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Dear Flora: COVID Job Scams

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  • Tip Bones

Dear Flora,

I was laid off from my last job due to COVID-19. Ever since, I've been looking for work, but it's been really hard to get an interview for anything. I've been sending resumes and applications for months, and so far have had three interviews in as many months. One didn't even answer, and the other was an almost immediate rejection. But the third was interesting, and I'm weirded out about it, too. I got an interview for a recruiting job that doesn't seem to have a lot of info about the company, just that they've been in business for 15 years, and that they sell 'business tools.' The interview was mostly just a recruiter talking at me, trying to sell me on the company, telling me how fun it is to work there. When I asked about the pay structure and the benefits, she confirmed that there were no benefits and it was commission-only. I know I'm desperate for work, but... am I wrong to be suspicious?

- Broke and Desperate

Dear BaD,

I think your gut reaction is probably the right call here. Jobs that seem too good to be true usually are, and that goes doubly during the pandemic. The lack of company information, the hard sell from the recruiter, the lack of benefits and reliance on performance pay only all tell me that this is a position that most people don't stay in very long. Especially if there's no way to tell exactly how you make your commission as a recruiter, I'd say run fast, run far. Any stable job with benefits-- and many without-- are probably better than this gig.

For everyone else out there looking for work, never take one that doesn't meet your basic needs. If it pays less than you can afford to live, spruce up your resume and portfolio and negotiate your price, particularly if you have a lot of experience in the field. If you need benefits for you and your family, don't hesitate to ask about what the company offers once you're in the post-offer. Asking in the first interview makes sense, but can scare off even a good employer thinking you're only in it for the benefits, and will leave after you reap what you need. It's not common that people do this, but it's a concern for companies everywhere.

Now is a good time to network. Try linking up on social media and attending virtual events, or online hiring and job fairs. Don't rely on the job boards to give you the best results, because like our reader, some job posts aren't what they seem. Always do a background check on companies you apply to. Look for evidence of longevity, or a good business model in a startup. If you can, check with former employees of the company. Reach out on LinkedIn or another professional network. Did they enjoy it there? What made them leave? What advice do they have for someone looking to join?

The pandemic makes job searching even harder than it always was. Don't get tripped up by a scam in desperation: make use of any social programs you might qualify for, and use your network to find new positions.