I want you to want me

Groucho Marx may have had it right when it came to club membership. Well, he may not have had it right, but at least he was funny.

When it comes to the business relationship, specifically the customer relationship, it's another story entirely. All other things (like product quality) being equal, my interest in working with a company is in direct correlation to their interest in having me as a customer. You say you try harder? That works for me. Prove it and I'm yours.

One side effect of my over-active brain (I'm always thinking deeply about something else, especially as I pour motor oil into the gas tank) is that it also comes with a need to be heard. Thoughts bounce around in my brain like pong (remember that?) until I let them out. I try to let out only the good ones. But at the end of the day, I have an intense need to be heard. When I was young, my grandmother explained it as "being the only 5 year old with an opinion on everything"; grandpa just called me "motor mouth".

In fact, I find that when I can let people I work with know about this need to be heard, it really helps build relationships. I like to throw ideas out, debate, see what works. The alternative is obsessing on "what if" and that just doesn't work for me.  The goal at the end of the day is a better work product.

When it comes to new product development, listening to customer feedback is the most important thing you do. There are a lot of other things you can mess up and still survive, but if you don't gain the hearts and minds of your customers, none of that other stuff matters. It can take a while to get there, especially when your product serves multiple customer segments with conflicting needs. But at the end of the day, listening in earnest can not only help you gain needed insight but can also generate a ridiculous amount of good will with customers. And if the customer is me, I will practically want to hug you (and I'm not a hugger).

Today, I had lunch with Marc (the CEO), DeWayne and Rohan from TheLadders. They were in town for some meetings and invited me to lunch. I believe I mentioned before what a big fan I am of the company. They took the whole job posting board equation and they flipped it. Employers post for free and candidates/job seekers pay for a subscription (I don't remember how much it is but it's not expensive). My main contact at TheLadders, Michael, has always offered to give my feedback to their product development team and has often said the magic words "we'll get that into the feature queue for the next release" (or something to that effect).

So when I arrived at lunch with my "wish list" of product features, imagine my pleasure when the person that pulled out a piece of paper and started taking notes was their CEO. Many tools that recruiters use, they use because they have sunk dollars into them. With a free-to-employer tool like TheLadders, the cost is my time. The more their team satisfies my need to be heard with regard to product features, the larger my perceived investment in TheLadders (see how loyalty snowballs?). Of course none of this would matter if we weren't making hires through TheLadders (and we are making hires).

I'm not sure if Marc & Co. have thought about the listening x time = customer loyalty thing. It feels like they just want to produce the best product possible (to both employers and $100K + job seekers) and that means talking to people. On this side of the customer relationship, though, the combination of customer focus and humility makes me a fan....and a customer.

I'm pretty conservative when it comes to endorsing other companies. I think you do that too much and people become immune to it. They stop seeing you as a credible influence. If everything is great, what is your standard?

At the same time, having had such positive interactions with TheLadders team has turned me into a customer evangelist. Lucky for TheLadders, I am a customer evangelist with a blog. And a little open time on my calendar this afternoon.

Comments (39)

  1. Layla Davis says:

    I’m a little less convinced that Ladders is all about the customer. Lately they’ve added some features that make me think they’re much more concerned with making money than with quality. They’ve replaced some of their best resume writers with lesser quality referrals and stopped referring readers to the resume services’ websites. I assume this is because they have started to collect an affiliate fee and therefore their readers are paying though the nose and getting a lesser quality product.

    In the same vein, the only articles they publish now are by the providers they recommend on their own website. My own favorite writer has vanished from their newsletter, I assume for this reason.

    Ladders used to be all about their customers. I’m not so sure they are anymore.

  2. Ben says:

    Excellent posting!

    I believe that this type of site will work out great. The simple fact that the job-seeker is willing to pay for the site access; gives him/her a higher degree of professionalism/seriousness/want from an employer’s perspective.

    Too often, I see people not willing to spend a penny on something that will improve their skills or marketability. Are they penny-pinchers or not as professionally-driven?

    About being a valued customer:

    I had an experience at Enterprise last year. A car I received was not as clean as you’d expect on the inside. I didn’t notice it since I picked it up at night in an underground garage.  I called to complain the next morning. They offered to exchange the car; however, I couldn’t do the exchange due to time constraints. They asked me to remind them on return.

    I returned the car. They asked the usual "Were you satisfied with your experience?” I responded in the negative and told them what happened. They look in their system, found my complaint, apologized, and gave a 10 percent discount. They asked if that satisfied me completely. I thanked the discount but mentioned that my satisfaction though better was not complete. The manager then offered a 50 percent discount and a free upgrade on my next rental. Was I satisfied? Yes, yes, and yes.

    They cared and made sure I left a happy camper. I’m sure; if I had still not been satisfied they would’ve given me an even better discount. Their "care" was enough to satisfy my need of appreciation.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm, Layla, I have no doubt that they will read your feedback here and use it. I’m not familiar with those things you mentioned. Let’s see if they either explain the reasons or address it otherwise. Thanks for the feedback…good to hear it from the job seekers’ standpoint!

    Ben-good points. that definitely sounds like a company that cares about customers. Interesting that the person you spoke with was empowered to negotiate your satisfaction. That’s really an interesting concept. It allows them to not over-compensate and you remain a happy customer. Very interesting.

  4. Wine-Oh says:

    Not a fan of the Ladders. Cancelled my subscription. Didnt find it to be user friendly and always had issues when a recruiter contacted me and swapping contact info. I think that interface has to be easier to use. It was almost like you were swapping contact info on a dating website and then there was a disconnect. Id give my info and never hear from the recruiter.

    I felt that there were very few jobs for what I was looking for, and some were posted all over the internet. I am much happier using industry specific job posting websites/newsletters. I also like Monster’s interface, LinkedIn, and indeed.com.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, I think that may have had more to do with the recruiter than TheLadders, just based on the criticisms I hear  of many recruiters in general. I’ve never had technical problems in exchanging info with a prospect or anything like that, though I haven’t tried it from the other side. So yours is feedback they should get, obviously.

    I know they are working on getting more jobs on there.

    I think your point about using many tools is a good one. People should use several options and definitely proactively network. My team also used LinkedIn.  

  6. Matt says:

    Paying money to find open positions?  What better way to feel desperate.  I spend enough time and money seeking positions.  Actually paying a third party (Ladders) for exposure might be more efficient, but it certainly feels cheap.  I’ve had significantly better results searching out my own opportunites, ie Nick Corcodilos’ approach.  

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    I just heard from one of the folks at TheLadders and their whole team is reading these comments. If you have ideas, recommendations, cheap shots, post them here. They will see them.

  8. Wine-Oh says:

    Heather… Points well taken.

    Id like to add this for the reading pleasue of the folks at The Ladders:

    I reccomend maybe the Ladders take the less is more approach. Pre-screen the recruiters using the service. Follow up and see how many connections were made, so there can be some statistics out there. Then I would be able to guage if it was money well spent.

    -I do give them kudos for those exclusive postings where it says you get your The Ladders Membership fee back if you are hired. Id like to see more incentives like this and more exclusive postings.

    -I dont like going to 4 or 5 message boards and seeing the same jobs. It would set them out as a market leader if they went for the exclusive type positions and those more rare and unique spots.

    I am now stepping away from the mike!

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, no doubt they appreciate that feedback!

  10. Wine-Oh says:

    I smell a job opportunity here… I am available to be a consultant. (just kidding) I feel that my last job has been that of a professional job hunter and interviewee. So I have spent many hours on these job websites. Id be curious to know if The Ladders folk have talked to those people who have used their service to get feedback. ie a advisory committee?

    I have tried the paid and non paid ones. My rule is that I will try the paid ones for a month or two and see the reults and leads. My latest finding was that the leads were the same from Monster, Linked In, CraigsList, etc. I actually get my most leads from Monster and some interactive media and marketing specific job sites. Yes I know I am being picky and looking for that rare opportunity. Im allowed (I think)I am not someone who can be classified as one thing (ie a Dr, lawyer, IT guy, magician, dog trainer). I have worn many hats and am looking for those hybird type gigs. I think the Ladders has a great opportunity to market itself for those niche hard to find, no one knows about type roles. That to me would be money well spent. 🙂

  11. tobint says:

    The problem with statistics is that 80% of them are made up on the spot…

    Using the statistics of contacts vs hires doesn’t tell me anything other than the person viewing your resume doesn’t see you as a fit for the positions.  That actually might be more telling of a person’s resume or qualifications than it does of the recruiters — but that would only be statistically.

    I used the ladders before I came to Microsoft and enjoyed the concept, but can’t say as I used it much. I let my subscription lapse when I came to work here.  I signed up again today just to look at the features on here and see if I had anything else to add.  If nothing else, you can claim you prompted a re-subscription from me.  Are you getting commission?  Marc, you reading this? 🙂

    I will say that when I first signed up, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the resume reviewing process.  I passed my resume to a few people for the "free review", but all I got was a bunch of people telling me that I needed to pay before they gave advice.

    I like that the resume experts now have before and after samples of their work.  It would be nice if they had to put more than a few up and it would be even better if people who used their services were able to rate them / provide feedback on the writers themselves.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, more good points. I think is smart of you to have put that much thought into your search.

  13. Paul says:

    The Ladders is still relatively new, and is rapidly changing.  The fact that the CEO wants to go out and hear direct feedback and act on it is one of the most commendable things about them.

    The biggest issue is that although pleasing recruiters is good (you don’t want them to feel like it is hard to use or that they are getting unfiltered crap like happens on most other sites), pleasing the real customer — the folks who are paying — should be first.

    There are several things they could do to distinguish themselves to job seekers, rather than job fillers:

    – insist that employers/recruiters exhibit a higher level of professionalism, and respond to every application, if only with a polite no thank you letter or email

    – charge a higher fee to candidates and eliminate paid ads from other sources (you have to decide who you serve — if you serve everyone, then you aren’t really that different from the other guys).  a higher fee would also create a higher level of exclusivity matching on both sides of the equation (employers are more lkely to see a smaller set of highly qualified resumes if the exclusivity filter is set to a higher standard)

    – eliminate the monthly fee.  it devalues the service significantly.  see above point.

    – if you are going to have paid ads to employers or recruiters embedded, then eliminate the fee to candidates, since you’ve already watered down the definition of who the customer is

    I could go on, and I’m sure some of these things may seem counter-intuitive to job seekers, but Marc’s business model was counter-intuitive to begin with.  In a sea of free classified ads and online services, why should anyone pay to view jobs?  The reason, which is the number one benefit to subscribers, is exclusivity.  And, it turns out that the exclusivity is good for both sides.

    Although Marc should absolutely be listening to employers, all their feedback should be filtered through the prism of what is best for building his brand equity with the top level candidates, and ensuring that the candidates stay top level.

    This post reminds me of the "broken windows" theory, and its most recent manifestation in the book Broken Windows, Broken Companies.  Marc stands out because he doesn’t allow broken windows to stay broken, and the anecdote about Enterprise reinforces this.  Customer service and attentiveness has degraded to such a low level that we are surprised if anyone treats us the way we expect to be treated all the time.  Most businesses are full of broken windows, and it is a joy to celebrate the few that aren’t.  It’s always the little things that count.

  14. Wine-Oh says:

    Nice post Paul. I think you and I are on the same page here. I like the broken window analogy. Coming from a background in customer service, I tried to go above and beyond with clients and they began to appreciate it after a while. Yes Marc has an opportunity to do the same. An E mail back from the client would be great, instead of Marc’s auto generated one. I think he and his team have a great opportunity to go after the exclusives and get rid of the redundant ads that are on other job sites. That will definitely make The Ladders stand out more.

  15. Well thank you very much everybody for takin such an interest in TheLadders.com here on Heather’s blog!

    To take folks’ comments in order:

    "Layla Davis" the person whose favorite writer disappeared, sounds like it might be a pseudonymn for that writer! We don’t have a Layla Davis in our database, and, in any event, I read every single customer email here at TheLadders.com — it’s about 1,000 per week, and therefore about 150,000 over the past 3 years. I haven’t had any reader complain about the details of our resume services, or connect the dots between the fact that many of our resume writers also write articles for the newsletter, so I’d have to guess this is one of the disgruntled writers that we opted out of our service. And I really make no apology for that — we’ve reviewed hundreds of resume writers over the years to pick our current crop of 12 approved writers. And the ones that don’t make it, or that we fire because their service is not up-to-snuff, can engage in this kind of petty, anonymous sniping. If those are the "outrageous slings and arrows" that we have to put up with to serve our customers better, I am glad to do it.

    Wine-Oh: Thanks for the general feedback. Recruiter responsiveness is always a perceived issue among job-seekers. In the good old days, you’d actually get a postcard or a phone call acknowledging your application! (Yes, to all the young ones out there, that’s how it was in the goold old days). But today, the problem is that recruiters receive, literally, thousands of applications for every spot. We’ve tried to help them with our system, which leads to an average of about 15 applicants per spot, but it’s just not always possible for a recruiter to reply. Our next generation system, called "My Applicants" and due out next month, will make it much easier for recruiters to provide feedback to candidates.

    As far as the interface, Wine-Oh, without more specific feedback there’s not much I can address point by point. But I will say that we’ve improved dramatically in the past year, as we’ve increased our product, tech, and deisgn staffs three-fold. We’re only three years old and we’re developing this system from scratch, so it does take a lot of listening, learning, and working on our part to keep getting better. The good thing is, we’re defintiely getting better! If you want to see for yourself, just take a look at what our site looked like two years ago when I was still doing the design myself!:


    Eeeek! 🙂

    Matt — yeah, we get this one a lot. Because we’re inventing an industry — job seeker information services — a lot of people approach our model with a sense that it is desperate / cheap / pathetic, etc. Which is really kind of funny and sad. In the other major life decisions you make — buying a car, buying a house, making investments, doing your taxes — it is of course, understood, and even a little bit expected that you would seek out better sources of information and purchase them.   For some strange reason though, it’s viewed as an odd thing to do when it comes to the 2nd most important decision in your life — where you’ll work and how you’ll earn your daily bread. So we’ll continue to try to overcome people’s prejudices about our new industry and prove that our subscribers *should* "hire" us to help them in their job search.

    Wine-oh, Part 2 — thanks for coming back with more comments. Screen recruiters — we do, in fact, hand-screen every single recruiter and every single job before we allow them into our system. Occassionally, stinkers do fake their way thru — we’re currently pulling about 1 recruiter per week off the site for bad behavior (out of 17,000, so they are actually very well-behaved) and find that 10 to 15 non-high-end jobs each week somehow snuck through our filters (out of 7,000 new ones, so, again, I think within our acceptable margin of error).

    Only posting exclusive jobs — yeah, WIne-Oh, I hear you, and you sound like a very diligent sort. But other customers want just the opposite — they’d like to see all $100K+ jobs in one place so that tehy DON’T have to go looking everywhere on the net. That’s why we put the icons there for you, so you can decide for yourself whether you just want to see the exclusive ones or "all" jobs. Building a product in general means compromises and trade-offs, and trying to find the right mix of features that can best satisfy everybody, so while I definitely hear and understand your particular preferences, I hope you’ll understand that we try to do our best to maximize the utility for most subscribers.

    Wine-Oh, Part 3 — Hybrid-type gigs are definitely the hardest to find, Wine-Oh, so I can appreciate that your search was a little tougher. We defintely love feedback — as I’ve said, I read every single customer email (about 1,000 / week) and that’s what drives our product development process. Feel free to write in and mention that you’re "Wine-Oh" from Heather’s blog and you’ll get a reply from me.

    Tobin — thanks for the comments, and glad that you’ve rejoined! As far as the resume critique goes, it’s meant to be a 15-minute "taste test" of what a resume writer can do. As I strongly recommend that any professional get their resume written professionally, we’ve arranged for this critique to help you better understand the resume writing market. It is definitely NOT a "freebie" resume re-write, for which any good writer will charge $800 or more. And it’s important that subscribers be fair to the resume writers — you wouldn’t want a company to have you come in and complete a project for free to take advantage of your desire to prove yourself. Similarly, resume writers can’t do all the work for you for free, and then hope that you’ll pay them. It’s just not entirely fair.

    As far as resume writers and more resumes, that’s a good idea. As is a rating system. Alas, given everything in our pipeline right now, that’s probably a 2007 project, but thanks for the thinking on that!

    Paul — many thanks for your thoughts.

    Recruiters — we’re hoping our new system, out next month, will make managing and communicating with applicants about their status MUCH easier.

    Eliminate paid ads –we don’t accept money from hiring firms or recruiters, and we don’t acept paid ads. We work for you, the job-seeker.

    Eliminate monthly fee — not sure how we’d stay in business if we didn’t charge our customers! Also, the monthly fee serves as a cover charge; and like cover charges verywhere that helps ensure that the people using the service feel it is valuable and appropriate for them, thereby keeping inappropriate applicants out.

    Eliminate paid ads — we don’t have paid ads from recruiters / employers.

    Pay to view jobs — we’re really a lot more than this, and, in fact, people can view all of the job titles, locations, etc. for free on the basic free product. The premium product is about *connecting* with recrutiers: through the job listings, through the Bio database, etc. So we’re hoping to make the paid version even more useful in terms of, not just viewing job listings, but connecting with real recruiters, hiring managers, and HR groups, in order to get you into that next great role in life as quickly as possible.

    Thanks for the other positive comments, Paul!

  16. stone says:

    Lots of commenters over at Heather’s "Marketing at Microsoft" Blog regarding TheLadders.com and our visit with Heather. I’ve posted the…

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    See, guys? I told you they were listening ; )

  18. Wine-Oh says:


    Thanks for your responses. Much appreciated and its good to hear that you take these comments seriously.  

    Do those of us who frequent Heathers’ blog and submit feedback to postings such as this get a complimentary membership to TheLadders.com? 🙂 Just askin’

  19. Why-the-heck-not? says:

    After much cajoling I gave in and paid for a "premium" subscription. Not something I would normally do based on the wide range of free options out there.  I see this in the same light as a paid search vs. using a retained recruiter. Since I paid up I have some significant expectations… The site needs to be seeker focused. There needs to be more data regarding interaction with recruiters. If a recruiter asks for your contact info and/or resume they should be required to provide some feedback. So far it appears to be a black hole you throw your precious data into. I can get that for free. Give me something worth the money I’m spending. Overall, I think this site has some value (otherwise I wouldn’t have given them my hard earned moola) BUT I expect to see a site focused on helping me land a great job in a manner far easier than the "do it yourself" approaches.

  20. Kristen Janes says:

    How about an idea for a new event that takes full advantage of the technology that MS can provide.

    I recently did an information interview with Maria C.  after you (Heather) took interest in my bio.   She explained that the recruiters at MS somewhat tailor their efforts for a given group.  So she would now pass my resume on to other recruiters.  I’ll continue to drive for some face to face time with all the recruiters who might be interested in my resume.   She explained that at my level it might take 2-3 mos.  

    This got me to thinking about how MS and TheLadders subscribers might streamline the process a bit.

    Assuming that MS recruiters don’t always have time to pass on and follow up with their peers in other groups.  And assuming that you have multiple candidates from TheLadders.  And asssuming that TheLadders candidates are more tech saavy than most. Why not host an on-line job fair for an invited set of TheLadders candidates?

    Idea would be to invite candidates to come for 15-30 minute ftf on-line rapid interviews on-line.  To help prepare – MS could provide webcasts regarding MS direction and structure to help candidates navigate to places where their talents would be most appreciated.

    Candidates would then log on to an MS Live site and sign up to meet recruiters in the departments and/or job catagories they are interested in.  

    Assuming the candidate can figure out how to join in a netmeeting with a camera attached to their computer using VOIP.  Neither pays for the phone call and the candidates get to confidentially meet ftf with recruiters without flying to WA.   Saves both time and money for first round interviews and it personalizes the process by giving both parties faces to go with names.

    Even better, if they feel they have a superb candidate, the recruiter could invite any MS Manager to join them on the call on the spot.

    Once MS figures out how to do it, they could host similar events for a fee with other companies who post with TheLadders, or maybe Marc ends up repackaging and selling it to the corporations.  

    Or thinking really out of the box, getting TheLadders to do apply a bit of business intelligence to their 7000 postings and subscriber data bases.  Have TheLadders orchestrate subscribers for their own recruitment fairs as a benefit – for example… sending recruiters needing strategic planners a notice that there will be 100 candidates with strategic planning and high tech in their bios available to meet for 15-30 minute slots on such and such a date. the recruiters and preview the bios and sign up to meet with the subscribers they are interested in.

  21. wow! say, Kristen, that’s a really good idea. we should definitely look at using our ability to aggregate candidates with particular skill sets into a mass, concurrent audience. i could see companies looking for, say, Java developers, or brand marketers, or enterprise software salespeople liking the ability to "market" to a cohesive group simultaneously.

    thanks! I’ll put in on the product development list….

  22. Paul says:

    Marc:  Assuming that you are still monitoring this, I will address these remarks directly to you.

    re: recruiters.  My suggestion was much stronger than just making it easier to communicate.  Why not make a more professional standard of communication a cost of entry?  It is certainly consistent with a premium service, and in your shoes, I’d want to do everything possible to reinforce that.

    re: paid ads.  The site gives the appearance of paid ads (featured recruiter insertions look like paid Google keyword buys).  I certainly believe your statement that they are not, since I have no reason to doubt it, but I have a pretty keen eye, and if it looks to me like recruiter insertions are paid, then they probably look that way to a lot of other people.  You need to be careful of appearance.  You are offering a differentiated service targeting mid to high level subscribers, and you need to make sure it stays differentiated, and that your customers have no reason to believe that you are double-dipping.

    re: eliminate monthly fee.  I didn’t say "eliminate all fees", just the monthly fee.  I see nothing wrong with the minimum cost to join being 150-200, or even higher than that.  The $30 price tag is too low.  For what you are offering, the price tag should provide some level of screening and filtering.  For your monthly fee to be less than the cost of an entree at a decent restaurant makes no sense — it is inconsistent with your brand positioning.  Anything less than $100 implies low end.  Think about other things that your target audience might purchase and how you compare.  Registering at Blue Steps costs much more than this, and offers a lot less.  Or, I can put gas in my SUV once, or get 2 months subscription to your service for the same price.  I can barely feed my family at McDonalds for $30.  Being an executive member at Costco costs $100 and entitles one to shop in a big box warehouse with limited selection for slightly less than you could pay elsewhere, as long as you buy enormous quantities.   You, in contrast, are potentially offering dreams, aspirations, and maybe a 30-50% pay increase — which is worth more?

    re: pay to view jobs.  I think you missed what I was trying to say.  Of course I understand that it is more than that, but you need to view it from the customer’s shoes, not with your PR hat on.  There are many sites that claim to have "high paying" jobs (is 100K high-paying any more?), and most of them are much better known than you are.  So, assume that people capable of pulling down 100K might be a little savvier, certainly more confident in their own abilities, and a bit skeptical about paying anything to "view jobs" that they can see or find elsewhere for free.

    I understand perfectly that one gets what one pays for, but human psychology says the opposite.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Money in my pocket is a sure thing; money spent to possibly earn more is speculation.  My point was that your business model is counter-intuitive.  It’s why you have potential customers saying this smells of desperation, rather than viewing it as an investment in smart career management.  It says to me that you need to work a little more on what your brand identity is, and on ensuring consistency.

    For example, if you think paying your fee is about connecting with recruiters and employers, then you need to make sure it happens.  I sincerely doubt, however, that this is the reason most people are signing up.  On the other hand, think about how powerful a statement it would be to guarantee that 100% of my employment inquiries would get a response — to many people, that would be worth paying even more than I’ve suggested.  That is obviously not happening, as I’m seeing several posters saying that their applications go unacknowledged. If the average job on your site gets 15 applicants, I could push a button and collect 15 customized letters from my printer to sign before breakfast.  How difficult would it be, really, to insist that if employers want access to your subscribers, they need to play by different rules?

    Marc, as I tried to suggest earlier, I think you’ve mostly done a great job, and you are growing up quickly.  That’s why I’m more inclined to see the positives than the negatives, however, when it comes to brand positioning, I tend to see things as a lot more black and white, because that’s the way positioning works.  You either are something or you’re not.  The customer doesn’t reserve two pigeon-holes in their mind for you — just one, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to break through the noise and get pigeon-holed.  The temptation for you will always be to slip into the mediocre middle, to be more inclusive.  Or, you can continue to build the strongest premium career brand in the business by going against the grain and offering truly superior service, not just nicer flashing knobs and dials.

    I have lots of other ideas, but this probably isn’t the right forum.  I’d be happy to talk to you offline if you wish.  Heather knows how to find me if you’re interested.

  23. James Peters says:

    I always found frustration with the "better" jobs being unavailable to view on Updadder.  Then one day recently I was surprised to be locked out from free listings to find that they no longer were offering free listings.  Now, I see that they are back to exposing what appear to be free listings.  I am not particularly convinced that they even forward responses to free listings, don’t waste your time.  And furthermore, who really cares if they are reading this or not, they are just another business pretending to care about the customer when all they care about is the bottom line…and why shouldn’t they?  This is not a ministry, it is a business, not unlike all others, except that places like monster, 6figures, etc. at least don’t take from both sides.

  24. HeatherLeigh says:

    Kristen- GREAT thinking! What do you think if we do a webinar? My one concern with having an "open call", so to speak, is that we can’t focus only on people we feel we might find positions for, we’d have to talk to each person (and as much as we’d love to be able to do that, it’s not a possibility, unfortunately). I want to brainstorm this idea more. I’ll post some more soon about how my job has changed, but this is just the type of thing I should be exploring so I LOVE to hear ideas like this, especially since they are coming from the candidate perspective. THANK YOU!

    James-I can tell you that they definitely do forward resumes for the free listings because I have a big fat folder of them in my inbox and frankly, I’ve been hiring them lately (we had great success with TheLadders this past month). I have not paid anything to TheLadders. I think that what you may be experiencing (and further to Paul’s point) are recruiters not acknowledging receipt. Let me talk a little more about that from my perspective:

    My team is very unusual in that we are aligned to an overall function but not to specific client groups. Because of that, we don’t run candidate interview days, we don’t make offers, we don’t work directly with hiring managers as their point of contact. This really frees us up to focus on the candidates. That’s why we respond to each and every resume we get (generally, it’s either myself or Sarah that people hear from…on some occassions, someone else). When I was a line recruiter, fear of my inbox was what would keep me from posting jobs. You simply cannot control the volume of resumes that you get. Applicant tracking systems can generate an automated response, but you want your resume going to the recruiter’ inbox if possible. Acknowledging resume receipt and providing follow-up could easily become a full-time job for any line recruiter of they did it with every candidate. You want them to spend their time selling your skills to the hiring manager. Most recruiters will not be able to provide the level of responsiveness that most people want. It’s not wrong to want it (and I do think that recruiters could do *some* things to automate the process and at least send the candidate something), but if it’s required (which I think Paul suggests), you first cannot enforce it and second, you would have very few job listings, and only ones from recruiters with the most time on their hands which isn’t necessarily a good sign. So there’s no easy answer.

    I’m not arguing what should necessarily be done about the issue, just sharing the reality of what happens behind the recruiting curtain. I truly believe that the Applicant tracking System vendors have some work to do to provide this kind of functionality.

    Marc-if Michael wants to call me to talk about some of Kristen’s ideas, I’d be happy to. Definitely want to explore some more webinars/online events this year!

  25. Jude Denis says:

    Well as a past premium subscriber to the Ladders and an extremely qualified one to boot I have never received one follow up to an application. Forget about an interview. I have one of those hybrid backgrounds–concert producer, event marketer, publishing vp and consultant–but I found the results on the Ladders no different than those of Monster or any of the other web sites. I still get their weekly email but I hardly ever go to their site any more. Kristen’s idea of creating mass first interviews via videoconferencing is quite on point. Use of that sort of technology would certainly entice me to return to their site. Otherwise, what the site consists of right now doesn’t seem to do the job.


  26. Wine-Oh says:


    Glad to see other hybrids out there who share this experience. I got 2 nibbles from The Ladders postings.  1 didnt go anywhere and the other they were sending my resume to the client, and I am not holding my breath. After 2 months I cancelled my subscription. Kept seeing the same ads over and over and on other websites. If I knew a site like the Ladders had the premium hard to find, out of the norm jobs, I would make it my homepage and live on it til I found the right position.

    I have had a lot more success in looking on industry specific and out of the way job sites, networking, using a career coach and reading this blog, than with some of the online job sites. Forget Hotjobs. Wont even look at it. 9 times out of 10 I used Indeed.com which scours all the job sites for me. Saves a lot of time and wear and tear on my mouse.  

    Having just finished business school I wanted to design a job website that had everything in it that I felt it was missing. Unfortunately we went with a different idea. I just feel from a job hunter stand point I have alot to say from personal experience. I know what I would look for in a site, I know what turns me off. Coupled with my client facing and technology skills, I havent ruled the idea out yet. That or write a book on all the colorful people I have met in my interviews.

    Sorry for the novel here.

  27. Wine-Oh says:


    Along the lines of Kristens suggestions, which are great, I want to propose this to Marc and the Ladders Team…

    Have you considered putting together an advisory team? For example a group of people who are active in their search (in exchange for a complimentary membership for a month) and have them document their results with your service. Then be able to provide feedback on a few categories. Such as: interaction with recrutiers/hiring companies, follow through, ease of finding jobs, etc.

    Im happy to volunteer and help with this.

  28. Paul says:


    re: responding to candidates.  

    There is nothing wrong with an automated or "mass customized" response.  It is better than a black hole.  Less than 20 years ago, over 80% of companies responded to all formal inquiries.  And, until about 10 years ago, they needed to lick an envolope and put a stamp on it.  (Costing more time and more money.)  It was considered common courtesy.  It is only the explosion in electronic job boards and the low cost to unqualified job hunters to hit the ‘Submit’ button to every job that has created a situation where the numbers have overwhelmed large companies.

    I sympathize with the recruiter’s side.  I’ve seen avalanches of resumes when jobs are posted, and the experienced the pain of trying to find the 1 or 2 out a hundred that you want to follow up with.  Even with automated scanners, it can take hours to sort through that kind of volume.

    However, Marc claims that a) his subscribers are the best qualified candidates, and I’ve seen things written and attested to by employers that suggest they are of higher caliber, and b) that the average inquiries for a job posted on The Ladders is 15.   Yes, it would be more work than recruiters are doing today, but if the price to access those qualified 15 (and save the filtering time that is required on lesser sites) is to send a form email, would you seriously say "No!"?

    Re: raising the bar to make it more worthwhile for employers and candidates

    In part, this is why I am suggesting to Marc that the bar needs to be raised a little higher.  Paying for this service is worthwhile just to monitor what’s going on, whether you intend to apply for anything in the short term or not, especially if you are taking a long term view of career management.  No one who is passively scanning the market has the time to check dozens of sources, and anyone who is actively searching would love to maximize their time and look in only one credible place for advertised positions.  If one place captures most of what is interesting (at least of what is published), and it has strong sorting, sifting and management tools to get through what you want to see quickly, and offers exclusivity, you’d be crazy not to subscribe.

    I believe that up to a point, demand for this kind of service is fairly inelastic — raising the price will not deter serious subscribers, only short term tire kickers who are likely to respond to everything posted during their month to get their money’s worth.  i.e. they hurt other members and dilute quality for the recruiters.

    If there were only 10 respondents to an ad, and 8 of them were potentially good, wouldn’t that be a better thing than getting 10,000 hits from Monster?

    Re: not successfully closing a deal with The Ladders:

    Although as Mr. Titus claims, 80% of statistics are made up on the spot, it is well known that the majority of jobs available are never advertised anywhere, and that not all that are advertised are placed on any online board.  According to Steven Rothberg of collegerecruiter.com, 90% of jobs are never advertised, but 90% of job seekers direct all of their effort only at advertised openings.  Taking these figures at face value, that means there is 81 times the competition for each advertised opening that there is for unadvertised, and if you assume that Steven pulled the 90% figures out of his posterior, it certainly is more than 50 times as competitive.

    Even if jobs are advertised on The Ladders, unless they are listed as exclusive to The Ladders, that means they are also published elsewhere.  So, if Marc forwards 15 applications to a recruiter, assume they get another 100 from other listings.  The number may actually be closer to 1000, but let’s stick with 100 for now.

    Out of 115, if the employer shortlists and contacts 5, that means 110 never hear anything or 96%.  It is entirely possible that a) there were numerous better qualified applicants for every position you applied for, or b) that there are structural weaknesses in your resume that prevent you from ever showing up in the top 25% let alone top 5%, or c) any number of other random events and/or problem barriers to you breaking through.  You could easily be in the top 10% and still get no call.

    If the position is exclusive to The Ladders, you still have only a 1/3 chance of making that shortlist of 5, and if they are all well qualified, then how well the form and content of your resume matches exactly the pigeon-hole that the recruiter has in mind is even more important.

    So, in the best of cases, the odds are against you, and in the worst of cases (over 1000 resumes received), fewer than 1/2 of 1 percent will be contacted.  The numbers are what they are, and they are beyond your control (even individuals with stellar resumes are often not contacted).  Look instead to all the other possible factors:

    – you weren’t the best match

    – there are problems with your resume

    – there were problems with your cover letter

    – the employer was looking for experience at specific companies but never said so in the ad

    – you are overqualified

    – you didn’t respond with all the information the recruiter requested, or in the way it was asked for

    – the recruiter already had enough qualified applicants by the time they received your resume

    – you didn’t adapt your resume to use language that the recruiter used in their posting and to target it to the requirements of the position

    – you didn’t have the right keywords on your resume

    – you positioned yourself at the wrong level

    Even in the scenario above, if you were number 6, you didn’t get a call.  It may be tough luck, but it isn’t Marc’s fault.  Job hunting is a numbers game, and it requires several methods of looking to optimize your success rate.  None of that reduces the value of what The Ladders offers to you.

    On the other hand, those who prefer the field to be narrowed a little will be glad that you chose not to subscribe or compete with them.

    Re: using automation to improve the recruiter/recruitee conversation

    If I was Microsoft, and assuming that The Ladders is willing, I’d jump all over the idea of using my wealth of technology and programming resources to partner with Marc.  Anything you can do to improve the flow, make people feel like they are being responded to, build a competitive advantage on the board (and for Marc – get a lock on Microsoft’s participation), and create a more humanizing experience in working with the company (whether you end up getting an offer or not) is positive.  I suspect that if Microsoft actively pursued this, you might even find there is an opportunity to license the technology to other large companies as a branded solution to their recruiting needs.

    Marc + Microsoft, Kristen has not only volunteered a good direction to pursue to improve the service, but this is potentially a big money maker for both of you.

  29. Kristen Janes says:


    Thanks for responding…

    Was suggesting that this be offered to only MS selected candidates… That’s why it’s invitation only.  Most candidates at this level will potentially fit into more than one place in a company as large as Microsoft, unless their skill set is extremely specialized.  Not suggesting a cattle call experience.  That would diminish the experience.

    What I meant about a webinar  upfront… I’ll speak from my experience again.  I need an overview of how Microsoft is structured so I can help the recruiters get me to the right management chains/recruiters.  A webinar addressing this would help provide context for both the on-line interviews and follow up ftf interviews.  That and perhaps some information on what it takes to succeed at a senior level at Microsoft.  As with any big company, I would presume there are cultural norms that define project success both monetarily and within the process of management alignment around goals, planning processes, employee management etc…Coming in with the ability to know a few of the company TLA’s and processes might enable me as a candidate to more quickly get into discussing how I might apply my value to company.  

    As for those candidates that may not be interesting at present, or perhaps a little too junior but of possible interest down the road.  Rather than the dreaded form letter, perhaps you invite every applicant to participate in a quarterly recruiting webinar.  The company could set up a cultural overview of what it takes to succeed at MS, great place to work information, compensation structures and then follow that up with an update on the hottest skills sets and technology specialties the company is recruiting say.  And finally offer a few pointers for getting to the next step, e.g. keeping resume refreshed, building in the catch phrases for those hot skill sets, continued application for jobs, building personal credibiity and connections through conferences and papers, etc…  Leave a little time for Q& A.  Colleges would eat this up both from a recruiting perspective as well as a possible teaching aid 🙂

    That being said.  Marc PLEASE do NOT try to do this in a generic fashion.  One of your competitors sends me invites to webinars all time.  I have not attended because 1. I assume they are useless.  At this level we need customized information from the company about what works for the company, not a consultant trying to give us a grand formula that would only partially pertain to any one company. and 2. They try to charge for them.

    What I’m suggesting is a focus on streamlining and maximizing real communication between employers and potential employees.    So what could TheLadders do?  Get other companies and their recruiters to follow up with applicants in a similar fashion.   Have companies ALWAYS invite them to learn more about the company through something more interactive than a web-page… and teach candidates how to communicate with the respective company in effective ways that are cost efficient for the company.

  30. luvsortho says:

    Hi heather, Kudos on working for Bill G himself !! It’s my dream too. I signed up for a month paid trial and was not impressed by the ladders site for the healthcare field. The resume writers were very expensive ! and there was no followup or help to get an interview!. I am a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who went to med school at 16 and graduated at 21. I am now looking   (after over 20 years of experience) for a non clinical career and possibly with microsoft either in Bill Gs global healtcare initiative or in washington state it self.!! I am driven … fun..easy to get along…fast learner …. hard worker…and great out of the box thinker and love medicine and computers as a team !! keep me posted as Bill G and myself can help each other out !! :)) kudos and thanks again Heather 🙂

  31. Margo Lynn says:

    Like many of the people here, I cancelled my sub to The Ladders, although I continue to monitor them through the basic service.  And I did provide feedback on why – it included the fact that a lot of openings are posted repeatedly, sometimes twice a week, so there weren’t any fresh openings to speak of in a two-week period; many of the postings did not come from recruiters but were clearly skimmed from company websites (and in at least one case, appeared as "new" on The Ladders six weeks after it was posted on the company site – when they were in final interviews for the position); and a number of these were still listed as "open" when they had long ago been filled.

    I think that if they make such a big deal about getting openings and leads from recruiters, Marc and The Ladders need to really get their openings from recruiters.  If they are going to include openings gleaned from websites, they shouldn’t present such an emphasis on the recruiters.  And I told them so.   All I received in return was an autoreply, but maybe they will read the comments someday.

  32. About 18 months ago I was looking for an opportunity and subscribed (paid a fee) to Ladders!  I would add to the above comments, they were about as much help to me as a "Chocolate Teapot"!  Once again I’m looking, but now there are no "free" listings.  So it’s very difficult to gauge if they have any jobs that would interest me.

    Then I get an email from them saying a recruiter want’s to contact me, but I have to sign-up (pay-up) first.

    If there was a real opportunity, I’d be fine with paying a small fee!  But with their current approach, I’m unlikely to go further.

  33. HeatherLeigh says:

    luvsortho- Unfortunately, I don’t do any recruiting for the Gates foundation (I wouldn’t saY I work for "Gates himself"….full disclosure: never met him). My understanding from what I have read is that the foundation doesn’t employ people to work in labs, rather they fund other organizations that do. Perhaps you could monitor announcement of grants made by the foundation and apply to the organizations directly. Just a thought..I don’t have a lick of experience in healthcare recruiting.

    Margo Lynn- I bet they will respond to your coments above. I have to admit that when I send our jobs to TheLadders, I pull them off of our career site myself. That’s definitely where they come from (because all of our open jobs slated for external recruiting are on the careers site).

  34. HeatherLeigh says:

    luvsortho- Unfortunately, I don’t do any recruiting for the Gates foundation (I wouldn’t saY I work for "Gates himself"….full disclosure: never met him). My understanding from what I have read is that the foundation doesn’t employ people to work in labs, rather they fund other organizations that do. Perhaps you could monitor announcement of grants made by the foundation and apply to the organizations directly. Just a thought..I don’t have a lick of experience in healthcare recruiting.

    Margo Lynn- I bet they will respond to your coments above. I have to admit that when I send our jobs to TheLadders, I pull them off of our career site myself. That’s definitely where they come from (because all of our open jobs slated for external recruiting are on the careers site).

  35. Edward Kuryluk says:

    I wasn’t too bothered when they dropped the free listings, most of those listings could be found elsewhere anyhow. I signed up for the premium membership and initially was impressed with the job listings in the marketing area. But now after about 6 weeks of membership, I am seeing a lot of the same job openings repeating and not much that is new.

    My suggestion would be to add other value-add services/features to make it compelling for the user to stick around longer, maybe past the time they get hired. I’m thinking of things like networking events, discussion forums and wikis of hiring companies, recruiters, interview tactics, etc., available only to paid subscribers.

  36. Basicaly i want to know that are y married  and your answer is no or yes then i have a comment that i am fall in some thing that dont mentions whencesoever i want articulate you something if you also dont mind.Emotional something does not come to just call though i may you say some.this is my comments and i also write  this picture women.

  37. JLO says:

    I feel there are a couple things that job seekers must remember…1. Many recruiters don’t really care about you as a job seeker…they are there to do their job and make their money (if commissioned) others are just lousy at what they do, they’re just polished at being lousy.  2. Many recruiters will not play fair with job seekers…some recruiters  go fishing…see your resume, call or contact regarding a position, give you an idea that there is an impending interview, then turn into a "ghost" (what’s up with that).  If you did get a company name and do some more research on the company site, often the position that they’ve promoted clearly states "No Recruiters".

    So, I don’t really blame the Ladders for recruiting issues…there are many more unprofessional recruiters than unprofessional job seekers, it’s just darn hard to find one that will treat you like a human being and truly search for or have a position for you when they contact you.

    Maybe some recruiters should be ranked, too.  For instance, if you mess with customers on ebay…guess what…you’re not doing business on ebay!  If I can’t trust a recruiter, what’s the point?

    I would say the the Ladders is doing what they do best and trying to improve their service.  Again, I am not overwhelmed with the quality of the recruiters using the service, but there are some out there who seem to be busy…and they might be who you really want…for good reason.

  38. Bernie says:

    I was just wondering if after I subscribe to the ladders, the chances in finding a job would be good.  Some website show a  lot of job opportunities and when you subscribe, and you try to search for job, there is no jobs available.

  39. HeatherLeigh says:

    TheLadders is reputable. There have to be jobs available because I have hired people through TheLadders. Besides, it’s just a monthly fee so if you don’t like it you can unsubscribe or something.

Skip to main content