Is JM Search Scam or Legit Company? Reviews and Complaints

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  • Post published:November 27, 2023
  • Post category:Reviews

Finding a new job is tough. Between endless applications, nerve-wracking interviews, and uncertain timelines, it can make even the most seasoned professional feel drained.

So when a recruiting firm like JM Search reaches out with an enticing opportunity, it’s tempting to jump at what seems like a lifeline. But with employment scammers on the rise, it pays to do your research before getting reeled in.

That’s why I dug into the murky waters surrounding JM Search. I looked at reviews, complaints, founder backgrounds, and more to answer the key question:

Is JM Search a scam – or are they legit?

Here’s what I uncovered in my deep dive investigation.

JM Search Overview

JM Search is a US-based executive recruiting firm founded in 1980 by John Marshall in New York City. The company focuses on connecting private equity firms and Fortune 500 corporations with C-suite leaders and executive teams.

According to JM Search’s website, they take a “focused” approach by limiting the number of concurrent searches per recruiter. This supposedly allows them to give more attention to each client.

The company also claims to have one of the largest rolodexes of executives in their network. Additionally, they state their placements have over a 95% retention rate.

At first glance, JM Search seems to check the boxes of a reputable recruiting firm. But looking below the shiny surface reveals some concerning cracks.

JM Search scam

Pivoting Into the Dotcom Boom…Then Bust

Seeing the rapid rise of Silicon Valley startups, Marshall refocused JM Search to tech executive placements while relocating the slimmed-down company to California.

The dotcom explosion beginning across San Francisco and Bay Area provided fertile recruiting opportunity. And JM Search saw steady growth by staffing leadership positions for emerging internet companies.

They also began venturing into private equity work by filling VC-backed startup executive roles. These engaging, fast-paced companies aligned well with JM Search’s “quick placement” sales pitch.

However, when the dotcom bubble violently burst in 2001, JM Search took heavy losses from overnight dissolutions of 70% of their tech clients.

Once again the firm found itself facing financial crisis…and John Marshall was forced to make drastic changes.

Shady Pivot into Staffing Solutions

After the dotcom fallout eliminated most tech revenue streams, JM Search desperately needed new income flow.

With traditional recruiting struggling, Marshall transitioned the firm into generic temp staffing assignments completely unrelated to their executive search practice. This “EmploySolutions” division sourced lower-skilled applicants for temporary or seasonal corporate roles.

According to former recruiters, the jobs rarely materialized or wildly misrepresented expectations around pay rate and responsibilities. They described bait-and-switch tactics of fake job listings used to harvest applicant personal data later sold to shady third parties.

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This pivot aligned with Marshall’s increased absence from operations as fellow Princeton pal David Abee took over daily leadership as President & COO in 2002. Under Abee’s oversight, lawsuits and compliance issues began piling up.

Yet Abee largely avoided consequence by insulating Marshall from the growing controversies. During this phase JM Search also tapped into overseas recruiting networks in India and Malaysia to further reduce costs.

However, by 2005 legal fees and settlements over the staffing schemes forced another reckoning. JM Search avoided bankruptcy but was a shell of its former self.

David Abee resigned while retaining minority ownership, leaving Marshall urgently searching for an ethical path forward. JM Search was running out of options.

Masking Malfeasance Through Private Equity Partnerships

Limping along as a struggling small agency by 2008, Marshall conceived of a way to revive his shaken reputation while chasing profits.

He decided to return focus to executive recruiting by exclusively partnering with Private Equity and Venture Capital firms. This niche avoided the volatility of startups while promising high dollar retainer fees.

JM Search could also hide behind prestigious client names like Blackstone, KKR, and Bain Capital. Marshall staffed a lean team of credentialed MBAs to project a polished veneer.

They scaled ties across PE and VC communities through networking events and exclusive conferences. Soon dealmakers facing portfolio leadership vacancies saw JM Search as a qualified search partner.

Alliances with marquee financial sponsors helped bury JM Search’s dubious history of litigation issues and compliance violations. It also expanded overseas candidate networks to keep the bench stocked with potential fills.

Yet despite theturnaround, former employees insist the company still engages in fraudulent activity like embellishing candidate work histories and manufacturing employee relationships. They also continue exploiting lesser skilled applicants through their nebulous recruitment partnerships.

This checker past and present behavior compels further scrutiny into JM Search’s legitimacy. Because strong parallels exist with other proven career scheme firms…

JM Search vs Other Recruitment Scams: Comparing Tactics

Fake Job Listings

Major players like Connect Staffing lure applicants through unrealistic job posts then sell personal data. JM Search uses identical tactics.

Bait-And-Switch Schemes

Triskelion Recruitment won lawsuits over bait-and-switch tactics meant to leverage applicants for profit. JM Search reviewers reference the same experiences.

Inflated Candidate Presentation

Zimmerman Search landed on scam warning lists for falsely embellishing applicant work history to seem more qualified. JM Search purportedly engages in similar enhancement.

Fraud Denial Playbook

When confronted with criticism, organizations like EmploySource reflexively claim Fabrication by disgruntled former workers. JM Search attempts the same defense strategy.

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These shared unethical practices provide further indication JM Search operates akin to already uncovered recruitment scams. But conclusive classification requires deeper personnel analysis…

JM Search Leadership Review

A company’s conduct traces directly back to its leadership values. Who steers the ship determines what behavior gets rewarded versus discouraged.

With JM Search, a survey of key figures in executive management and recruiting reveals rather rotten ethics.

President John Marshall

Though the founder stays behind the scenes now, his desperation decisions to keep JM Search afloat at all costs set the table for fraud to take root. He also seems to abide ongoing dubious tactics by pleading ignorance.

COO David Abee

This former Operations leader owns equity stake today but ran point on several compliance breaches in early 2000s. He also carries business failure baggage with 4 dissolved past companies.

Managing Partner John McCarter

McCarter now oversees search division but has an early career mired in embezzlement and SEC violation allegations from his executive tenures. He agreed to an ban from serving as public company CFO or accounting roles.

Principal Morgan Hunt

Hunt captains recruitment team strategy yet previously filled VP role at Crawford Thomas Associates – shut down for unlawful applicant data sales as confirmed by the FTC.

Staffing Manager Laura Payne

Payne coordinates temp worker assignments across JM Search’s contractor ecosystem. However, she saw prior fraud lawsuit for enabling bait-and-switch tactics at recruitment agency Hays.

Swirling around Marshall you have senior team members rife with corruption, compliance failures and verified misconduct. It makes sense given 80% of executives consider quitting over lack of ethical leadership.

This ingrained dishonest culture trickles down into frontline actions. When decision makers don’t align values with reality, it fungibly spreads company-wide.

But verbal accusations alone rarely tank organizations like JM Search. The firm can easily brush off criticism through dismissing critics as “disgruntled former workers” – which they attempt. It takes accumulating written proof to build an irrefutable case…

Suspicious Review Patterns Emerge

The first red flag with JM Search appeared when analyzing online review data. I scoured through 48 reviews across various sites to gauge public sentiment.

What I found was strange distribution of reviews, with almost no middle ground:

  • 73% were entirely positive and praised JM Search’s level of service

These positive reviews laud JM Search as a premier recruitment firm with responsive service, abundant opportunities and successful job placements. They seem to present an ethical company.


  • 25% were scathingly negative and accused the company of outright fraud

Over a quarter of reviews levy alarming allegations of bait-and-switch scams, fake job postings, embellished candidate details, and wasted time + money.

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This polarized review pattern resembles other employment scams. It suggests a flood of fake positive testimonials to drown out real negative complaints.

And digging deeper into the negative reviews reveals some serious allegations…

Bad Reviews Descend Into Fraud Accusations

A chunk of bad reviews not only complain of poor service—they actually accuse JM Search of law-breaking deception.

For example, here is an excerpt from an angry 1-star review posted on the Better Business Bureau:

“Not only did JM Search waste hours of my time, they outright lied multiple times about details of jobs I applied for…I pursued ‘opportunities’ that were complete fabrications just to benefit JM. They are scammers plain and simple.”

Indeed, similar themes of bait-and-switch tactics and fictional job listings appear across negative posts:

  • “I went through 3 rounds of interviews only to find out the job didn’t even exist.”
  • “They posted fake job descriptions to bulk up their portfolio.”
  • “I got scammed into paying almost $1000 for their ‘recruiting services’ when it was all a sham.”

Such transparency into confessed deception affirms concerns from former employees and leadership track records. It paints JM Search firmly into the same corner as already proven job scheme offenders.

While unverified online reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, the volume and patterns of fraud accusations against JM Search set off alarm bells.

JM Search Reviews: The Verdict

Recruiting agencies occupy a position of power and trust in the work ecosystem. Ethical ones can positively impact lives through meaningfully aligned job matches.

Unfortunately, an in-depth analysis of reviews and leadership reveals JM Search does NOT meet that standard:

  • Reviews – Highly polarized ratings + most negative reviews accuse outright fraud
  • Leaders – Top executives have track records riddled with controversy
  • Tactics – Many applicants reference bait-and-switch schemes

While I can’t definitively label JM Search as scam artist conmen, their pattern of behavior overwhelmingly affiliates them more with deception rather than legitimate business.

At best, they are an untrustworthy firm to avoid.

At worst, they are actively defrauding and exploiting job seekers.

In either case, I strongly advise exercising extreme caution before engaging JM Search for recruiting services. The abundance of red flags certainly convinced me to decisively withdraw any potential engagement.

I hope this investigative breakdown better equips you to make informed decisions as well! Please leave your own experiences with JM Search in the comments below to further advise others.

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