The Ladders Scam

Update: I closed the comments on this post on 8/17/09. The point has been made.

Well isn’t that a nice title.  I’m really drawing a line in the sand on this one, especially since The Ladders was on the list of companies that might one day acquire JibberJobber.  I guess I’ll have to scratch that one off the list.

But this is such an important topic, and one I’m asked about on a regular basis, that I want to let my users, and other professional and executive job seekers (who should be using JibberJobber to organize their job search :p), know about.

First, the caveat: I have never sent my resume to The Ladders asking them for a review.  So all of what I’m sharing here is not from my first-hand experience.

Here’s the situation: You send a resume to The Ladders for their free critique.  Then you get back a letter telling you what all the problems with your resume is, and for a fee they will get you a new one.  Last I remember the fee is around $700.  Remember, we are usually talking about resumes for executives.

The biggest red flag I’ve read is that the critiques are form letters.  They will even critique their own, The Ladders generated, resumes!  It’s a simple process that a salesperson goes through to make a sale, not a real resume critique that a professional resume writer would give.

In other words, it seems they hardly even look at the resume… they just get you back a scary letter saying how bad your resume sucks, and that they can make it shine like new.  Scare tactics.  I’m sure it’s done well for them.

Here is some more reading on this…

Google The Ladders Scam or The Ladders Rip-off.  All of the links below come from those search results.  And do your own due diligence – like I said, I have not had first hand experience with this, but I’ve heard about it plenty.

Susan Ireland is a professional resume writer who wrote a nice post about how she set up her The Ladders account, to help you know what to expect.  The comments quickly turned nasty, though… that’s where the meat of the feedback is and a lot of talk about getting resume reviews from The Ladders.

The third comment from Susan’s post points to a bad link for Manager Tools, but I searched and found a good one, with the text of the canned response (below).

Mr. Ask the Headhunter himself, Nick Corcodilos, has two enlightening posts on the Ladders – one called TheLadders: Going down? (15 comments) and the other is the dope on TheLadders (95 comments).  Nick DOES NOT like The Ladders… the comments are enlightening.

A person on epinions writes: ” I had the resume professionally constructed and I was very pleased with it. The Ladders has a resume review service for free, so I sent it along thinking they would recommend tweaks here and there…. I received back a letter stating things wrong with my resume that I did not have in there. They even referenced companies I have had no association. I wrote back and said “No thanks, but thanks for the form letter” and was then bombarded with “you have to have your resume rewritten” form letters. “

So here’s the form letter I got from Manager Tools… this really is the scariest thing, since when you are vulnerable, looking for a job, in despair, and ready to drop money to fix any problem, this speaks to you.  It’s Scare Tactics 101.  The letter (with my own font formatting), in response to a resume that was professionally written:

Dear [name],

Thank you for your resume submission! My name is xxxxx and I will be providing your resume critique.

In this email I will outline my thoughts, provide a price quote to you, explain the process, and give you instructions at the end of my review to get started. If you decide to proceed, you will be working directly with one of our top writers versed in your industry and level.

Our methodology is simple: We apply extensive resume writing experience and knowledge of the $100k+ job market to determine how well your resume represents your value and distinguishes you from the competition.

Please note that I am NOT critiquing your background, experience, or potential for success. I am commenting on how you are MARKETING those assets to potential employers and how you are competing against others with similar goals. Your resume needs to be assertive in showing prospective employers how you would be of value to them, because no matter how good you are at your job, the resume is what really lands the interview.

Before I begin the critique, I do need to warn you about my style, because my comments can seem blunt–but the reality is the job market is very competitive now, so I find it beneficial to tell it as it is rather than “yes” people to death. (I hate when it’s done to me!)

Here are the major issues I see on your resume:


Your summary is missing the “WOW” factor. You’re relying on too many “business clichés” – things like, “Excellent written and verbal communication skills”. These “crutch” phrases don’t really tell the reader anything about you and what you’ve done! You need a much more results-focused introduction, to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading!

The five main aspects within a distinguished summary indicates: your highest career achievements, experience level, your value, your industry and your immediate career goal, and convey, “Look how what I have to offer will be an asset to you”.

I also recommend including a “Core Competencies” subsection just below the summary — specific areas of expertise and knowledge that can be supported by solid accomplishments. Including a list of “Core Competencies” is a great executive strategy, and provides both a quick and comprehensive look at your strengths from the beginning. Additionally, a core competencies or “keyword” section also increases the odds of an electronic screening agent making a match between your resume and an open job requisition.


Today’s job descriptions briefly sum up your position in paragraph format, then uses bullets for your most marketable attributes – results of the duties listed in the paragraph. This strategy separates the duties from the results and really highlights your key accomplishments, making them easy to find when the resume is quickly scanned. As you only have SECONDS to grab their attention. You have everything bulleted – resulting in NOTHING standing out to the eye of the reader.

On another note…the “references” tag line just isn’t done anymore – ESPECIALLY for upper level executive resumes! It’s like saying “the end” at the end of a movie.


The language could be MUCH stronger. You vacillate between active voice and passive voice in the document (“Responsible for”, etc.). In the active voice, the subject acts. In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon. The active voice is more natural, direct, vigorous and emphatic – traits you want your resume to have in tone.


The vast majority of resumes are handled now by resume databases whether online or Human Resource Information Systems within companies. The databases have “preferences” for certain design elements. One of them is a preference for sans serif font styles. Change the font to something that is sans serif and avoid the default Times New Roman or other serif fonts.


Jamie, your resume is your self marketing tool. It gets you in the door. It must be strong on ALL levels in order to achieve the best results. All-in-all, I don’t think you’re putting your “best foot forward” if you plan to use this resume in its current condition. You’re underselling yourself. You are in need of a self-marketing brochure – one that shows your high caliber. This document isn’t doing that for you.

Please understand, all of this is not to say that you are not a good candidate, merely that the way your resume presents your career is not yet very effective or exciting to the reader (who typically has read 100+ resumes just before getting to yours).

You need to remember the purpose of a resume — to take an AGGRESSIVE approach in selling you to a potential employer. Why does that employer want to interview YOU? You need to be MUCH more active in pulling out your forte — things that will show potential employers what they get for their investment (your compensation). What can you bring to the table that your competition cannot? What sets you apart? Right now you are not giving the reader the best information to excite him/her enough to contact you for an interview. Remember, unless you can convince them of your VALUE, they will not contact you.

Most people are like you — they struggle to put themselves down on paper effectively — but that’s where we come in, because we are experts at knowing the best way to present you. In fact, even Marc Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders came to OUR writing team when he needed a resume!

I’m not sure that the resume they turn around will be awesome, and it should be done by a professional resume writer, I just want to bring out the idea that they are using a sales form letter no matter who writes your resume… I’ve heard of them sending this form letter to people who have had their own resume writers write the letter!

Need your resume reviewed? Get the review from a professional resume writer, not a salesperson who uses a form letter. JibberJobber has partners who are resume writers – you can learn more about them here (we stay out of it – it’s between you and them). Or you can go to Career Directors, National Resume Writers Association, or the Career Management Alliance.

60 thoughts on “The Ladders Scam”

  1. Hi Jason,

    I actually wrote a very candid (and maybe a little harsh) blog post about The Ladders and their practices back in January. As soon as I figure out how to do the whole pingback/trackback thing I will do it. 🙂

    Thank you for posting this!

  2. I, too, fell prey to The Ladders. The resume was rather poorly written, did not have the correct facts and data as requested, and here is the kicker: It was reviewed by THREE VPHRs who advised me that if they received the Ladders resume that I would not be interviewed. When I told the ladders of this, they stated that it was professional but then gave me my money back. I would NOT RECOMMEND them and I would welcome anyone who is able to be of guidance and assistnace in my journey for further career development and success.

  3. I’d like to add that I received pretty much the same resume critique as what was posted here. The issue I’m having with The Ladders is that I signed up for a premium membership at the $30/month level. I read this VERY CAREFULLY before subscribing, as we’re on a very limited budget since I’m out of work. I’m not an idiot, and know what it is I read. Well, I’ve been a member for almost a month, and I’ve decided to cancel. When I submitted my cancellation, it said I’m a member until 6/24/2010!! When I signed into my credit card, I discovered I was charged $180.00, not the $30 I expected to see, and now it sounds as though they plan to keep charging me for a year??

    Interesting that I can’t find the terms of each of the membership levels posted anywhere, just general information about membership. I even went into a different search engine and tried to sign up as someone else in order to see the terms of the $30/month membership, however they’re nowhere to be seen.

    Bait and switch on many different levels here.

  4. Michele

    I joined The Ladders on a trial offer to help one of my clients. They tried the same thing but I was able to get them to refund the charge by calling them on the phone. Also, dispute the charge with your credit card company. Hopefully the dispute will only be precautionary as The Ladders may refund your charge as they did for me.

  5. I just subscribed to the Ladders one month membership at $30. I got the same scary form letter that said I needed to pay $695 to have my resume rewritten. That immediately sent off warnings in my mind that this was a scam which eventually led me to write this post. Unfortunately it appears that many have been scammed by the resume writing service. After hearing all of these stories I will cancel my subscription and alert my credit card company not to process their charge. Thanks to all of you who posted your experiences.

  6. I got the same letter from the Ladders bashing my resume. I have never had problems in the past and was really taken a back by the response I got. I was curious about it, and thought it was a scam, but I was not sure. The only reason I went to the Ladders was to apply for a Sales job I was interested in. I ended up paying the $30.00 dollars for the site, and now I am thinking even the job posting was a scam. The only way I could apply for it is through the Ladders, and I have not gotten any responses or views from recruiters. I have over 12 years of medical sales experience and the job is specific to sales experience. I live in a fairly small area and know I would otherwise be contacted for at least a interview.

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