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Info about me: From US, CA local. BS in Cognitive/Clinical Psychology. Currently a MS Computer Science student focusing on data science (database systems, information retrieval, data mining). Have some Spark, Storm school project experience.

Situation: Recently, I posted my resume on some job boards. A placement firm contacted me about some IT opportunities in Hadoop. After initial phone call, went in for a 30min-talk the next day. Basically, they told me that, based on my school experience, they can hook me up with projects (contract roles) that pay $40K for the first 6 month, $50K for the next 6 months (however, this information is NOT on the contract). All I have to do is attend their “job oriented training” for 3~4 weeks, free of charge. I looked at their course content, it's just some really basic Hadoop, Hive, Pig, conceptual stuff. They do have a final project at the end. If they couldn't find me a placement in 2-3 months, I don't have to pay anything. Albeit, the “job oriented training” time would be wasted.

I googled this company. It has a few positive reviews on Glassdoor. It seems like a legit company?! But I am not sure. I have been trying to find internships and jobs on my own but with no luck.

Is this a real deal or just a scam? Please share your thoughts. Thanks for the advice!

[UPDATE]

Just want to post an update if anyone happens to come across this post. I ended up taking the job, and that lead to a full time position at another place, which worked out great for me. My experience is that, look carefully at the terms on the contract. During signing, this consulting firm asked me to sign some non-competition contract, basically saying that I will have to pay a penalty if I quit and work for any of the previous employers. This type of non-competition contract turns out to have no legal binding in CA. I didn't know that at the time, so just be careful.

  • So they are asking you to commit to... what exactly? The training course and 12 months contract that doesn't specify the salary? – Jane S Aug 5 '15 at 4:11
  • yes, the salary is blank because they don't know what projects they will give me. So once they can find me a placement, I will know the salary. But the rep. told me that the salary range for this type of BigData placement is high. But again, you're right, the salary is a blank line on the contract which is exactly what I worry about. – user38781 Aug 5 '15 at 4:14
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    Something smells with this. You don't sign up for an open-ended 12 month contract that might give you $90K for a year, or they could just be committing you for a year and you could make nothing. Apply caution :) – Jane S Aug 5 '15 at 4:16
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    Being committed to a 12 month contract with no guaranteed income is probably a substantive enough reason for me :) It comes down to if you are prepared to risk it. I would definitely ask about exit clauses; if there are any penalties to terminating the contract early for whatever reason and if there is any notice period. – Jane S Aug 5 '15 at 4:21
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    Sounds like this is a manpower firm that is trying to lock you in without paying you bench pay (pay for when your time is not billed out). You may choose to sign up (on the off chance that you are called in on a project) and then work independently till that time - but check your employment contract for specifics. – Burhan Khalid Aug 5 '15 at 5:40
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From the comments, it sounds like they are trying to lock you into a 12 month contract where you will be available to work but have no guarantees that they will place you or you will make anything. It comes down to risk versus reward.

Points to note:

  • Can you terminate early?
  • What are the penalties for doing so?
  • Do they have exclusion clauses (ie, would you be prevented for applying for something else on your own for that 12 month period?)

What worries me is that $25k penalty you mention in the comments. Is that paying back what you earned, or a percentage of the contract regardless of when you terminate? There are legal questions that you should probably take to a lawyer who can help you navigate these types of issues. But it's up to you whether you wish to take on the risk with the potential rewards.

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    Thanks for the comments. Clear and to the point. Sorry I don't have enough reputation to give you an up vote (Hint to other people: please up Jane's answer :) ). I will think more about it and talk to more people. My brain is telling me no, but my gut is telling me yes. – user38781 Aug 5 '15 at 4:53
  • There are also a few HUGE problems with binding with a company in this way. If they place you at a company that you HATE, you'd have to either suck it up and just take it. or pay the $25k and quit. Not knowing where you are going to work is a huge risk on your part. – Migz Feb 20 '17 at 7:57
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Forget about it. There's no reason to accept a potential $25K liability. If you can write working code you can find a job. You may be able to find a job even if you can't. I have interviewed many working professionals who can't code at all.

You don't say what country you are in. In the US the demand for programmers is the strongest I have seen in 30 years.

  • Been in US all my life, grew up in CA. Maybe I am doing something wrong in my job search?! But I have project experience under my belt, been to a few large hackathons, decent GPA. But just can't seem to get my foot into the data engineering door. Not sure if it's because of my non-tech BS degree. – user38781 Aug 5 '15 at 7:48
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Currently I work for a company that is exactly like you describe. They are based in the uk though. Exact same structure as what you described though. Let me tell you my experience with them and you can judge for yourself what you think. I'll just spout some stuff.

The training they offer you is basic yeah, but it's two fold reasoning behind why they make you do it. 1. They tell you it costs X amount to put you through the training and that acts as a sort of security towards you not leaving for some amount of time so that you work as a contractor for that company. 2. It also doubles up as a marketing tool for the company to use with it's clients. e.g. "oh yes mr. Big Banking Firm, Mr. Z-1 has been through our very own training program and we can say with certainty that he has learned [x, y, z]." The clients hear all the things you have learned at the training camp and it's in your favor then cause the things you learn are all things that companies love to see and hear.

the training can be different for different companies like mine was 3 1/2 months unpaid training, however if you have to relocate a long distance to make the training they will pay your food and accommodation so that you are looked after for your training period. Other benefits include bonus upon training completion or moving for client and you get put up for 2 weeks in hotel while you settle etc. The training is not difficult for the most part in these situations it's really a period of time that the company can use to get ready to find you a job while you do the training and they keep you in a working/learning environment to avoid mental stagnation.

A few rules you might want to look out for, back out clause, can you leave after 14 days or not? How soon do you get paid? In my company after you finish training you don't get paid until you get a client and when you do then you are paid until the end of your assigned contract term. So lets say you are tied in to the company for 2 years and you finish training and you land a client for 6 months (wahoo congratulations, working world stuff) well as soon as you enter the door you start getting paid. lets say the clients project budget falls through and you get let go after 3 months, well that's ok if you are in my company. While you are 'benched' as we call it, you still get paid your salary while the company find you another client to work for. While benched the rates of salary might differ but that's something you need to look into and be aware of.

after that the company usually keeps in regular enough contact with you. quite often just checking up on your progress and how you have acclimatized to the place you are in. I get monthly mails and every two or three months maybe a meeting with a visiting HR person to talk to about stuff.

My personal experience with the company? Well, its been very good so far tbh. I've gotten two jobs at very big financial firms, one in banking and one in insurance. i haven't had many issues with the company, one or two minor ones like pay being 2 days late but that was because of a tax number move in another country while they expanded and they apologized for it. Everything else though, my experience with the training center was positive, the interactions with the managers and other staff in the company was always honest and friendly. They were always open about how they operated and very clear on what was expected of me. I'd say if you are having trouble with them like they are being deliberately obtuse/vague/sketchy about details then be very wary about signing a contract with them.

Also, just to mention i reviewed glass door about my company im with and the reviews absolutely do not reflect my experience with the company. Like 1 and 2 out of 5 star reviews and scathing remarks that absolutely weren't my experience with the company thus far. I'm just leading to the point that don't explicitly trust the reviews you find online.

If you need more info id be happy to answer any specific questions you might have :) ill answer them as quick as i can and with open honesty too. maybe i might be able to shed light on some of the aspects you are unsure about.

  • Thanks for your detailed reply. When did you sign the contract with the placement firm? Before the classes or after you get placed? And if it was before the class, what was stated under the salary portion? Did they simply say that you won't get paid until you get placed? – user38781 Aug 5 '15 at 17:18
  • i signed the contract on my third or fourth day on training and after signing it i had 2 weeks to opt out if i so chose to with no consequences. The pay was exactly what they told me it would be, it was stipulated in the contract the exact pay and its breakdown as well. it was also clearly stated to me that i dont get paid until i work for my first client however once that happens i get paid until my 2 years are up even if i lose a client. – Dexter Whelan Aug 6 '15 at 12:31

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