John Wilcock Has Your Back, Job Seeker


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

October 9, 1957, Vol. II, No. 50

References Unlimited

By John Wilcock

A copywriter I met at a party last week makes a tidy part-time living from running a phony reference service. Say you want to apply for a job, you list one of his phony companies on your resume and my friend — let’s call him Hal — answers the phone and says:

“Oh, Charley Brown? Yes, he used to work here. Have you any idea where he is now? He was lured away from us for a better job and we’d like to get him back.”

Any prospective employer, says Hal, is likely to fall heavily for a line like that, but if not, he has various alternative pitches.

“Sometimes I get very aggressive when employers inquire,” he explains. “I say: ‘Sure, I know Charley Brown; he’s working for us right now. What do you want him for? You’re the third one that’s called. He’s quite happy here.’ Then I hang up.”

Hal has various cards and letterheads printed with the name of different phony companies — they cost $3 a thousand to print — but he rarely needs them because most employers settle for a brief phone call. “The higher the salary, the easier they are to impress,” he declares.

Hal’s rates vary from $5 to $15 per reference and he guarantees satisfaction within five calls or money returned. Occasionally some particularly untalented customer seeks more than one reference, and then Hal farms out some of the accounts to friends in Chicago. “One day I envision a nation-wide network of phony reference-providers,” he says. “I already have to lay off some of my bets on the West Coast.”

For obvious reasons Hal doesn’t want to have his own name or those of past customers in print, but he assures me of their satisfaction with his service.

“I can’t claim that any of them became millionaires,” he says, “but plenty went on to comfortable things. One is married to a Hollywood star. He got into the highest circles with our reference, then stopped looking for work altogether when he became a professional husband.”

[This service, of course, was later supplanted by Vandelay Industries. ]

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]