I was contacted by this fine gentleman from Atlanta a few years ago promising to shorten my job search and get my resume in front of decision makers in the "unpublished job market." His company, McKensie-Scott was supposedly a leader in executive search and placement.
They would create "professional" job seeker tools, resumes and cover letters, and a super search engine, and send them to just the right people for me. The fee was steep, over $6,000 but they said it was "almost" guaranteed to get me a better job within 6 weeks. And they'd put an account executive on the job to help me every step of the way.
I was eager to find a great high paying executive job and most of what they said made sense. For a good reason. If you use your own common sense you'd know you were already doing all you could to find a job.
The first hint of a problem was that their super search engine was just consolidating the same jobs from the same sites I'd already seen. In fact the same jobs were often listed many times in the search result. No big deal i fiured.
When the written materials came, it was more disconcerting. The resumes and cover letters had clearly been written from a template for another profession. So badly edited, some sentences weren't sentences at all and were a hybrid of text from the resume I sent them and the previous placeholder text. It looked like something a high school student did on their spare time. I edited the documents and sent them back. They took that as an approval and billed my the second half of their fee.
Next, they faxed my resume to businesses they felt matched my interests. or so they said. What they did instead was blast fax my resume to every fax number they'd ever recorded. One guy threatened to sue me for sending my resume to his private fax at his home. Two others let me know via email that they were sole proprietorships that had never hired a second employee and never planned to.
So my next step was to try and get some attention from McKensie-Scott. So I called my account executive and left a voicemail. Not hearing back for two days i also emailed and left another message. This was a person who was supposed to be managing my account and being available for any questions. He sent one reply apologizing claiming he was at a corporate meeting. Then I never heard from him again.
Realizing I'd been taken, I called their HQ and demanded my money back. They offered me $1,000 and blew me off.
My advice is simple. There is no way a legitimate executive search firm needs to charge you, the desperate job seeker a fee to find you a job. The hiring companies have the money and will pay for most placements, especially at the executive level.
You are capable of finding companies to contact unsolicited. If you do, they typically won't respond. You are capable of finding jobs on job sites. Three or four will cover all the real jobs and countless not so real ones. A little digging on LinkedIn and the web will reveal who the hiring managers are as well.
There are many executive search firms following the same model I fell for. I hang up on them now. They're truly bottom feeders. Once found out, they shut down and reopen under a new name.