Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Does The Ladders Use Bait & Switch Email Marketing

High on the list of things that offend my ethical sensibilities are those people and businesses that exploit people in their most desperate moments of need. While you could argue that charging extra for sunblock on the beach or sweatshirts to tourists in San Francisco is exploitative, I don't think that is equivalent to what I'm talking about. What I'm referring to are the businesses like those credit repair scams businesses that use false hope to take money from people who can't afford it. This aspect of profiting off of the despair of the most needy borders on criminal. 

The business of helping to find employment has always operated with a darker side, and there's a segment of that business that profits on desperation. Contrary to that conservative belief that a huge percentage of people out there that are lazy and don't want to work, most people around the world want to work and are desperate for jobs. Exploiting this desperation often hinges on leveraging the promise of a good job as an enticement for doing something that would otherwise be unreasonable.

For many out of work job seekers, the desperation exploiters are those recruiters or career coaches that ask for an up-front payment from the job seeker. It's a classic scheme, traditionally promoted by people pitching jobs and salaries that make the payoff seem worth the gamble. It's a reasonable market when they are selling upgrades and the recruiter's client-base all have existing jobs, but when they exploit the cash-strapped unemployed, they cross an ethical line in my book.

So here's what triggered this post. I received an email from The Ladders the other day. Essentially, it was one of those emails from a specific recruiter with a job that might be a good fit for you. Theoretically not a newsletter or a bulk job listing email, right? So I clicked through the email to look at the listing and, surprisingly, I was met with a login screen. I needed to upgrade to a paid, premium account in order to view the listing.

I'm not desperately seeking work right now, but imagine if I was. Imagine if this were my first glimmer of hope in a long dark night. This was a recruiter reaching out to me, or so it seemed. But no, it was actually a crafted marketing device aimed at the soft underbelly of my desperation.

Sorry guys, I'm not that desperate. I didn't want to pay for access to your site because many of your job listings were web site scrapes or things that I could find for free. But if you focus your list on unemployed, I'm sure you can boost your conversion rate.

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