Hotjobs hoax

An Internet job listing lured about a dozen people to interviews at a CBS studio. The only problem is ... no one told CBS.


Frank Houston
December 23, 1999 10:00PM (UTC)

Julie, a freelance Web producer, arrived 15 minutes early for a hot
job interview at the CBS news studios on West 57th Street in
Manhattan. She was daydreaming about her chances of being a producer
at CBS when she found her attention drawn to the reception desk,
where several people were being turned away. When the clock struck
10 a.m., time for her to approach, she found out why: Julie (who
asked to be identified by her first name only) wasn't scheduled for
an interview, and neither were about a dozen others. The job posting
was "an Internet hoax," the receptionist said.

The job had been posted to both the New York New Media Association site
and HotJobs.com.
When Julie responded to it, she got an e-mail that said, "Greetings.
Your resume looks wonderful! We sincerely apologize for the delay in
getting back to you. If you are still interested in the position, we
would like to have you meet with our HR person, Valerie Fields, on
Friday Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. at our West 57th St. offices." It was
signed, "the CBSNews.com staff."

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The anonymous sign-off "should have tipped me off," says Marsha,
another would-be interviewee. Of course, the fact that there is no
CBSNews.com (it's just CBS.com) should have alerted her too. Once she
arrived, says Marsha, the folks at CBS told her: "You've been had.
There's no one by that name here." But the ruse apparently meant to
humiliate her didn't end horribly -- at least the receptionist told her
to "leave your résumé."

No one at the New York New Media Association could be reached, but Robert
Liu, a spokesman for HotJobs.com, said in an e-mail, "I was not aware
of such dubious practices involving Internet job postings ...
HotJobs.com has always taken measures to ensure that nothing like
that would happen." Indeed, both sites require listers to have
memberships and passwords, raising the probability that the
perpetrator is someone already affiliated with the listings site.

Of course, such a prank could easily be used to less savory ends than
merely frustrating a handful of people -- most of them women -- with
fake appointments. What if someone went to similar lengths to post a
job, but lured an applicant to a location where they would be
vulnerable to mugging, rape or some other attack?

Liu says HotJobs has a staff devoted to performing "extensive
reviews" of job-posting clients. "In fact, we won't even allow
recruiting agencies to post jobs," he writes. "All the jobs on the
site (as we like to say) are 'real jobs@real companies.'"

Meanwhile, Marsha is unfazed by the experience. "In
retrospect, this cybervillain probably saved me," she said. "I hear
Bryant Gumbel has a bit of an ego."


Frank Houston

Frank Houston is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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