To Trust Or Not To Trust Career Consulting Firms?

This is a true story that happened to me some years ago. All names have been changed.

“Have a seat,” Frank says.

I take a seat in the small room just about cozy enough for a large table, two chairs and two people. The room is one of the probably thousands of meeting rooms in a sky-high office tower in Melbourne’s CBD. And career consultant Frank had rented/booked it out for our appointment. I had a job – but I was always curious as to what career consulting firms had to offer and that’s why I gamely turned up.

“Tell me about yourself,” Frank says, leaning forwards in his chair and fiddling with the laptop on the table between us.

“I’m currently working contractual work,” I reply.

Finding a job is a tedious process. Sometimes, career firms may not be completely upfront with their clients. Photo: Mabel Kwong

Finding a job is a tedious process. Sometimes, career firms may not be completely upfront with their clients. Photo: Mabel Kwong

“Have you had interviews? You’re applying for jobs through recruitment firms?”

“Yes. And also directly to employers. Most of the interviews I’ve landed were in the instances where I’d applied directly.” Funny how Frank doesn’t introduce his company even a teensy bit. You want to know about me, I should know about you, too.

“Why do you think you’ve been unsuccessful?”

I played along. “I guess it’s just luck. I follow up my applications with phone calls. Or maybe I lack experience. That’s the feedback I always get. But then again, employers logically say that to soothe over job seekers they disappointment.”

“What’s your visa status?”

Assuming I’m an international student. Which I’m not. Looks can be deceiving. “I’m a local person. It’s much easier for me to secure a job than an international person.”

“Correct. You’re more employable as a citizen. Did you bring your resume?”

“Yes. But I don’t see any reason for you to look at it. I’ve scored interviews with it.” But truth be told, I don’t know you Frank. Why should I disclose my private information to you, stranger?

“Everyone has a different opinion for each resume. If you showed it to me –”

“You’ll have a different opinion,” I interrupt. “It’s hard to predict what each employer is looking for in a resume. It varies.”

“Correct,” Frank says. “It’s also hard for employers to tell the true characters of potential employees just from reading their resumes.”

I butt in again. “They can’t tell how personable he or she may be. Or see the communication skills that they have.”

“Correct,” Frank says again, showing no annoyance at my interruptions. How many times do you have to say “correct” and acknowledge I am right? Boostering my ego so that I’ll warm towards you? Or perhaps he’s genuinely impressed with how switched on I am this morning.

Frank continues. “We offer to make you stand out to employers.”

“Through video resumes,” I interject yet again.

“Correct. From watching your video resume as opposed to just reading a paper resume, employers are able to see if you’ve got the communication and presentation skills required for the job.

“I’m guessing you’re a fairly new company,” I muse. “Haven’t heard of you guys before.”

“We’ve been around for the past year. We’re the only ones offering to build video resumes for clients, although recently we have a competitor. We were mentioned on A Current Affair some weeks ago.”

“That’s great. Positive publicity,” I said.

“Correct,” Frank utters for the umpteenth time. “We got good publicity on a show that usually focuses on the negatives. We so far have a good reputation.”

“Do you run the company?”


“How did you get my number?”

“You must have left your details at career fairs. Or in the instances where you were unsuccessful in getting a job and we’re following up.”

I’ve heard that response before. It doesn’t make sense. “Some of your employees contacted me by phone. The first one was so pushy. Didn’t introduce your company. Kept saying you guys had a secret weapon. I made this appointment with Samantha. She was more professional but it was obvious she was reading off a sheet of paper explaining the company when I pressed her about it.”

“My apologies for that.” Frank sounds sincere. He seems like a nice guy. Maybe he actually is. “I know who the first employee is and he’s no longer with us. My sincere apologies.”

Frank takes out a blank sheet of paper and begins drawing. “We offer to script, shoot and edit a video resume for you. Then we’ll upload it to our social media platform (YouTube, Facebook) and our professional platform (website). We’ll put ‘Australian citizen’ nice and big on there.”

Career consultant Frank's drawing to illustrate his company's offer. Recreated by Mabel Kwong.

Career consultant Frank’s drawing to illustrate his company’s offer. Recreated by Mabel Kwong.

“I only get to make one video resume? Will it be shopped around to your employer clients?”

“Yes to both. You can choose to target it at an industry you’re looking to work in. If you’re looking at several, we can make a more generic one,” Frank offers. “How much do you think we charge for all of this?”

I decide to give a ridiculous guess. “$1000 – $1500.”

“What do you think would be a reasonable rate?”


Frank draws “$499” on the sheet of paper between us. “That’s our price.”

Seriously? I think you just made that up. “I’ll be honest with you. I can’t make a decision today. I don’t have money on me.”

“Understood,” Frank calmly says, no hint of agitation whatsoever in his voice. In fact, it sounds like he doesn’t mind that I’m not warming to his deal. It’s like chatting to a good pal who is cool with anything. “If you choose to sign up with us, paying upfront or by installments, we’ll immediately arrange a time to shoot your video resume.”

“Fair enough.”

Frank pulls out his business card and hands it to me. “My number’s on there if you want to contact me.”

I take it and stand up. “Thanks so much for your time today. It was a pleasure speaking to you.” It really was an interesting conversation.

“No worries. Thanks for coming.” Frank opens the door for me.

I stride towards it. Half my foot out the door, I pause and turn back. “Good luck with running your business.”

I step into the nearby lift and it whooshes downwards. I can’t help shake the feeling that Frank genuinely means well.

But nice guy or not, no way am I going to accept Frank’s offer. Looks and attitudes can be deceiving.

And I’m no naïve international student.

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4 thoughts on “To Trust Or Not To Trust Career Consulting Firms?

  1. Interesting point you bought up was how do they get our numbers? I’ve received calls from something like Keaton International but no one knows where the numbers actually come from. Perhaps, we should launch a big investigation into this matter and push for more transparency from people who ask us to sign up to things like UniGrads and where they distribute our numbers (a list of firms should be presented alongside the sign up sheet).


    • Exactly. There could be two possibilities. 1) Career advice sites or people such as UniGrads or Graduate Careers give away our numbers 2) These career consulting firms buy our numbers of them or some database list. It just doesn’t make sense when career consulting firms don’t give a straight answer whenever they are pressed about how they get our numbers. They must know or have a contact somewhere!


  2. I get these calls too and whenever I ask them where they get my number, it’s always the same response: “you must have signed up your name and contact details in a careers fair”. I don’t know if job-seeking firms are effective at all, I mean, especially when one is finding work in media or humanities-related areas. Landing your dream job is luck most times, and if you happen to be at the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter if we land our dream job early or a little later, the things we experience in life are the fundamental building blocks to our future


    • I completely agree that landing a job is all about ‘being at the right place at the right time’. And I don’t think career consulting firms get that. Their mentality is all about securing your dream job or a respectable job in a couple of months or so. Pretty unrealistic in a time especially when industries are shrinking and employers are letting go of employees to cut costs.


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