Thursday 18 December 2014

The helpful - but chilling - effect of Google’s “right to be forgotten” listings warning

Does anyone fancy being advised by a “career management” specialist?

At the beginning of the week, I received an email from an organisation I had never heard of. Somehow, my CV had ended up in their hands. I had recently sent it to a couple of recruitment agencies, and one of them had evidently passed it to a “partner company.” It read:

Dear Martin

Having reviewed your CV, our Senior Consultant has asked me to contact you as he would like to meet up to talk through your current situation and career objective. We specialise in helping mid to senior level individuals across all sectors secure their next role.

He would be keen to meet in our London office this week if possible.

Please phone me on 0113 205 2860 or e-mail me to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards
Alex Smith

Sounds good?

I thought so – and accordingly I spent an hour yesterday with a gentleman in London’s Cavendish Square who gave me a business card containing the details of Geoff Russell, Director, Apollo, Tel: 0113 252 2282.

We spent a pleasant hour together. I chatted about my career history, while Geoff explained that it would be useful for us to meet for a 2-hour session in the New Year to more carefully review my career options. Both sessions would be free of charge. But next time, he would explain how what Apollo’s deliverables would be, and how much it would cost if I were to join their programme.

During the conversation, Geoff explained that his company was in the “career management” business - a concept pioneered in the US by Bernard Haldane.

In a nutshell, the proposition is that Apollo would help by providing advice and enabling me to meet relevant corporate decision makers (rather than the usual HR folk) in order that I can secure the job that is right for me – for a fee.

(I don’t think that Geoff read the bit of my CV which stated that I am already a Non-Executive Director of a recruitment firm, and am therefore pretty well placed to meet relevant corporate decision makers. However, we’ll let that minor detail pass, for the moment.)

Geoff presents himself as an extremely credible executive, who has worked for a variety of organisations over the years. He reassured me that there are jobs that might well suit my interests, whatever they are. That came as a relief – particularly as I hadn’t told him what my interests were, yet.

Returning home, alarm bells began to ring. Just how did Apollo get hold of my CV? Why was there no Apollo nameplate on the front door at the Cavendish Square office? Ok, it was a shared office building. That might be the reason. But why was there no Apollo sign in the 4th floor reception area, where Geoff apparently worked three days each week? In fact, why was there no “Apollo” branding anywhere?

So, I started to do a little more research into Apollo and Geoff.

Apollo has an impressive website. Virtually every week, yet another note of appreciation from a satisfied client is posted. This is a very successful track record. But why didn’t Geoff appear to have a presence on LinkedIn? And why was he not willing to explain, during this initial meeting, precisely what Apollo’s fees might be?

Why didn’t Apollo appear to have registered its activities with the ICO? I couldn’t find the relevant entry on the ICO’s register of data controllers. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough.

Also, why were there so many worrying comments on the “whocallsme” chat forum in relation to Apollo’s phone number(s)? The comments in relation to 0113 252 3070, a number registered to a sister (or perhaps the same) company, also refer to Geoff Russell as a senior consultant, and indicate that complaints have been made to the ICO regarding potential breaches of the PECR regulations (sending unsolicited emails).

Finally, why did my searches for “Bernard Haldane” result in this unsettling article? Geoff’s sales pitch (together with the invitation to undertake a psychological test before our next meeting) was remarkably similar to Bernard’s career management approach.

The clincher was the chilling effect of the notice that Google had placed under all its search listings: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.”

So, what else might I not know about Apollo?

I couldn’t find anything on Google’s .com site that was not already on the .uk site. But I was sufficiently spooked to check, just to be on the safe side.

The trouble is that, after all this research, I simply don’t have a sufficient level of assurance about Apollo’s business practices.  Despite the concerns I’ve unearthed, they might indeed be a perfectly sound organisation.

Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining. The afternoon was not wasted. Apollo’s offices in central London are right next door to the John Lewis department store. So even though I don’t plan to meet Geoff again, at least I was able to do some Xmas shopping.

Update 23 March 2015
Apollo's Operations Director has written to me today, asking that I print the following paragraph - which of course I am happy to do:

I am the Operations Director of Apollo and would like to say that if anyone reading these comments would like to ask any questions about our company or the career management services we provide please call me on 0113 2052851 or email me at

We are a customer focused, ISO accredited career management company which has been operating and supporting our clients since 1997.”