Last Monday, I interviewed with a company that may not exist. I used ZipRecruiter, like a lot of people do to find a job. I had a phone interview with a nice sounding man. A couple hours later, I learned that I was selected for an in-person second interview with the company on Wednesday, where I would be shadowing a representative of the company.
That company was InZone Marketing. (www.inzonemarketing.com)
UPDATE: Brian from InZone Marketing recently contacted me again to try and clarify what happened on the day of the interview and apologize. He stated that the company had just relocated to a new office in Berkeley, not too far from Pleasanton, and had recently turned off the phone in the old building. i Either way, he apologized and wished me well in my job search.
All of this sounds pretty standard does it not? In fact, the idea of a second interview literally showing you what it is they do sounds downright appealing. I took a job at a different marketing company in November called K2 Consulting, for example. The company sounded great throughout the interview process. What they never told me, however, was that I would have to go door-to-door to try and sell AT&T U-Verse. Had I spent some time during the interview process shadowing someone, I would have known right away that it wasn’t for me, instead of spending two miserable days.
There was no second interview with InZone, however. In fact, I question whether the company actually exists at all.
I woke up at 7:30 Wednesday morning. I put on my suit, printed out a resume, and prepared myself for a two-hour drive. After two hours of San Jose traffic, I showed up at the address that was posted at the bottom of their website. 4900 Hopyard Rd. Suite 100, Pleasanton CA.
Instead, what I found was an entirely different company. Listed on the front plaque, In suite 100 was an event staffing company named NorCal Event Staffing. (Found at this website: http://www.norcaleventstaffing.com/ I’m sure they’re lovely if you need to plan a wedding.) InZone marketing was nowhere to be seen. This was odd, sure, but I’ve never missed an interview, and I wasn’t planning to. So my next idea was to go to the other address I had for the company, the one from an email the HR person sent me. 6000 Johnson Drive. This ended up being only a couple blocks away.
It also ended up being a Home Depot. Just a regular Home Depot.ii I went inside and asked an employee about InZone Marketing and learned nothing. I went back to my car and decided I needed to call someone. I returned to the InZone website, and found their phone number at the bottom of their page. When I called it, I got a message saying the phone number didn’t have anyone associated with it. I then tried a couple times to call the HR person who emailed me, but I ended up with a voicemail every time I tried to call.
At this point, I felt as though I had exhausted all of the options at my disposal when it came to interviewing for this company. I waited in that Home Depot parking lot for another half an hour, in case someone tried to call me. At noon, I gave up and drove the two hours back home to Santa Cruz again.
I was left with some questions. “What the hell was that?” was probably the most prevalent one. I wasn’t angry though, I didn’t mind the 4 hours of driving. iii At this point I just wanted answers. I reached out the the HR person I talked to, and have yet to receive a response from her.
This curiosity led me to something truly, truly outrageous. I went back to ZipRecruiter to see what exactly InZone had going on. There were 60 different job openings in their name, all posted within the last two months. That’s a lot of job openings for a company I had trouble even finding. I also went to check out their Facebook page. While it has 1000-or-so likes, the last time any post on their page featured an actual picture of an office event or employee was from October 2013. After that, their Facebook seemingly went completely dark until October of this year. On top of this, all of the posts on the Facebook are currently either links to other articles, or stock photos with captions on them. Nothing on there to link the company to actual people. Also odd was the fact that, after checking LinkedIn, the person I interviewed with hadn’t actually been with the company since January this year. Huh.
I don’t want to incriminate InZone in particular. For all I know, I could be reading too much into it. Maybe I just didn’t go to the right place, or find the right people. What I found even more interesting than this, was the sheer volume of companies doing what InZone seemingly does.
DISCLAIMER: The following information is based entirely off internet research. I am not accusing these following companies of anything, I’m simply connecting some dots that could probably use some connecting.
Let’s take a look at another “marketing” company for a second, another one I found on ZipRecruiter, called Next Generation Marketing, or NGM. They have two separate company listings on ZipRecruiter for the same company. (Their website is http://nextgenerationmarketinginc.com/get-in-touch/) Let’s talk about their location for a second. The location they have listed on their site is the exact same location as yet another “marketing” company, called Universal Events Inc. (http://universaleventsinc.com/contact/) Interestingly enough, both of these companies share the exact same Pleasanton location, but have different phone numbers with different area codes. They are both currently hiring on ZipRecruiter.
Now let’s see the two companies’ Facebook Pages. (https://www.facebook.com/universaleventsincca and https://www.facebook.com/NextGenerationsMarketing) iv NGM has only 30 Facebook likes, and nothing but stock photos and captions. Universal Events seems much more legit. It has 6000-something likes, and real pictures of staff at various events sprinkled throughout. They’re both out of the same exact office space, but one seems considerably more legit than the other.
While I was searching though, I came across this: (http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/universal-events-inc/pleasanton-california-94588/universal-events-inc-next-generation-marketing-inc-entry-level-job-scam-pleasanton-cali-1185547) I can’t make any claim to the veracity of this report, but based on my experience with InZone, I wouldn’t place it out of the realm of possibility.
One more company I found on ZipRecruiter in the NorCal area is the Self Made Marketing Group. (http://selfmademarketinginc.com/) This company has a relatively subtle connection to the previous two companies, but once I found it, I couldn’t help but question “Why?” Both SMMG and NGM’s website feature the exact same quote from Henry Ford in the lower left of their website under a section marked “Daily Motivation.” They claim to be expanding throughout the country. Perhaps that would explain why SMMG has 513(!!!) separate job openings for their company situated throughout California. (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/jobs/SMMG/5280f73f) Pretty good for a company that shares an office with Monarch Wealth and Retirement Strategies. (http://www.monarchadvisors.com/)
If there was ever a stock photo in YouTube video form, this video on SMMG’s home page would be it.
As I said in the disclaimer, I haven’t personally applied to or seen any of these other companies in person. Hell, even InZone may have a reason for their faulty address/phone number on their website. v But based on my time looking throughout ZipRecruiter, something seems off when it comes to all of these “Marketing” jobs.
Let me leave you with a couple pieces of advice when it comes to your job seeking, so you don’t end up driving 150 miles for no reason.
NUMBER 1: Check their website for buzzwords and stock photos. Seirously, every. single. one. of the websites I went to were 90% buzzwords and stock photos. Hell I don’t think a single one of these sites actually had real pictures of their staff on it. And for real companies, maybe put some qualifying pictures up there to make yourselves seem like a real company and not a buzzword machine.
NUMBER 2: Check out glassdoor.com. Glassdoor is phenomenal. Glassdoor is a site that lets you check out what employees think of companies and their interview processes before you interview with them. I don’t think any one of these companies has more than one real review on Glassdoor. Hell, the somewhat legit looking Universal Events Inc. is a photography company for some reason on there. If you’ve got an interview for a job, this is the place to start.
NUMBER 3: Linkedin. Linkedin. Linkedin. If a company doesn’t have a LinkedIn, it’s probably not really much of a thing. Technically InZone and Universal Events both have LinkedIns, but both of them also have zero connections. That’s a red flag, because you would assume that somewhere in there, there would be a connection.
NUMBER 4: Should you get a phone interview, don’t be afraid to press them a little bit. Can I get your company address? Where can I call during office hours? What is it exactly that my job description would entail? I didn’t ask these questions in the two positions I went out for and, well, I ended up going in completely blind. When the person interviewing you asks “Do you have any questions?” you should definitely come loaded with some questions.
This was a very odd experience for me, and the more I looked into it, it just seemed to get more and more strange. From this experience, I’ve learned to be careful where it is I’m applying, and to stay vigilant and on my toes. If not, I could end up wasting another morning in Pleasanton.
BONUS ROUND: This “marketing” company on ZipRecruiter has 258 job openings throughout California, but doesn’t even have a corporate website or Facebook page. I can’t tell whether that sketchy or just lazy. (https://www.ziprecruiter.com/jobs/Supreme-Marketing-Solutions/0992d2f1)