How to Avoid Red Flags in the Green Job Market

How to Avoid Red Flags in the Green Job Market

With unemployment at a record high, growth in green jobs is increasingly seen as a rare bright spot in a bleak landscape -- a view shared by applicants, prospective employers and, unfortunately, scam artists preying on those eager to enter the new hot job market.

That prompted the Live Green, Live Smart Institute, a nonprofit focused on promoting sustainability and green building science practices, to establish its "Green Job Clearing House"  -- a list of 30 job sites vetted and selected by the group -- and provide tips on how to avoid online job scams. (Disclosure: was among those selected for the clearinghouse list, a happy coincidence we didn't discover until browsing through it.)

GreenBiz talked to Live Green, Live Smart Institute Executive Director Peter Lytle about his group's project and to Nick Ellis, a managing partner for the environmentally focused executive search firm Bright Green Talent, for his advice on how to avoid red flags of all sorts when looking for a job or posting one in the green arena.

The Live Green, Live Smart job sites list and jobseeker tips, which became available this week, are the results of a six-month project that Lytle's team undertook because they were frequently asked about where to find reliable job postings.

The group set out to explore a range of websites and submitted their resumes to sites to test the experience. From the start, the team was aware there were people trolling the online world of jobseekers trying to capture ID and financial information for no good purpose, Lytle said.

"We knew there were issues," Lytle said. "But we were not aware of how problematic it truly was."

His team encountered dubious sites that called for jobseekers to submit private personal and financial information -- such as ID, Social Security and credit card numbers -- with their resumes in order to gain access to job postings or obtain services such as sharing the resume with employers, serving as a recruiter or processing the jobseeker.

The team also found that big gaps in information sometimes exist in job postings questionable and otherwise. For example, some postings for so-called green jobs were so vague it was hard to tell what the job involved and what, if any, aspects were related to environmental responsibility.

Here is a summary of Live Green, Live Smart's advice to jobseekers:
• Do not provide your Social Security number, driver's license number, passport number, credit card numbers or any other financial or private ID-related information when submitting a resume or filling out a resume form online.
• If asked to provide private information for purposes of national security, do so only on forms you present in person and only after determining the company is legitimate, who will get the information and how it will be used.
• Avoid predators: Don't submit send pictures of yourself with your resume or application; don't send your social media link address.
• Work with sites you feel comfortable with. Do not visit a recruiter, a supposed prospective employer or any other location without verifying that the purpose and individuals involved in the intended meeting are legitimate and that the meeting place is safe.
• Thoroughly research the site posting the position as well as the company that is hiring before you submit a resume and before interviewing. "Your personal information will remain in your control this way. Because the job site is big and well known does not mean it is directing you to jobs it has screened or organizations or companies they have vetted. YOU are responsible for your own screening process," Live Green, Live Smart advised.
• Be wary of greenwashed jobs. Read the job description carefully and do further research as needed to determine if the job meets your expectations. Be suspicious, for example, of so-called environmental or green jobs for which no environmental experience or related education is required.
• If you suspect a job site is bogus inform the attorney general in your state.
• Be wary of sites or groups purporting to represent or be located in different countries, particularly those often named in money-seeking scams.

Lytle also said that people using jobs sites should update their research periodically to determine which remain strong resources and whether others may have improved.

With mounting excitement over green jobs, "people can get wound up very quickly," said Nick Ellis of Bright Green Talent, who is also a guest columnist for GreenBiz.

Ellis urged prospective employers and jobseekers to be thoughtful and highly focused in using Internet resources, and take a step back if necessary to think about their image, the impression they wish to make, and the impact of their presence online.

"It is very easy to send a message that can be deeply misunderstood," Ellis told GreenBiz.

And that's misunderstood by a vast audience in a medium in which muddled messages -- and misinterpretations of them -- have an infinite shelf life.

"Credibility is king," he said, adding that establishing credibility is as essential for businesses seeking talent and as it is for job candidates.

Many recruiters suggest that jobseekers use job boards to obtain leads in addition to tracking openings at target companies, and then make applications directly to those firms rather than through third-party online resources.

Ellis recommends that firms and jobhunters who choose to use job boards:
• Focus on a few that meet their standards and provide users with as much control as possible over how their material is presented and how and where it is shared.
• Don't "spam" job listings or resumes. Overposting by firms and jobseekers alike can lead to reader fatigue and dismissal of future material based on the assumption that it's been read already. For jobhunters, spamming has the added disadvantage of making the jobseeker look desperate.
• Keep track of the channels and the resources used to place material. Outdated postings and resumes need to be taken care of.
• For jobseekers: When working with a recruiter, make sure that s/he knows all channels you have used in making your application to a firm. Did you apply directly to the company, in addition to posting it on a job board and giving it to an inside connection at the firm? The recruiter needs to know in order to effectively promote you as a candidate.

[i.e. -- Let's say your material was deep-sixed by a recipient at the firm but rose to the top of the resume pile of another. If you're a good candidate, a deft recruiter can try to salvage the situation. But if she doesn't know, she can't help you. And the multiple applications can seriously backfire if the person who rejected your resume has influence with the hiring manager for the position.]

It's also important to remember Internet resources can be helpful, strong tools, but they should not be the core component in talent or job searches, Ellis said.

The strongest efforts, Ellis said, should be invested in building relationships and networks that connect the best talent with the best opportunities.