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Telemarketing Jobs Disguised as Real Jobs

Updated on May 4, 2013

How Employers Get Good People, Cheap

The ad on the state-run career site said this fast-growing company wanted candidates for its Business Leadership Program in marketing. I applied, thinking it was high time I trained for business leadership. They especially welcomed applications from recent colIege graduates. My resume clearly says I graduated from college in 1978, so when they called me twice I thought it was fishy. But then I said to myself "don't be cynical" and "think positive," and imagined it was pretty generous of them to interview a mature person when most other businesses won't.

I'd never heard of a "group interview," but it sounded slick and very Business 2.0, so I was surprised to see the place was a converted factory in a run-down area. Greeters sent me to the conference room along with four fresh-faced college grads and a man my age with a polyester sport coat and a desperate face. He kept saying, "It's not about working harder, it's about working smarter," very 1980s; as if he didn't realize that things have changed and now working is about working harder--and longer.

The CEO, a man in his 30s wearing a company polo, explained that if selected for the program we could shadow the company execs, and "our class" would meet local business leaders at Friday seminars. When we got to know what we wanted to do we could "design our own jobs," and for the 12 weeks would be paid $3,750. Wow, it sounded cool! He introduced us to a Business Leadership Program "graduate," a very young and sweet-looking woman.

But--and the 'but' was big--the cost of this program, and our $3750, had to be offset somehow, so during our "internship" we must "market" 8:30 to 5 Monday through Friday in the company's call center, making a quota of 3,000 phone calls a month. Cold calls. "We don't like to call it telemarketing," said the CEO.

If a month is 21 working days, that meant 148 calls daily, or 18.5 calls an hour. $3,750 over 12 weeks is $312 a week, and divided by 40 hours is an hourly wage of $7.81; just pennies over minimum wage. If they'd said that in the ad, what articulate dependable energetic college graduate would want to apply?

This was a cleverly disguised form of the "bait and switch" tactic, baiting the hook for smart young people with words like "social media" and "business leadership program." A less sophisticated example is the retailer who advertises for a management trainee. When you get there that job has been filled, but they have plenty of jobs out on the sales floor.

Warning signs that a potential job is a bait-and-switch:

  • group interviews
  • ad and/or website doesn't say what the company does or sells
  • the ad specifies "recent college graduates"
  • the ad says it's an "internship" or "trainee" program and it has an attractive "compensation" figure
  • you get more than one call asking you for an interview
  • they call even though you are over 50, disabled, have a record, or have some other trait that potential employers usually hold against you
  • instead of calling, they send you an email that says they are impressed with your resume and inviting you to call (happens if you register on

What about "shadowing" the execs? Well, we could do the Business Leadership Program activities after we made our call quota. We wouldn't even get to do sales. If a cold call turned up a hot prospect, the call got transferred to the closers who did the real selling. One of the young men asked the sweet young thing what percentage of people who entered the program actually became execs. "If there's 100 people, about three," she answered. Guess 97 percent of us are not cut out for business leadership!


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