letters they’re writing for people truly suck. One firm president who received application materials sent through an outplacement firm told the paper that “he eliminated both women from consideration as his executive assistant. ‘We didn’t take the letters seriously because they did not reflect an understanding of our company — and they looked alike,” he says.”
* Many/most/all (it’s not clear) of the firms don’t track how many of their clients actually find jobs. In other words, they don’t measure whether or not they’re actually meeting their most basic goal.
For some reason, the “we’ll help you get hired” industry is full of people who no clue what they’re talking about — maybe because anyone can read a couple of outdated job hunting guides from the 1980s and call themselves an expert. And it helps that their target audience is anxious and vulnerable.
But if you’re in the market for job search help, a good question to ask before you work with any coach or advisor is: How many people have you hired yourself? I’d bet a lot of money that for most of the staff at these outplacement firms, the answer is zero.
You wouldn’t hire a mechanic who had never worked on a car before, and you shouldn’t hire a job coach who has never hired.
(In the interest of transparency, I want to note that I’ve done some webinars for RiseSmart, which is an outplacement firm.)