Last week I was invited to New York to participate in an earthbound Gods of Recruiting mega-panel-roundtable-fireside-chat-student-teacher-conference-pundit lovefest. Entitled the “Position Accomplished Summit”, the event was hosted by the controversial firm TheLadders at the trendy Standard Hotel in Manhattan. Attendees represented the Who’s Available of the market, including the three wise men of Sumser, Wheeler and Crispin (who I once called “Thor” during the meeting) as well as star-studded deities such as David Manaster of ERE and nearly a full fist (one finger short) from the FOT crowd.
Although initially reluctant to attend this event based upon the highly vocal and visceral hatred expressed by my respected colleagues (examples here and here), I decided to see things for myself. In the interest of gathering some market intel prior to attendance, I put out an informal request to my JobAngels network to gauge their impression of TheLadders.
The results were shocking to me but may not be to others. I received over 800 messages in less than two weeks…
… and not one of them was positive.
With this information safely tucked into my carryon luggage I managed to land between snowstorms and make my way to the Summit. Full disclosure – TheLadders paid for my flight, my hotel, ground transportation, meals and (at least 20+) drinks during the Summit. However, as anyone who attended can attest, you can rest assured that this didn’t deter me from persistently seeking answers to our collective questions, including:
- “You claim over 4M members – how many of them are paying?” (Can’t comment because they’re privately held)
- “What’s the ratio of individual career support staff to paying members? Are you staffed to truly offer 1×1 support?” (Can’t or won’t comment… I asked this one at least ten times)
- “How many people have found jobs as a result of their membership?” (They honestly don’t know and are trying to determine how to get this number… it may take 12 months to baseline)
- “I had over 800 comments on TheLadders from my network and not one of them was positive. Why do you think that is?” (They didn’t really know how to react to this information)
- “What metrics, if any, can you share with us?” (They’re still figuring out what they can/will share and will get back to us)
In fact, after coming down especially hard on TheLadders during an episode of HR Happy Hour recorded live from their conference room, I joked that I would likely be put in the corner during dinner. I think it was just a funny coincidence, but sure enough, I was.
But let me make one thing perfectly clear – these are not nefarious people bathing in greenbacks trying to figure out how to overtly screw the unsuspecting jobseeker. Instead, I sense an organization that’s truly struggling to understand why people are so angry with them and why they are being held to what they perceive to be a higher standard than their competitors. They are clearly passionate about what they’re doing and have a staff of over 400 cranking away on a daily basis. So what’s the big deal?
The answer, of course, is quite simple. They charge jobseekers where others do not. Fellow Summit attendee Jessica Lee recently asked her readers whether jobseekers should ever have to pay. It’s a good question and I tend to say no. Where I could possibly be persuaded to think otherwise is if candidates were securing jobs at a significantly higher rate over unpaid services. That’s the one key metric that counts – if I come and pay, will you give me a competitive advantage that helps me find a job faster – period. Thus, the onus is on providers like TheLadders to provide metrics that shut people like me up once and for all.
And yes, I do hold them to a higher standard because I don’t like the idea of being incented to pay for an annual fee for a transaction that should take the shortest amount of time possible. Plus, I’m not a fan of their recent commercials and don’t think that six figure jobseekers will find TheLadders more appealing by imaging themselves slithering over tables or python wrapped in cabling. This latest behind-the-scenes footage would be so much more compelling if each person could simply say, “I found a job.”
Although I’m sitting on about twenty posts worth of content from the event, I wanted to give you a first look into my time with their team. This is a motivated and well funded organization that has an opportunity to significantly impact the industry if they would just get out of their own way and face their demons. I liked the people I met. I don’t wish them ill-will but instead hope they settle into a model that either eliminates the jobseeker fee or clearly demonstrates a measurable ROI in jobs placed. Until that happens they will continue to be vilified and forced to defend their actions, an unfortunate reality that distracts from an otherwise interesting organization with tremendous potential.