My hunt for work-at-home job boards—and pie

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Whenever I post about telecommuting or working from home, I hear a bunch of smack from those of you who’d like to do just that. So I should point you to a short Q&A in The Wall Street Journal in Sue Shellenbarger’s column on how to find just such a job. The questioner asks:

Question: I saw your story on how more employers are hiring people to telecommute right from their first day of work. Can I find these high-quality salaried work-at-home jobs through Internet job boards? — P.P., Queens, N.Y.

Shellenbarger does a little detective work. Here’s what she finds:

Answer: Yes, but you’ll need to read and screen postings carefully to distinguish them from exploitative piecework or outright scams. Typing the word “telecommute” into the keyword search box on any of the big job boards will bring up hundreds of postings. But not all of them are legitimate, and not all are even work-at-home jobs; some postings pop up because they contain the words, “Opportunity to telecommute: No.”

After clicking on a job listing, read the summary box carefully. Monster.com, for example, includes a “status” descriptor — whether the position is for a full-time employee or a temporary, contract or project worker. Postings for high-quality jobs usually contain specific information about both the employer and the position, spelling out such details as eligibility for benefits. Other ads force the job seeker to guess at what kind of relationship is being advertised — usually a bad sign.

Avoid any pitch that asks you to put up money; disclose your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers; engage in any financial transactions, or reveal such personal information as your marital status, age, height or weight. To check out an employer, see the Web site of the Better Business Bureau, http://www.bbb.org, which posts the outcome of its consumer-complaint investigations. Also, at http://www.ftc.gov, the Federal Trade Commission’s site, information about rip-offs the agency has prosecuted can be found by typing “work at home scams” or “work at home fraud” in the search box.

The job boards screen postings to varying degrees. Monster.com reviews companies that use the site and uses technology that flags questionable ads. Its staff reviews incoming postings and audits its listings, a spokeswoman says. HotJobs.Yahoo.com monitors listings, investigates job-seeker complaints and removes fraudulent postings; the site also requires any fee or investment asked of job seekers be made part of the job title, so it’s among the first thing a reader sees, says Mike DeLuca, vice president, sales. CareerBuilder.com reviews and screens out postings that violate its standards, including those that ask applicants for financial transactions or personal information, a spokeswoman says. Jobster.com screens postings it receives directly but also aggregates a range of listings from across the Internet.

Not to be outdone, I did (five minutes of) reporting myself. Shellenbarger doesn’t mention TheLadders.com, which caters exclusively to job seekers who want salaries of $100,000 or more. Which—let’s face it, folks—is all of us, right? Who the heck wants minimum wage when we could be pulling 100 Gs? (The catch, of course, is that the jobs favor workers already making that much. Talk about the rich getting richer.)

I went to visit the offices at TheLadders.com a while ago. It’s this neat loft space in downtown Manhattan, jammed with young people tapping away at computers. The outfit is run by this excitable dude named Marc Cenedella whose resumé included stints as a senior exec at HotJobs and a pet-food salesman in Japan. (He likes to take his top managers to my home country on annual junkets that have something to do with learning customer service techniques.)

Anyway, I logged onto TheLadders this morning to see what they had in the way of work-at-home or flexible jobs. Even under the free account, you can browse available jobs by region, industry and rank. I looked for marketing jobs because a) everybody knows writer pay is crap and b) I think I know what marketing is, while I’m not at all sure what people in “tech telecom” do (sell phones? wire phones?).

And there it is: a selection for “work-at-home jobs,” listing 143 openings. For instance, there’s an ad for something called a Games Services Manager that allows the person to telecommute to the HQ in Montreal (to apply, I’d have to sign up for a paid account of $30 a month or $180 a year). I could also be a Carbon Analyst Evaluator or a Customer Loyalty Director or a Food-Service Manager. For six figures! Working in my PJs! Hot dog!

Encouraged, I did a search for job boards specifically geared toward work-at-homers. I turned up one called WorldwideWorkAtHome, but unlike the jobs on TheLadders these appear to be part-time, hourly stints doing things like data entry and grant-writing. At-Homeworks.com targets moms, and is more of an advice and support site with some job listings (there are suggestions on how to start a scrapbooking business online and how to create custom baby announcements for sale). A lot of bloggers are cheerleading the whole work-at-home movement, including this mom named Lisa Mills who inexplicably posts recipes for banana-split pie—dangerously tempting for my hormonally charged appetite, but how the hell will gaining 7 pounds help land me a boffo-paying, benefits-having, career-not-killing work-at-home job?

Weigh in, friends. What are the best job boards for people who want to telecommute? Are there any? And if not, when in tarnation will one of you start one—with a specific category for writers who like pie?

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