Is it ever ethical to charge the job seeker?

There has been a spate of articles recently about TheLadders – specifically, how the site is a bad deal for job seekers. To wit:

when I see the new commercials for The Ladders, I want to puke on my shoes…the jobs on The Ladders can be found on sites like LinkUpMonster, and freakin Craigslist.       - Laurie Ruettimann

Or how about this?

What does TheLadders do to enhance anyone’s job hunting prospects — especially C-level executives? Virtually nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. This most flagrant faker among the job boards, which pretends to be exclusive and “$100k+”, is the source of hires less than 0.07% (yes, that’s percent) of the time, among employers polled. (Source: CareerXroads survey, p. 19)        - Nick Corcodilos

What’s the problem? Isn’t TheLadders (or, for that matter, JobFox) just like Monster or CareerBuilder?



Traditional job sites make most of their money by charging employers – for job postings, resume database access, site advertising, custom emails, and other types of services. In essence, they sell access to the job seeker. That’s why these sites spend a lot of time promoting and advertising themselves – they need the job seekers to keep their employers happy.


TheLadders and other ‘candidate-pay’ sites are different – they turn this revenue model on its head. They charge the job seekers to access the jobs and employers. Seems like a hard sell when the majority of sites offer job and employer access at no charge, right? The candidate-pay sites claim that their jobs are not available elsewhere. Sometimes they will offer additional services as part of the ‘membership’ fee. (Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t charge employers – they usually do, just not for job postings).


The ultimate ‘promise’ made by candidate-pay sites, then, is access – you’ll be able to reach jobs and employers that you simply can’t reach elsewhere.


So what is the case made against TheLadders by Nick and Laurie? Simple – false advertising. In fact, you can find most of the jobs elsewhere. Also, TheLadders makes an additional claim – ‘only $100K jobs’. As someone who has subscribed to the site in the past, I can tell you that – at least during that time period – this claim simply isn’t correct. I found numerous jobs under $100K (as has Nick and many others).


Enough about TheLadders. This raises a bigger question: is it ever ethical to charge the job seeker for access to jobs and employers?

Yes. If the site is truly offering something of real value to the job seeker, then I think it isreasonable to charge. Note my qualification: “something of real value”. For example, perhaps the site screens each job posting it allows on the site, verifying the company, offer, and qualifications. Or perhaps it provides a private forum where job seekers and employers can interact. Maybe the candidate gets discounts on insurance, services, and the like. What is offered will depend on the seeker audience.


As a job seeker, I have used sites that really did deliver value for the money I paid them. And, as I mentioned above, I have used sites that didn’t deliver value. I promptly cancelled the latter.


So, kudos to Laurie and Nick for telling job seekers about sites that don’t deliver on their promises. And kudos to the sites that do deliver on their promises.

Views: 3505

Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on January 26, 2011 at 8:58am

Gerry- Good points, but I have to respectfully disagree about TheLadders. The key is they charge ALL job seekers for access - AND they promise that these jobs are unique, not to be found elsewhere - AND they have claimed until very recently that those jobs would be 100K or more. Those promises are part of their value proposition - and they're inaccurate. Traditional job boards don't charge every single job seeker - they certainly try to get ancillary revenue via the resume, etc. services - but I know from experience that the majority of seekers DON'T utilize these services. Thus, if I go to a traditional site, I can pay nothing, find the same jobs, have the leads sent to me, and almost certainly have the same odds of connecting with an employer.  I agree that the onus (as always) is on the job seeker to be a smart consumer - but I don't think there's anything wrong with questioning TheLadders (or any other high profile site) that fails to deliver on its promises. 

You are right, though - the 2 quotes at the beginning were definitely there to set the tone - and also expose some of the discussion going on in the industry. I probably should have used more extensive quotes, though, to provide additional context.

Thanks for your thoughtful feedback - this is a great discussion!

Comment by Michael Stoyanoff on January 26, 2011 at 9:36am

Good post Jeff!


Great find Kimberly. I find it amusing that LinkedIn cannot back up it's claims!


Sure, I agree that there are times at which it is ethical to do so. However, I can't necessarily say that it is as successful as charging the client. I know there are plenty of employed people looking to find a new job, but there is also a majority of people unemployed and looking for work. I doubt either of these people want to pay a fee in order to look at job postings that I don't think can be guaranteed to not be elsewhere.

Comment by Gerry Crispin on January 26, 2011 at 9:37am
It is.  I do believe we should all walk the talk and if we don't measure up to our claims we should be held accountable. Wouldn't it be great if there were an independent audit service that certified whether or not the claims a firm makes are real. Probably the only thing newspapers got right when they submitted to an audit of the circulation numbers yearly. Just dreamin.
Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on January 26, 2011 at 9:41am
You know, they have something like that in the UK that actually audits the site numbers for job boards. It doesn't go so far as to examine the ad claims - but even having audited traffic numbers is a step in the right direction!
Comment by Keith Robinson on January 26, 2011 at 10:50am



Hi both yes we have a number of measures from ABCe, but the one you refer to in the National Online Recruitment  Audience Survey (NORAS) as one of the originators the aim was to audit and "try" to make/create accountability.


Tomorrow is the Annual Conference organized by the firm behind the NORAS Enhance Media- I'll be live Tweeting from the event.


But back to Job Seekers paying and the Ladders, I knew Marc the founder from his days at Hotjobs, I saw his first booth at the Kennedy Fall conference at the JJ Center NY - they are smart guys, they understand the audience and what they want and "what they will and wont buy" and they would not have become as successful as they have by"being bad".


I also agree with the "interesting" (not my first thought)  0.7% comment, Gerry is spot on re what % of hires are at the 100k plus level.


Now I am not nor have ever worked for these guys - but it is always so easy to "snip" at success and as Gerry “alludes” it/we can be so subtle!! and smart at times – Jeff you know me I don’t do subtle… great headlines, negative spinning, innuendo whilst great PR don’t push, change or help.

If in my idealistic, utopian world we not need A Ladders, a job board or any off us doing “what we do”, we would have full employment and happy smiley people BUT my dream died in my mid 20”s – Governments  let the unemployed down, 100’s of “careers coaches, CV writers, “personal branding experts” all make money out of the misfortune of others… harsh but true.

It’s called a capitalist, open market.

Rant two… on a roll!!


Comment by Paul Alfred on January 26, 2011 at 10:55am
Great post Jeff ... Online Consumers need to be clear of their expectations from service providers. I was actually working on a site that worked on a Pay per hire model where Employers posted jobs to receive a qualified candidate - Employers still had to make the final choice on the hiring decision @Jason ( Great model) ... In the end Online users will always utilize sites for "Best Use" the Job Boards provide access to a resume database qualified, not qualified and junk ... This model has gained market Acceptance...

If the Ladders can continue to get away with their "Sell" great for them Consumers in the end will determine whether or not their model can be sustained ...
Comment by Jeff Dickey-Chasins on January 26, 2011 at 11:03am

Keith, you're too restrained, as usual! :-)


I'm all for capitalism, but I reserve the right to point out misleading sales claims when I see them!

Comment by Keith Robinson on January 26, 2011 at 11:34am



Point taken Jeff - but come the revolution!!


Back to that Russia Restaurant we went to in Manchester.. take care sir.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 26, 2011 at 12:24pm

I absolutely love this "making money out of the misfortune of others".  One of the funniest coversations i ever had was with a friend who is an MD radiologist.  He disdainfully made the comment that i made money off of people in trouble.  My response, "Are you kidding me, you get paid over 300K a year to tell people they have cancer."  "I have a lot better chance of finding someone a job than you do curing someone of cancer."

If nobody had any misfortune we wouldn't need doctors to cure disease, lawyers to get folks out of trouble, CPA's to argue in tax court.  The nice thing about our industry is that if we fail people don't die, go to jail or have to pay uncle sugar back taxes and penalities and interest in addition to professional fees.


Comment by Keith Robinson on January 26, 2011 at 1:09pm


Sandra frighteningly as I find it, yes I agree with you.... it is capitalism at it's rawest and I look the MD story - so true.


it is the double standards that I can't abide.


No rant this time.


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