Recently I went on a job interview for an entry level marketing manager position that from all outward appearances seemed promising. And why not? Shannon Long, 10 Inc. Human Resource manager boasted in an e-mail that "10, Inc. is a sales & management and new customer acquisition for ’s Business Consumers. Due to our success with Qwest we also acquired Quill as a client; a subsidiary of Staples."
After a follow-up phone conversation with Long, my interview was set for the following morning; I was told to dress in business professional. That seemed odd since presumably a qualified candidate should know how to dress for an interview but I shrugged it off. However, despite my year interning at television news stations, I had not one suit suitable for a "business professional" interview, which meant a trip to Nordstrom. Shopping, especially at Nordstrom, is normally something I enjoy, but money's tight right now and spending a pretty penny on a black stuffy suit when I have to pass on the latest shoe trends, isn't exactly my idea of fun. I share this with you because it irks me this all turned out to be a scam!
The following morning I dress taking care to follow the rigid guidelines of "business professional." I drive 30 miles to Bellevue, Wa through a torrential downpour in painstakingly slow traffic to my interview. After a quick look-see in the rear-view mirror, I made a mad dash into a virtually empty business building center where I find loud music blaring from a boom box from 10 Inc.'s receptionist counter. I knew right away something was askew.
I'm greeted by Long, the HR manger that scheduled my interview, who I guess is also the receptionist. She hands me an application and tells me to fill out the marked sections. As I and three or four other black-suited individuals wait for our respective interviews, we pass looks at one another as we hear cheers, loud voices and clapping going on from somewhere within 10 Inc. We also watch people leave from their interviews as others arrive; some had no idea what business professional meant.
My name is called. I stand up, shake hands with Jason (no last name given) and walk past two sparsely furnished offices with very little activity. He leads me to an office with a surprisingly clean desk where four chairs are lined in front. While making a show to read my resume (there's no way he read anything while he asked questions and listened to answers) he asked me what I had thought were warm-up questions: "What would you say your strengths are? What's your greatest weakness? What are your interests?" That was it. These were my interview questions!!!
Having conducted interviews for nearly 18 years, I was dumbfounded. Jason tells me about the company and what they're looking for in an employee. He doesn't really tell me anything except the job is a commission only position but I can expect to earn a minimum of 32k to begin. He asked me if I was okay with that and I respond yes, but asked, "Since your company doesn't sell a product, what exactly am I earning commission from and what is the commission scale?" He responded, "This is something we'll discuss on a second interview, which will require you to be here all day: 8 hours." Not satisfied I asked, "Alright, could you walk me through a typical workday?" He then stood up, obviously signaling the end of the interview, and while guiding me out the door he lets me know, "Again, that's something we'll discuss on a second interview. We'll be calling people back for second interviews at four today, if you don't get a call it's because someone else was more qualified." I didn't get a call back.
Everything just seemed wrong. As soon as I got home the laptop went on and didn't go off again until late that night!
The Better Business Bureau rates companies on a scale from A+ to F; 10 Inc. is given a C-. Quill in an e-mail wrote, "we are not associated with 10, Inc. in any way" and Chris Des Marais, Qwest Customer Relations Manger wrote, "[our] company is not familiar with the company 10, Inc. and what they provide."
Unfortunately, 10 Inc. has refused to comment or clarify what service their company provides. My best guess is either employees work off-site at a boiler room or they telecommute, neither of which are wrong in themselves but the company's tactics are dishonest nonetheless. It's difficult to say exactly what their game is without talking with them but in our tough economic times, many companies are having difficulties affording a workforce. 10 Inc. are probably scouting unemployed individuals desperate for work. They promise big rewards with hard work but by the time employees figure things out, 10 Inc. got a few months of free labor. According to 10 Inc. as stated on their Web site: "Our philosophy of 100% internal, merit based promotions guarantees that we are able to offer career opportunities and the growth potential to realize career goals to people of all backgrounds."
I must admit, 10 Inc.'s Web site sent red flags my way but excited about prospects of learning new skills and to be apart of something exciting, "Journalism 101" went out the door. This includes how to identify credible Web sites. In retrospect, 10 Inc. failed on every level. First, the site lists no physical or mailing address; no e-mail or phone numbers. It's void of photos of the organization's members and there's no means of customer support. Although the site provides a "Links/Press" tab it doesn't provide links to outside material and sources; and all press is internal. Finally and probably most important, for a company that brags about their high-profile client list and uses the site presumably to attract new business, it fails to list any clients or client testimonials or adequately state what services their company provides.
Shady business practices are nothing new but in tough economic times, they are abundant. The best ways to protect yourself are to research the company you're interested in, ask lots of questions at the interview, pay attention to your gut and share what you learn so others won't make the same mistake.