They might promise a job with no interview or experience needed at twice the minimum wage and with half the effort you’d expected. Maybe they’ll ask you first to pay a training fee or they want a copy of your passport and banking information. Viewed in black-and-white type, these ‘job offers’ are obvious scams. But pit a smooth-talking pitchperson against a desperate job-seeker and it may seem a more balanced battle.
That’s why the Student Success Centre (SSC) is pushing hard to tip the scales against the scammers in a multi-media, multi-platform campaign called Safe Job Search.
“We just want to ensure that people are doing their due diligence and researching the opportunities to ensure it’s a good fit,” said Kate Baker, Employer Relationship Developer at the SSC.
With an arsenal that includes Instagram videos, tweets, postcards and a dedicated website, safejobsearch.uwo.ca, the team is ramping up the campaign in tandem with students’ amped-up searches for summer jobs.
Baker doesn’t know of any similar campaign like this in the region.
The push for safe job searches came about soon after a company placed clipboards in some classrooms, with sheets asking students to add their names and contact information. Some students, thinking they were attendance sheets, signed. For others, the sign-up sheets raised red flags about what the information was to be used for – and by whom.
“There was some concern going on about them because they were a bit ambiguous and students were signing them without knowing that they were,” Baker said.
It turns out the company was legitimate but hadn’t gone through SSC’s customary vetting process.
The SSC approves all job opportunities that are posted on Career Central. “We do 6,500 postings a year. Only about 40 or 50 are suspect and we don’t put them up,” Baker said.
Sometimes, a job-seeker will flag a posting that’s not what it is billed to be, and SSC will email all students who have viewed that ad.
The biggest flag for Baker is the sender’s email address: does the purported name on the email match the domain name of a real company, or is it hiding an address such as firstname.lastname@example.org?
But students should be aware of other warning signs:
- A job ad that has typos or receiving an emailed/texted offer to a job you didn’t apply for;
- An ‘employer’ who seeks personal information (date-of-birth, banking information, passport number) before you get the job;
- An application that requires you to pay a fee up front, including fees for so-called processing, training or information packages; or
- A company that offers an amount far higher than the $14/hour minimum wage. “It seems like a great opportunity – who wouldn’t want $25/hour? – but when we look more deeply, it’s not legitimate,” Baker noted.
The campaign urges job-seekers to research their potential employers and check out their websites and heed any gut feelings there’s something ‘off’ about the job.
Emma Bertucci, an SSC intern who is part of the campaign, said one tactic is to try to rush a job-seeker into providing personal information or paying upfront fees they sell as necessary to getting the job. They’re good at applying pressure and masking their intent, which is why job-seekers need to be vigilant.
“Most of the ones you’d see that are sketchy, I feel it could happen to anybody,” Bertucci said.
The clipboard incident was a telling example of people signing something without knowing what it was or why they were signing, said SSC intern Michael Nantau, who is featured in some Instagram posts. “There’s that fear that if everybody is doing it they might be missing out on opportunities.”
Anyone who has had a negative experience with someone they believe is a job scammer is urged to notify the Student Success Centre at 519-661-3619 or email@example.com and Campus Community Police.
The campaign concludes with Western’s annual Job Fair on Feb. 5, at Western’s Student Recreation Centre from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Almost 70 employers will be participating; all have been vetted by SSC.
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EMPLOY THESE TIPS
Some safe job-search tips from the Student Success Centre from www.safejobsearch.uwo.ca :
- Protect your personal information. You shouldn’t have to provide photos or passport numbers to potential employers;
- Don’t add your information to ambiguous sign-up sheets for jobs, interviews or information sessions;
- Research the company, including looking on its website for job or career information;
- Review the job description/responsibilities to ensure they matches the job title;
- Be realistic with pay: it’s not likely you’ll be offered twice the minimum wage for a job requiring no experience;
- Be cautious of recruiters who use non-organization e-mails to recruit or respond back to you; for example: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Run from companies that ask you to pay a one-time or up-front fee or require a money transfer of any sort;
- Get a contract in writing; and
- Understand your rights as an employee, including what interview questions are permissible.