Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Being careful about a prospective employer is just good business

A common complaint about unemployment insurance is that workers are so eager to stay on the dole that they’ll avoid taking certain jobs because it’s financially a better deal to keep looking for a better job.

Elites and especially politicians at all levels, who have never had to degrade themselves or their families in a job search, howl at such outrages. After all, for them getting a new job for themselves or their family members just coming off drug rehabilitation or something else (never the military; it takes too long to advance in the service) involves a call to the local Red Cross, United Way, 9/11, recent weather disaster, economic development or autism charity CEO, and soon the wastrel offspring or wife is making $100,000 a year plus benefits shuffling paper and making photocopies.

If people would just try, they say, they’d be able to land such a job for themselves.

This is used as a justification for mandating that people take any job, even if they have to drive 100 miles each way per day and even if the resulting paycheck isn’t enough to support them.

I know the other side – the real side — of being jobless. Every morning, I would get up, retreat to my computer office and begin the hunt on multiple job sites. Believe me, it wasn’t fun.

Craigslist was a total waste of time, with postings for contract labor and sometimes volunteer work misclassified as paid labor, not to mention the job scams. After I enquired, I found that several positions were actually unpaid. Sorry, I said, I can’t give away my skills. I have bills to pay and cats to support.

Trolling the “legitimate” job boards was often a less-than-enjoyable experience, and it was essential to do “due diligence” with potential employers.

Savvy people need to ask themselves the following questions when evaluating a job posting:

  • Is this a real job, or just “training” that you have to pay for? Training scams have become very common nowadays.
  • Is this an ad from a military recruiter? The Navy was notorious for buying up ad space with alleged positions in journalism in Sarasota.
  • Is the company looking for replacement workers? Maybe they just fired better-paid staff and are looking to hire at a lower rate.
  • Is the company solvent? Going to work for a bankrupt company is not always a good idea. Payday could be a problem if you’ve worked the hours and then there’s no check or direct deposit. You could find yourself laid off soon after being hired, but with no chance to continue to collect unemployment.
  • If the employer is a startup, are they able to make payroll? Again, you don’t want to start working and find yourself unpaid and unable to get your unemployment benefits if you either are laid off or have to quit because you weren’t paid.
  • Is this a commission-based sales job? Often a very high number for the salary was quoted, but that was potential earnings, not what you’d see in a weekly paycheck unless you were willing to con others.

Politicians may be frustrated that people who are unemployed are doing due diligence on potential employers, but we the people have to protect ourselves. Job scams have skyrocketed and because there’s little interest in most legislatures in doing anything about them, we the people have to be on the lookout. We’re on our own here, because our elected officials can’t be bothered or trusted to do it.

The thing for me was that I was on a flight toward quality. Applying for a job with a company that you know is in a position to hire and pay – even if the pay isn’t what you expect or need – is a better bet than being told you’ll be paid $75,000 a year, then find out that’s what you could make if you sell enough water filters at $200 a pop.

I ended up applying for quite a number of jobs, and actually ended up working for the Census initially, then getting a job with a local news startup. Needless to say, I reported my earnings and saw my unemployment checks cut, and when I was hired by the startup my unemployment pay ceased. I was very happy to be off unemployment.

The place was on the level and I made a fair salary, but I eventually needed more money. It was a great and happy day when I was able to finally land a good-paying position at my current job.

The lesson is that I did what was right by me. By filtering out “bad” jobs I was able to hone in on those that offered a good chance to make some money and get off unemployment. That may be too much intelligence for our elected officials, but that’s just tough stuff. It’s my life, not some back-bencher’s in Tallahassee or Washington, and I’ll decide what’s the best work for myself.

And everyone else needs to do the same.


September 14, 2011 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age, The jobless chronicles | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Job seeking is always a frustrating task. There are so many ‘scam jobs’ offered both in print and online advertising. Too many are pure worker exploitation, and even more are misleading.

    One of my pet annoyances is the modern term used to describe remuneration level is ‘Cost to Company’ (CTC). I don’t know what rules apply in nations outside of South Africa, but here there are no hard and fast guidelines for what Cost to Company means to the employee… I have heard of cases where CTC is considered to include a great many of the costs an employees can reasonably be expected to incur in producing work product for a company.

    As an example; An employee is required to have a cell phone available at all times for company business, but the cost of the service, including required calls made in producing work the company, is considered cost to company and part of the employee’s remuneration. (In South Africa labour legislation protects the lower paid worker to a large extent from exploitation, but over a certain level of income (lower middle group) or category of job description (e.g. a job description of ‘manager’) can often be considered to fall outside of labour protection.

    My point is; employers seeking staff use this ctc remuneration, however the prospective employee seldom has any idea what the employer considers cost to company. The remuneration package may look attractive at first, and then the employee finds out just what the company is deducting, and comes home with a vastly reduced take-home pay.

    I totally agree one needs to be discriminating in seeking employment. Work seekers should not undersell themselves, and be willing to accept any position, just to get a job. Accepting such work could have a longer term negative affect on that person’s career; Future employers may consider “why would the candidate accept such a lower paid or menial position” as an indication the candidate is not sufficiently competent for the available position.

    Yes, I know it is dispiriting to struggle to find suitable positions, and the economics of unemployment can force job seekers to accept anything on offer, especially when there is little or no social security as in my own country.

    For quite some time after disposing of my share in the previous company I worked in, I was also looking for employment; until finally deciding I was not willing to accept any job below a minimum level of responsibility and remuneration. I found a significant number of online job sites of little value. One particular one had a ‘vetting robot’ system which no matter how well the requirements matched the skills and experience blocked every application (Even tested using a test case designed to match the requirements). Others were full of exploitive offers, exactly along the lines you mention. Finally I decided to concentrate my efforts once again in developing my own business – I much prefer working for myself anyway!

    A great post, thanks Vincent


    Comment by Mike | September 14, 2011 | Reply

  2. Several years ago, in Florida, a scam artist began operating in the unemployment offices. I joked one time that the name — Agency for Workforce Innovation — was proof that the state had a sense of humor. The whole operation was outsourced to a private company that often refused to answer the questions of the news media.

    A fellow began recruiting people for a business he claimed to have transporting people on work release from jail to remote worksites. The work-release prisoners, usually minor drug offenders and the like, were forced to pay $45 for transportation to their work site, and the entrepreneur made it clear that there was a vast amount of money to be made.

    People tend to shut down their higher brain functions when they’re desperate, and this guy was telling them they could make really good money with benefits, but first they’d have to “help him out” by charging things on their own credit cards and loaning the company money. When it all collapsed, the agency denied liability, claiming it had no responsibility for what private companies and recruiters did.

    The lesson is this: If you’re in the hiring process and the boss starts to ask you to pay them, run, don’t walk, away and let others know it’s a scam.

    Comment by Vincent Safuto | September 14, 2011 | Reply

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