With phrases such as "jobless recovery" and "long-term unemployed" dominating the news of late, it's not a stretch to say many Americans are currently searching for work.
The U.S. unemployment rate for August was 9.1%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In this climate, downtrodden job seekers are forced to find increasingly creative ways to approach employers -- including shelling out hefty sums for the chance to get a decent job. But does it really work?
How much would you pay to land a job, and what should you know before jumping on board one of these programs? Here's a breakdown of some of the most popular websites and programs as well as tips to consider before taking the plunge.
Pay-for-access sites: worth it?
TheLadders.com, a job listings and job search website catering to individuals seeking jobs that pay $100,000 or more, currently charges users $15 to $59 per month for access to its job listings and career services, though users can view job titles only for free. The website recently made headlines when it unveiled a new program: Job searchers who made it through its screening process could pay $2,500 for a money-back guarantee that staff at TheLadders would find them a job within six months or their money back. (A recent visit to the website suggests the $2,500 offer may not be currently available.)
Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," says he thinks TheLadders is a valuable resource, but job seekers should approach this type of lump-sum offer with caution.
"That's a lot of money, and what is the commitment in terms of a refund?" he says. "What does it mean -- does it mean any job, or does it mean the job of your dreams?"
When it comes to using job listings websites that charge a monthly fee, such as Doostang.com, which caters to entry-level job seekers, Cohen suggests researching the site and what it offers beforehand.
With any pay-for job site, Cohen says, "I would never commit to an extended time period. What I would do is a trial period if at all possible."
'It was the best $30 I could have spent'
Brooke Buford, a multimedia journalist with KALB-TV in central Louisiana, used TVjobs.com in her job search. The site caters to those looking for work in the television industry. Though she ultimately found her current job elsewhere, Buford says TVjobs was an invaluable resource for her.
"I think my subscription was good for a year, and I think I paid around $30, and it was definitely the best $30 I could've spent," she says. "I'm not looking for a job now, but I still check it to see who's hiring and what's happening with stations. It's still a very useful tool for me whether I'm looking or not."
Buford's use of TVjobs.com did land her job interviews and helped her network and familiarize herself with the television job landscape more quickly than she otherwise could have done. She also suggests finding someone who currently uses a job site and talking to him or her before committing. It's a good idea to check out all the services a website offers, such as career coaching and resume reviewing. She joined TVjobs after coworkers at her internship recommended it.
"Especially in a recession, people are reluctant to spend money, (but) I find (using a pay-for-access website) is a lot less time consuming than fishing through the newspaper or ... fishing website by website," she says.
Location, location, location
But paid job listings websites don't work for everyone. Dana Napier of Gainesville, Fla., paid $15 for a one-month membership to TheLadders after she was laid off. She says she was initially impressed by the job listings she saw on the site, but quickly realized her location -- north central Florida -- was a handicap, and there weren't many jobs listed in her area.
"I have kind of a diverse background with communications, marketing, public relations, media," Napier says. "But I never even came across an opportunity for a job to apply for. There weren't really the opportunities there for me to really utilize the service."
Napier eventually found her new job through a free state of Florida job website. She says through her job search she learned not to underestimate free resources and that while paid sites may offer more opportunity to those in bigger cities, if you live in a smaller city or rural area, she suggests checking other outlets first.
A job offer for the low, low price of $600?
And sometimes, poring over job listings -- premium or free -- isn't enough to get your foot in the door in a bad economy.
Abel Travis founded JobPrize.com in 2010 when his wife was trying to find work a few years ago. "I put a posting on Facebook that said, 'If you can give me the contact of a person in (my wife's industry), I'll give you $1,000 if it results in my wife getting a job,'" he says. Travis' wife did eventually find a job through an acquaintance of a contact, and that acquaintance was paid the $1,000.
On JobPrize, people can post ads that tell a little about their background, the type of work they are looking for and how much they are willing to pay for the job. "Prize hunters," or those who know of openings in their company, can collect this money by meeting or speaking with the job seeker by phone and, if he or she passes muster, referring him or her to a supervisor or human resources official at the company. The money is routed through JobPrize, which helps to make the site safer to use. The company has, to date, seen about $65,000 worth of successful transactions. Travis says the average "prize" is $600.
What if I can't afford it?
While these pay-for-employment sites may be very useful to some, they aren't for everyone. If you find that these programs don't offer you access to the type of job you are looking for, or if you simply can't afford to shell out that much money, Cohen says there are other things you can do to recharge your job search. He recommends forming a "job search support group" with fellow job seekers.
"There are enough folks out there who are not working, so you create a little group that you can turn to and meet with, or even check in daily, so that you maintain a high level of commitment to your job search," he says.
In a bad economy, it's necessary to be flexible, energetic and able to think outside of the box when applying for jobs, he says. "Look at this market and job search in this market as a marathon," he says.