12 On Your Side Special Investigation: Pro Resources: Is it legit?

Pro Resources
According to Pro Resources' guidelines for employment counselors: "Your main focus is to wet their appetite and get them to set an appointment for the same day and come in prepared with a fee." (WRDW-TV / Aug. 16, 2012)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Management with a local employment service company claims more than 80 percent of the jobs available through their database are exclusive positions only available through their service. However, a News 12 Special Investigation reveals that number isn't quite right and many of their advertised jobs are not local or exclusive.

"George" doesn't want News 12 to show you his face or tell you his name. He's embarrassed because he feels like he fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book: deceptive advertising.

"It's a hard economy out there and it's hard enough trying to find a job, then you got some company that's taking advantage of the weak, so to speak," he said.

An ad on CareerBuilder caught George's eye, "Medical-Monitor Supplies and Equipment."

The unemployed father called the number listed on the ad.

"I called down there the day before I went down there about the job and they told me the job had a valid date on there," George said.

The company George called was Pro Resources, which markets itself as a "premier employment service." Pro Resources' website states: "We are the premier employment service dealing with permanent jobs and top-paying employers. We work hard to find 100's of available positions in your community."

"In order to follow through with job, I had to sign a contract and pay $190 fee," George said.

It was only after George paid the fee could he could view the details of the job Pro Resources advertised on CareerBuilder.

News 12's Elizabeth Owens: "Was the job available when you got there?"
George: "No, it wasn't."
Owens: "What did they tell you?"
George: "They told it me it was not showing or listed, so chances are it was filled."

George had no idea the job that caught his eye on CareerBuilder advertised by Pro Resources was long gone before Pro Resources even published the ad. The medical job he was interested was with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Human Resources with the VA told News 12 On Your Side that job had closed four days before Pro Resource published the online ad.

"Ed" is a former employee at Pro Resources.

"Tell them whatever it takes as long as you don't go outside of the guidelines. Whatever it takes to get them into that office," he said.

He says his manager let him go after not meeting his sales quota.

Owens: "What's the number one goal for Pro Resources?"
Ed: "Bring them in. Get them to sign."
Owens: "Get that money?"
Ed: "Get that money."

According to Pro Resources' guidelines for employment counselors: "Your main focus is to wet their appetite and get them to set an appointment for the same day and come in prepared with a fee."

Pro Resources' employment counselor material also reads that " You are not to service clients and become a personal counselor."

Instead, "Employment counselors are sales people -- pure and simple."

"It's all about the sale," said Warren Oliver, a former employment counselor with Pro Resources. He says their deceptive practices range past expired jobs advertised as open jobs. Oliver says they overstate the number of job listings that are exclusive to them.

Management told News 12 that 80 percent or more of the jobs in their system are exclusive to Pro Resources. Even Pro Resources' job development guidelines read, "We must maintain 80 percent exclusive rights to the positions we list in our directory."

So News 12 On Your Side looked into Pro Resources' claim of exclusivity. We examined nearly 180 jobs in Pro Sources' database. Out of all those ads, we discovered about 65 percent are exclusive to the employment service, not 80 percent.

Jennifer Solberg is the director of operations for Pro Resources. She tells News 12 their definition of "exclusive" means you won't find the positions listed in the paper or posted on job search engines by anyone other than them.

"That does not mean the company may not be advertising their job on their internal website," Solberg said.

And how about those jobs being local?

"They say within a 60 mile radius of Augusta," Oliver said.

The manager at the Augusta branch of Pro Resources told News 12 the same thing off camera. Even Pro Resources' sales script reads: "We employ full-time job development staff that markets the local area daily to bring in new jobs."

Even the corporate spokesperson was adamant that their focus is on local jobs.

"We don't advertise jobs in Columbia and run those positions in the Augusta area. We've never done that. Ever," Solberg said.

But our News 12 On Your Side investigation shows otherwise.

We compared ads Pro Resources posted in an Augusta newspaper to information in their database over a six-week period of time. Out of 36 ads, nearly 40 percent were not located in the CSRA. Our investigation also reveals two of the ads clearly state "local" or "Augusta area."

However, both jobs are located in Columbia.

"I've had people come in there with six felonies and the manager tells them, 'Sure we can get people who have felonies jobs every day,'" Oliver said.

The local manager also told News 12 she can get felons jobs.

However, our investigation shows management may not always warn ex-cons about background checks.

News 12 obtained information indicating that management knew a prospective client was a sex offender and was interested in a specific job listing. The job requirements clearly state "clean background" in Pro Resources' system, but Pro Resources still signed the felon and took his money.

"Not everyone should pay this fee and you know what, buyer beware," Solberg said.

Both Ed and Warren are now ashamed of their involvement with Pro Resources.

Owens: "Do you feel guilty at all for signing those people up and taking their money?"
Ed: "Yes."
Owens: "Why do you feel guilty?"
Ed: "Because they're still looking for a job."

"I'd like to apologize to anyone I ever convinced to come in there and give their money," Oliver said.

George eventually did get a full refund after News 12 On Your side contacted the local manager about our investigation.

The manager told News 12 several times she would talk to us on camera about the allegations. However, she canceled several interviews and eventually told our cameras no.

"The job service cannot satisfy every person every day all the time because it's based on the job market," the corporate spokesperson said.

George is now searching for a job the old-fashioned way, but he is going forward a little more leery of employment services.

Currently, Pro Resources in Augusta has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. However, the BBB says it has had trouble with another Pro Resources' office in the past. The BBB tells News 12 after a previous investigation, Pro Resources agreed to change the way it advertises their jobs and an employee was fired.

If you have a complaint about Pro Resources, contact the Better Business Bureau of the CSRA at (706) 210-7676. Any evidence they have will help them make a decision on Pro Resources' accreditation.

Also you can call the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 869-1123.

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