March 4, 2020

The Ladders

When it comes to searching for a new job online, there are many options available to job seekers. Often, these sites can be frustrating because the filtering is so poor. Junior-level jobs are often mixed in with senior-level positions. And jobs that have been filled still show as being active. A few sites specifically cater to senior-level professionals to help alleviate some of these frustrations, one of them is The Ladders.

Many job seekers are familiar with some of the most common online resources like LinkedIn, Zip Recruiter, Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, and CareerBuilder. This isn’t an exhaustive list because there are hundreds of job boards out there. Often times, the same job posting will show up on many of them. There are also several options that cater to more senior-level jobs. Those include Execunet and The Ladders. Execunet focuses on management-level jobs. While The Ladders focuses on jobs paying over $100,000. Unlike the others, both charge a fee for using their service. While you can see their job listings, you won’t be able to apply unless you’re a paid member.

What is The Ladders?

The Ladders advertises itself as a job site that features only jobs paying $100,000 or more. As with most job sites, the first thing they want you to do is upload your resume. As they say, "we help recruiters find you and tell you about jobs they have available." After the upload process, the system gives you some basic advice. These are things you might want to change in your resume. It covers areas like formatting and grammar. But oftentimes, elements get flagged even though they don't need corrections.

It looks for things like skills, accomplishments, a summary, a professional job title, and contact information. The other checks focus on grammar and formatting. Like many automated systems, it also breaks out sections of your resume. It has standard sections like work experience, education, and a few other basics. Once that’s complete, you can tell the system if you’d like to have your information visible to recruiters or not.

How Does The Ladders Work?

You can begin searching once your profile is complete. You choose your role and then the specialties within that role. I do like this element of their system because it gives you some pretty granular control. You have control over what kind of jobs will show up in your search results. Then, you decide what title or position you’re seeking. You can also filter what radius you’re open to considering and your salary targets. After that, you’ll see your search results. 

So far, everything has been pretty straight forward. But here’s where things start falling apart. Every time you log into The Ladders, they will bring you to a default search screen. You won’t have to enter your criteria each time. Yet, there is a search field at the top that gives you the ability to search for other criteria. What’s odd is that it’s very simplistic. You can only enter a job, location, and decide the radius. You can’t change the other settings you input when you created your original search. If you look for a different job title, then you’ll need to go back into your settings and update your defaults. 

One of the other things I don’t like is there’s no way to filter the results. Jobs can often stay on The Ladders for months, but there’s no way to filter the newest listings to the top. You end up scrolling through the same jobs over and over again. From my experience, The Ladders rarely adds new jobs. They also send out emails with job listings but often, it just shows jobs from your default search and redisplays outdated jobs.

How is The Ladders Different?

The Ladders biggest selling point is that they only focus on high paying jobs. This is definitely a plus if you’re a senior-level job seeker because other sites have problems screening out the lower-paying jobs and that tends to clog up your search results. That said, my experience is that The Ladders inflates the salary ranges for the jobs listed. Other sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn have estimation tools. They try to figure out the salary range for posted jobs. I often see jobs estimated less than the range listed on The Ladders. I’m talking $50K - 100K less!

The Ladders has very little credibility in my book when it comes to salaries. I’m not saying they aren’t good, high paying jobs. In fact, I’m impressed with listed jobs and the companies posting on the site. What I'm saying is they often inflate the salaries. Looking at a recent email I received from them, 60% of the jobs listed showed a salary range between $200K - $250K for jobs in Florida. The rest were between $150 - $250K. Knowing the titles and my market, it would be shocking if any of those jobs actually paid anything close to $200K.

The site also talks about recruiters and how they use the tool to find job candidates. There's a feature where you can see when headhunters have viewed your profile. I will tell you that this rarely happens. In my experience, I think I've only ever seen one recruiter view my profile and none have ever contacted me through the site. I just don't think they use it.

The Ladders Review

Source: TrustPilot

It also doesn't take much searching on the internet to find very strong opinions about The Ladders and whether or not it's potentially fraudulent. One site, Ask The Headhunter, has compiled a pretty lengthy list of problems and it's worth reading. Given that I experienced many of the same issues, I'd be very reluctant to give this site any money. I'm not sure it's fraudulent but clearly, they overstate salaries and recruiter interaction.

What Does It Cost?

It’s interesting, but they don’t make pricing easy to discover. With a basic membership, you can upload your resume and search jobs. What you can’t do is apply for any through the site. They do send out regular emails. Occasionally, they send emails with certain jobs listed as “Free to Apply - For a Limited Time.” So for those selected jobs, you can apply without having a membership. If you sign up for their premium service, you’ll have to fork out $25 - $30 per month. There are also extra fees if you want them to provide resume review services.

Is The Ladders Worth the Investment?

The short answer is no, and here’s why. First of all, despite the inflated salaries, good companies listed jobs on the Ladders. They indeed offer senior positions. You don’t have to worry about low-level jobs creeping into your search results. But in my experience, there are too few new jobs to make it worthwhile. Recruiters using the service, in my experience, turned out to be a joke. They send you a monthly email telling you how many times a recruiter has viewed your profile. But since the beginning, it has always shown a big fat zero. Forget about getting a call with someone wanting to share a job with you. The onus is on you to apply.

There’s also the hack that in my mind, makes having a premium membership unnecessary. They list all the companies and positions. You can go to the company’s website and apply directly to the job. It’s true that not every position is on the company’s website. But many companies have rules requiring them to publicly post open positions. My experience has been that almost every job I went looking for, I found on the company's website. The exceptions were often when they had filled the job but the posting was never removed from The Ladders.

The Ladders

A site offering $100K+ jobs but fails to deliver.

Pros

  • Focuses on higher paying jobs for executives and senior-level job seekers
  • Companies are recognizable
  • Few spam listings
  • Site is clearly organized and uncluttered
  • Provides some limited resume tools for improving content

Cons

  • Job salary estimates are often significantly inflated, sometimes nearly doubled
  • Listings can be outdated with filled positions still shown
  • Headhunters appear to mostly ignore the site
  • Costly and lack transparency with pricing
  • Negative online feedback

Conclusion:

Given the lack of recruiter engagement, I can’t recommend spending the money on The Ladders subscription. There are frustrations with filtering and the dearth of fresh job postings. I also had many problems using the site on my iPad. Pages wouldn’t load, and some buttons didn’t work. In this day and age, that’s inexcusable. My advice, sign-up for a free account and apply for jobs on the employer’s website. Expect that those $250K jobs posted on The Ladders end up being offered for a much more realistic salary.  

About the author 

Eric Dickmann

Eric Dickmann is the founder of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast - The Virtual CMO, and a CMO On Demand for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies and bring innovative products to the market.

>