Outsourcing Job Search Tasks Can Leverage Your Time. But Buyer Beware

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If CapitalOne outsources its customer service and Ford outsources its manufacturing, why can't you outsource your job search? Well, you can.

Jim Bosket, who serves as both chief executive and chief financial officer for an intellectual property company in Orange, Va., has used an outsourcing service to scour job boards and send more than 900 resumes since November. The service has landed him a half-dozen interviews. "Time-wise I can't compete," he says.

Bosket pays $49 per week for the service, JobSerf, which uses labor in India to conduct job posting research and send out customized resumes and cover letters on behalf of its customers. Not only is it cost effective to have the service comb through many job boards, he says, it also streamlines the application process.

"I think they're doing a better job than if I were to do it myself," Bosket says. "If I get involved, I end up rewriting every single letter."

Various services that help job hunters look and apply for jobs are on the rise. JobSerf, one of the leaders in this space, reports that its 2009 business was up five times over 2008.

In Bosket's case, JobSerf relies on five resumes and five cover letters which are customized for each job applied for. To prospective employers, the emails look like they're coming from Bosket's personal account. "I get a lot more responses to applications with the service than if I applied myself," he says. An online account allows him to see exactly what emails are going out on his behalf. He can direct the service's searches, and follow up personally with prospects if he chooses.

Randy Eakin, an unemployed CFO in Phoenix, also has been pleased with his JobSerf experience - although not with the outcome. In the few weeks of using the service he has not gotten any bites. "I think it is more a function of the market," Eakin says. The service is so affordable that he views it as merely another tool in his job-search arsenal. It does seek out obscure job boards that he wouldn't otherwise know about. "I was impressed with that," he says.

Some Cautionary Tales

Like with any business, these sorts of services call for the buyer to beware.

One North Carolina consultant, who we'll call Jackson, found himself unemployed a year ago and took the bait when approached via a social media site by someone who billed himself as a recruiter who would help with the job search, as well as career coaching and resume writing. Jackson forked over $7,500, and the relationship quickly soured. Soon after starting the process, the recruiter refused to return phone calls, e-mail, or any of the fee. "In general I'm a pretty trusting person - and a good judge of talent," Jackson says. "But in this case I was desperate and lost." He is still unemployed.

Blatant scammery aside, job search outsourcing does warrant scrutiny.

Recruiter Bruce Hurwitz saw first-hand outsourcing gone wrong when placing a financial professional recently. The client was hot on a great candidate, whom Hurwitz instructed to conduct thorough research in preparation for an interview. When the client's assistant called to set up an appointment, the candidate mentioned a new initiative the company was launching. The assistant had no idea what he was talking about, and brought it to the hiring manager's attention.

Turns out, the candidate had hired someone to investigate the prospective employer. "Problem was, the researcher researched the wrong company," Hurwitz says. "My client was a non-profit. The researcher went to a dot-com not a dot-org website. The candidate, needless to say, was never interviewed for the position. Some things should never be outsourced."