Posted by , . Filed under Bait and Switch.

When a user visits TheLadders.co.uk homepage, they see the claim “The best way to find only £50k+ jobs”. Underneath this heading is a prominent search form.

 


TheLadders.co.uk Homepage

The search UI is essentially a decoy: users cannot search until they have registered (see below). However, registration has a free option that allows users to “Browse ONLY £50,000 plus jobs!” (quoting from screengrab below). This sounds fair enough, but it is very misleading, as you will see shortly.

 

Having registered, users are asked to import or create a CV (as shown in the following two screengrabs). It appears to be a mandatory part of registering – so most people will go ahead and publish their CVs, willing to jump through any hoops in order to see these enticing £50K+ jobs. CVs have a cash value for the site owners – each CV is added to their CV database, and access to that database is sold to recruiters for £349 a week.

 

TheLadders.co.uk CV Publishing appears to be a mandatory step in the registration process

 

TheLadders.co.uk: the second step of CV publishing involves form-filling.

Finally the user finds themselves in the logged-in area of the site. You can imagine they must be chomping at the bit now, really wanting to find and apply for some of those elusive £50k+ jobs. Looking at the screengrab below, let’s imagine that the user thinks the “Managing Consultant” job seems to be a good fit.


TheLadders.co.uk: search results for a logged-in user.

 

So what happens when the user clicks the “Managing Consultant” link? Let’s see (below)…


TheLadders.co.uk: free membership does not seem to allow users to view job details nor apply for jobs.

 

We’ve hit a paywall – the user has to now set up a monthly payment before they are allowed to see the job details or apply for the job. What happened to the “free” membership deal? It turns out, free only applied to the act of searching for jobs and viewing search results, but not viewing jobs. The problem for TheLadders.co.uk here is that UK law forbids companies from charging job-seekers to view or apply for job ads (refer to The Conduct of Employment Agencies Act for details). So how does TheLadders.co.uk circumvent this problem? They make it possible for users to view & apply for free, but they bury this option in a subsection of the user’s account area (account settings > my ladders), as shown below:

To avoid breaking the law, TheLadders.co.uk allows users to view job ads for free – however, this option is very hard to find.

Having ticked “Allow me to apply to Jobs and Contact Recruiters for free”, the user will expect it will be plain sailing from here on. Not so. If the user now goes back to the “managing consultant job listing, and clicks on the hyperlink, they are taken to this page (below):

 


This page looks like the paywall again, except now there is a tiny “No Thanks” link at the bottom of the page.

 

If the user clicks the tiny “No thanks” link, they can eventually get to the job ad. Let’s see what happens when they click “apply now”:


iFramed external content that is available freely elsewhere on the web.

We are now looking at an external site, wrapped in an iFrame. In other words, this ad is available for free elsewhere on the web, TheLadders.co.uk is simply linking to it. It is not clear at the time of writing how much of the content on TheLadders.co.uk is in fact freely available elsewhere on the web.