Is Your Outplacement Firm A Joke?

Are you really getting the best deal from your outplacement firm? WSJ looks at the cottage industry of consultancy firms that companies hire to help fired employees get new work. Problem is the level of service some of the lower-bid firms provide reflect their cost.

Former clients complain about boilerplate cover letters with identical typos, and oddball admonishments during mock interviews. One woman say she was chastised for ordering cranberry juice because she was told it could indicate she had a urinary tract infection.

Another man was criticized for not following his coach into the bathroom to continue the interview conversation.

The story is from two years ago, but I doubt the industry has become perfect since then.

Have you ever gone through an outplacement firm? Did they help you find a job?

Outplacement Firms Struggle to Do Job [WSJ]


Edit Your Comment

  1. thej999 says:

    the WSJ link is from 2009?

  2. areaman says:

    Outplacement’s real task is to show in a symbolic way the company that laid off people care at least a little bit.

    If I remember correctly there was another WSJ article that quoted someone saying adding the cost of outplacement to the exit package in the form of cash was of more use/utility to the lay offee.

  3. evilrobot says:

    The photo shows Judy signing off on her severance package with a hotdog bun.

    Ruthänne, from HR, points out the mistake and reiterates “how very sorry she is.”

    Upper management guy waits stealthily for some downblouse action.

  4. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Just like in the movie “Up in the Air.”

  5. Mold says:

    It am the fault of the eveel Unionist Hordes!!! They should take the blame for our Glorious CEO outsourcing jobs for his bonus. They would not work for $5/week…how dare they!
    Happy HorsePoo to deflect the employee to chastise the employee.

  6. FatLynn says:

    I’m confused as to why someone who had a professional job before layoffs would need things like mock interviews. Haven’t they been through real ones by then?

    • RandomHookup says:

      Many of the people laid off are the ones least prepared to look for a new job. You worked 22 years at IBM and moved along slowly, but surely. You specialized and the network you built was inside the company, not outside. You have only had a handful on interviews in the last 10 years and they were mostly with people you already know.

  7. MaytagRepairman says:

    I was laid off a couple of years ago. They gave us a 30-day notice and brought in an outsourcing firm to give us a lecture on resume writing and interviewing along with a month’s worth of service after we left the company. The initial class was good but the class schedules didn’t line up in such a way to get much value out of the post-layoff month. It was as though they did it on purpose at the hope we would spend our own money to spend more time with them.

    I decided not to contact them after my final day and found a job in about 6 weeks. My strategy revolved around focusing intensely on a small number of job postings that matched my skills best. I made sure not to contact more than 5-10 companies a week with custom resumes and letters for each company. When things took off I was averaging two phone interviews a day and it was all I could do to keep up. Before an interview I studied the company and the job description intently and wrote down 3-5 thought provoking questions to ask during a phone interview.

    • energynotsaved says:

      Which is why you found a job in 6 weeks. You need to the write the next article on how to find a job.

    • jnads says:

      Yeah, you pretty much did all the right things in job hunting.

      Too many people overextend themselves by blindly applying for every available job without doing anything to get themselves noticed.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        By all the right things, you mean getting laid off before things got desperate (possibly before the crash at all, by his wording)? And having a specialized set of skills that purely through his own agency did not become obsolete?

        Everyone, all the time, owes everything they have or that they lack as much to luck as to anything they’ve done.

    • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

      Younare the exception in this market

  8. AnthonyC says:

    Two years ago I was applying for my first job out of college. Over the course of 6 months I applied for about 50 positions. I got 10 responses, which led to 5 interviews. Of those interviews, I ended up with 3 offers. (One of the other 2 was a whole-day series of interviews and skills tests, with over 100 people present for 2 positions. And I don’t consider myself to be the best conversationalist in the world, and I hate talking about myself. What I’m saying is, it seems that for me, *getting* the interview is harder than doing well *at* an interview.

    Then again, it wasn’t exactly a good time to be applying for anything (still isn’t!). I just got lucky. Of my 7 roommates, I was the only one who found a position before graduation; it took some of them a year of applying places.

  9. RogueWarrior65 says:

    When I was in grad school I asked one of my professors who actually worked in the private sector about head hunters. The conversation went something like this:
    Me: “What can you tell me about headhunters?”
    Him: “You mean the kind that shrink your head or the kind that find you a job?”
    Me: “Um, the kind that find you a job.”
    Him: “Okay, well, you know when you have a barrel of apples?”
    Me: “uhh…yeah.”
    Him: “And you empty out the barrel and there’s this layer of crud on the bottom?”
    Me: “uh huh.”
    Him: “You scrape off that layer and underneath are headhunters.”
    Me: “Great.”
    Him: “What that means is that they will do everything in their power to get you a job but it also means that they will do everything in their power to make you TAKE a job, preferably the first one that you get an offer from. They’re in business to make money not get you your dream job.”

    Truer words were never spoken and my own experience proved it.

    • stevied says:

      Him: “What that means is that they will do everything in their power to get you a job but it also means that they will do everything in their power to make you TAKE a job, preferably the first one that you get an offer from. They’re in business to make money not get you your dream job.”

      The same could be said of any broker (hotel, airline, freight, job etc)…. they are in it for the $…. their $…. at your expense.

      • lincolnparadox says:

        stevied, are you a headhunter? Cummon, you can tell us.

        Or are you apple barrel scum? If that’s the case, keep that info to yerself.

        • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

          Your phrasing implies that there’s a difference.

          Actually, let’s be nice to the scum, and not compare it to headhunters.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I completely agree. Two of the worst jobs that I ever got as an engineer were through head hunters. NEVER AGAIN. I’d rather starve. lol. I ended up with the worst companies that I didn’t think existed. Oh well but I learned my lesson the hard way.

      • jesirose says:

        I have to say the best job I’ve had (and am currently at) was through a headhunter. I got lucky in that I turned down the first two that called, and by the time this one called, I was more interested in the job (this was all the same day, mind you).

    • webweazel says:

      We use specialized headhunters. We feel they are only good if you’re in a specialized field. If you’re just an engineer, you can apply for jobs on your own. If you’re an engineer in a specialty of multi-dipole modular control systems with winglet control software, it might behoove you to find a headhunter that also specializes.

      They have listings of the more obscure openings, and they have contacts in those companies that can put your foot in the door at a higher level than some HR drone can with their piles of resumes. We have never spoken to HR on any job apps, mostly right to the direct managers of the job we are applying for. Usually, we have to give a resume to HR AFTER being hired, so they can have it on file.

      So, yes, they don’t work for everybody, but for some, they are priceless.

  10. Ilovegnomes says:

    Yes, but there’s a game that you have to play. I had been doing this for years. Keep in mind that what I’m about to write is true for my area and industry and may not be true for everywhere.

    Those companies are a game that you have to play. You go through the initial recruiter interview and then they usually offer you a really horrible one day assignment. If you know the game, you take it and work with a smile on your face, whether you love it or hate it. Then the recruiter gets feedback on you from that client and can/will refer you to better jobs. They put more weight on feedback from their own clients than they do your past work experience elsewhere. This is a two part test to see if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and see how you respond to less than ideal environments. If you don’t take the test job, you usually don’t get called back.

    A recruiter explained it to me as they get hundreds of applications on their desk and they want someone who will play by their rules and be hungry for jobs because it reflects directly on them. They work hard to get these assignments for placement so they can’t just send anyone.

    I agree with the typo riddled cover letters. Some recruiters would go as far as to “redo” my resume before sending it to a client and it wasn’t always to my advantage. I’d always bring my own copy and use the line, “How would you like a copy that wasn’t run through a fax machine,” as an excuse to hand them out.

  11. PsiCop says:

    When I was laid off in early ’09 I was signed up for an outplacement firm. They did a good job wyiting my resume, but aside from that, they did nothing for me. Their interview coaching was anemic and their job leads turned out to have been a waste of time.

    Count me as someone who’s less than impressed with outplacement firms.

  12. EverCynicalTHX says:

    I make my own outplacement firm at home and indeed it’s shoddily run.

  13. framitz says:

    When I was laid off on December 23, 2008 along with 400 other employees we were provided with outplacement services.
    I attended numerous seminars, and had one meeting with a councilor. The ONE thing I was looking for was a good review of my resume with some tips for improvement. That most basic service never happened.

    Although the services were interesting they did NOT help me find a job. I did that all on my own

  14. tator says:

    I’ve dealt with them several times. Once was with a firm that was 30 miles from home (my job had been much closer) and expected me to come in regularly (as if I didn’t have internet/phone at home). The worst one was the low quote. They were giving everyone 50 copies of their resume and envelopes. I asked for matching blank stationary for cover letters. They weren’t sure the package included it. It took a week to decide it was okay.

  15. sweaterhogans says:

    Not quite ‘outplacement’ but I deal with a LOT of recruitment agencies. All the major job sites are littered with them. I’d say 90% of the job postings are done by various recruiters who keep the full job description secret. You have to jump through hoops to find out what it is or even where it’s located. Maybe it’s because I have an Indian name, but I get a lot of Indian recruiters who cannot understand why I don’t want to commute 2 hrs to CT (I live in Philly).

    I got a job through one agency, but when the contract ended, they never tried to get me another job. I found one on my own and 4 months into it they called me for work. I told them I was working as a web designer and the recruiter (insultingly) said “REALLY?! How’s THAT working out?”

    I get all kinds of bad advice and BS from these glorified telemarketers

    • Lereas says:

      You have to be very careful with recruiters. I’ve found two that I trust a lot and don’t even bother talking to any others unless they call me with a specific opportunity and will give me details. The other two that I trust I keep in contact with and they’re ready to help me if I need it.

  16. Judah says:

    I tried something like that once. They took my money and ultimately didn’t help me.

  17. balthisar says:

    When I separated from military service in 1996, the outplacement program was fantastic. It led me from being an enlisted man to my current career (and it’s a good one).

  18. humphrmi says:

    I got laid off in late ’09 and my company provided and outplacement firm for 90 days. I actually had a great experience, but to be honest the coach I was paired up with was an external contractor who just happened to be outstanding. I heard from others who were laid off at the same time I was, who had different coaches, and their experience wasn’t as good.

    In my case, the coach helped me write my resume, he gave me one-on-one interviewing coaching (not the firm’s scripted program) AND he gave me his mobile phone and said “Call me often. When you get your first screen, call me before and after. When you get your first interview, call me before and after. When you get your first offer, call me. I’ll help you through it all.” And, the resume help – after submitting my info to the firm’s resume writers, he would review it first and kick it back at them with corrections before sending it to me to review. So I didn’t have to deal with the typo’s.

    I got a job in about 3 months; it was great.

    Unfortunately, the company I got the job with lost funding, so I was out of work again. By now my contract with his firm was over. He still told me to call him anytime I had an interview or offer to sort of do a walk-through of what my best moves were.

    He and I are now friends and actually get together for lunch every few months or so. It turned out very well for me.

    Of course, your mileage may vary. ;-)

  19. Lereas says:

    I JUST this last month have gone through a layoff and subsequent work with an outplacement firm. I can tell you that my experience has been outstanding. The gentleman I was working for was the VP of HR for a major firm (that you’ve probably heard of) for over two decades, and helped me turn my resume from a so-so single sheet into two sheets of serious accomplishments.

    I was given as much face time as needed, and instructed very carefully in the fine arts of networking to find jobs. I was given access to a psychiatrist, if I needed one.

    While I’m sure there are some people who start up a firm like this and just give some iffy advice on how to look for a new job, at least the company I’ve worked with is exemplary.

  20. OnePumpChump says:

    Yeah, but if you stop pretending to care, you can’t force people to pretend that they believe you.

  21. Dollie says:

    So many “outplacement” or “headhunting” firms are using databases to do the vetting instead of headhunters. They use keywords to find your resume and then hope to cram you into an open position if your resume comes up in their search. If you submit your resume to these folks, it had better be keyword heavy in skills, technologies, and industry sectors. If it’s not, you’re going to be lost forever in the ether that is the headhunter’s database.

  22. thesalad says:

    Advice if you are young / near your school… Go to career services at your schoool. I’ve been out of school for a few years now but decided that while hunting I needed an updated resume / interview skills.. My resume wasn’t gettign me callbacks, and I was bombing interviews. Went to career services and got the ball rolling. The Placement services in my area are weak at best.. for unemployed it may work, but mostly it’s temp and low grade work. The Few “professional” companies in my area have pretty weak offerings and didn’t do too much to help.