Primerica Financial Services: The Fake Job Interview

primerica-pyramid-schemePrimerica Financial Services is a multi-level marketing company that sells life insurance and investments. I’ve written about Primerica in the past, questioning whether Primerica is a pyramid scheme, and whether PFS is a scam.

The bottom line is that Primerica sells legitimate products and services (life insurance and investments), but sells them at inflated prices to generally unsophisticated consumers. So consumers are overpaying, and likely buying the wrong products. Additionally, the MLM structure sucks for the Primerica representatives. Because there is recruiting with so many levels, the distributor who sells the products receives much less money than if he or she sold similar services through a traditional insurance agency or investment company.

A typical recruiting ploy in Primerica is the job interview. Representatives of PFS troll the internet for job seekers, harvesting resumes from job sites. They contact the job seekers with an offer of an interview for an opening. They give the job seekers very little information about the “job” (it’s not a job at all… rather it is a position in the MLM pyramid), con them into showing up for an interview, and telling them if they have the right skills, they may be invited to stay for an information session.

The truth is that the “interview” is no interview at all. It is simply bait to make a [possibly desperate] job seeker to show up for a potential job that doesn’t exist. Everyone gets invited to stay for the informational session, and everyone will be strong-armed into signing up as a representative.

Below is a narrative of how this went down for one PFS representative. She submitted her story to Pink Truth, a website I run about Mary Kay Cosmetics and other multi-level marketing companies. Notice how the representative not only deceived the job seekers. He also deceived the new Primerica representative, telling her that he was helping her and teaching her how to recruit people into her downline, only to keep some of the recruits for himself.

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A few of us bought into a resume site, access to hundreds of local resumes.  My Primerica Regional Vice President (RVP) we’ll call “John” offered to teach me how to call them, to build my team.  I felt awesome, like he had seen the potential in ME to want to spend time teaching me.  Now of course I realize that I was probably the only one who wanted to learn.  Sigh.. they’re so good at manipulating, or “leveraging” as they call it.. they create false demand and artificial scarcity all the time.  The whole “you QUALIFIED to spend time with me” thing seems ridiculous to some on the outside, I know.  I totally see it now.  But believe me, when you’re lacking in confidence any morsel thrown down from the master’s table seems like a feast.

Took a few days of being put off, “appointments came up”, etc, but finally we were sitting in his office, my stack of resumes in front of him, me sitting eagerly poised to take notes.  He picked up the phone and began to dial but I noticed he pressed *69 first.. what, he was blocking the outgoing #??   I must have looked confused because he said as he dialed, “people are more likely to answer an unknown number than if they see the name.”  I was shocked… I thought we weren’t doing anything wrong?  Why the need for secrecy?  I thought everyone wanted/needed our products and opportunity.

Of course, now looking back and seeing it for what it was, I see why he wanted to hide behind secrecy.  At the time though, it didn’t sit right with me.   Plus, I knew I had read somewhere on POL (online website for reps) that it was against compliance to block the number.  I started to say “but I thought…” and my face must have conveyed my thoughts because he impatiently rolled his eyes and cut me off, lowering the mouthpiece slightly, “look, we’re not supposed to, but I’m here to run MY business and I know what gets results.”

Just then someone clearly answered because he quickly spoke into the mouthpiece, his voice fast and sharp, “Hi, I’m looking for Amy…” I listened to the call and to him book the interview, but my thoughts were jumbled.  I didn’t understand how he could deliberately break a rule like that.  Especially because it just didn’t seem necessary.  Why keep the name of the company a secret, wouldn’t they eventually HAVE to know?  Like, you might be able to trick them into showing up without knowing the company name, but then what?  Later I learned that they do “whatever it takes” to lure someone out, then rely on the hyped-up emotions stirred up by the Opportunity Night presentation to get them to sign the agreement and pay to join.

Sitting there listening, my mind went back to the phone call that him and I had, when my interview was booked.   He had rushed through the call, creating the perception that he was a busy man with many interviews to call for a much-in-demand position, and when I asked the company name he rushed through that part as well.  In fact, the only thing I remember from that call was his saying “Citi”… weird.  I must be remembering wrong…  I tuned back in just in time to hear him say, “well, have you ever heard of Citi?” then pause.

I couldn’t make out the muffled answer but saw his demeanor change to become a bit more aggressive.  “Like I said, I own my own business and am looking for some sharp people to add to my team here.  As far as positions, I haven’t even met you yet, how could I know what you’re qualified for?”  Listening again.. I leaned forward and held my breath to try to hear the woman’s reply through the phone.  Something about more information..  John said, crisply, “I’m offering an interview, that’s the first step in the process.  Second is you would stay for a career information session at my office with all of the successful interviewees and then I give more information.  I spend my time with people who show up.”  Another pause, then I saw his face relax a bit as he gave directions for the office and set up an interview for 6:30pm that night.

As he hung up the phone I exhaled to release the tense feeling I felt, then realized I had been holding my breath for most of the call.  He went on to make about six more calls, each leaving me a little more tense than the last.  He seemed so angry, I thought.  Like, if someone asked a question that would be fairly customary in the real world, he really would let off on them with something snippy like “well, I don’t know what you’re worth yet.  I don’t even know if you’re someone I want to work with.”  But then again, I thought ruefully to myself, maybe he was right and I was too soft.  After all, he was the successful one here of the two of us.

Now, of course, I see it through different eyes, more objective and analytical.  When you feel the need to bully someone like that, there is something lacking in you.  NOT the other person.  When you get that defensive and that angry, it’s like you feel the need to justify yourself so you go into defensive mode.

Now I also understand more about “success” too.  He did have an office, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he made the money to keep it afloat.  In fact, given his air of desperation in hard-booking like that, the evidence appeared to point to the contrary.  I felt anxiety throughout this whole calling session.  I realized, if “success” at PFS meant doing this forever, I might not make it.  I just didn’t understand.. when they hired me on they told me that referrals would pour in and “we never cold call.. in fact the company prohibits it!” complete with fake hearty chuckle.  Then why was he so eager to get ahold of my stack of resumes, leads I had paid for??  Didn’t add up.

That night I came back to the office a bit before 6, when the first interview had been set for.  I was the first one there so I put the lights on and tidied up a bit.  Promptly at six a man walked in and introduced himself and said he was there for an interview with John.  I pasted a smile on my face and said “of course, he’s expecting you, he just stepped out for a few minutes” though inside I was fuming.  Now what?!  Did he expect me to conduct this interview?  Anger gave way to fear.. what if I interviewed him and messed it up and he stormed out of here angry and calling it a scam?  John would be furious with me.. I felt paralyzed with indecisiveness.

Now of course, I see several red flags in the situation.   A real boss wouldn’t be furious with me for honest fumbling.  A real boss would have trained me properly in the first place, not have been so blinded by potential dollar signs and a “taking care of ME first” attitude.  Thirdly, in a real job I wouldn’t be so terrified that the person would think “it’s a scam” and I wouldn’t care if they came on board or not.

Fortunately, my paralysis didn’t last long.  John breezed through the door and introduced himself then instructed the man to sit down for a few moments; he’d be “right with him”.  He went in his office and closed the door.  As the man sat looking around at the various posters and motivational items on the walls I felt that anxiety-induced tension again.  What should I be doing? Talking to him?  No, better not, or John would be angry that I said something wrong.  I kept my head down and fiddled with my phone, then shuffled some papers in a folder, desperately trying to look busy and important.  Instead my thoughts were screaming through my mind.. really, what was John doing in there?!  Why keep this guy waiting, wasn’t that terribly unprofessional and disrespectful?

Sizing up the interviewee’s professional attire I again looked around, feeling self-conscious as I really noticed for the first time how cheap and tacky the office looked with its random motivational decorations and big scoreboard marking sales and recruits.  I stared at it blankly for a moment, noticing how low the numbers were.  It must be weekly, I thought to myself, no way that’s monthly?  It’s the 23rd already, isn’t it?  I dismissed the thought as finally, after several minutes, John opened his door and beckoned the man in, intruding himself again.

I got up to follow the man into John’s office but he closed the door.  Now I was really confused.  I thought I’m supposed to be learning here?  I wondered to myself.  I started to feel a bit angry as I realized that John wasn’t really interested in teaching me, he just wanted to get any recruits in that he could.

Then I felt a bit ashamed for thinking badly as I remember John’s words to me, that he would always act in my best interest as an expert in building a business.  Surely a man that professional-looking would be deterred by someone as inexperienced as me in the room,  I rationalized to myself.   Okay, made perfect sense.  I took a few deep breaths and began to greet reps I knew as they began to enter for the Opportunity Night.  There were a few guests, but I kind of nodded and said hi then left them to my much-wiser business mentor so that I not blow it by saying something dumb.

Just before the session started I looked at the guest book and noticed that John had put his name beside most of the new guests, though 4 were a result of my resumes.  I furrowed my brow thinking I thought he was making those calls for ME.. shouldn’t I get credit for those names?  But I again dismissed the thought, feeling a bit guilty for doubting John.  Surely it wouldn’t matter in the end, as long as we get the recruit right?

I was wincing to myself at times, man this guy could be a jackass.  I suddenly found his bragging really off-putting.  Funny thing is, the first 20 times I heard this same spiel I was envious of his life and attracted to the lifestyle he proclaimed was not only possible, but a given if one followed his leadership.  Now, though, I felt different.  It just all seemed very cheap and tacky, like the trinkets around the office.

I focused on a plaque over John’s head as he bragged about his family’s last vacation, noting his “highest attained income” splayed across it in huge numbers.  Suddenly it occurred to me, who knows what that really means in context.  What would that income really be after all expenses, office rents, etc, were deducted?  Plus his wife worked full-time here too.  Split between two people working full-time, it really wasn’t that impressive.  Plus who knew if they actually still earned that?  There was literally no way of knowing.  Even asking the guy flat-out wouldn’t help, he was pretty slick and dodgy at answering direct, factual-type, questions.

I looked back to John, who had now moved on to the “hard close” part of the presentation.  He had become quite animated now, telling the audience about “what all was included” for the fee.  I noticed several of the new people in the front row looked very restless, like they just wanted to get out of there.  I checked my watch.  An hour and a half already?  Oh jeez.. he told them on the phone it was a “quick 40-minute session.”  Again, the little lie bothered me.

Randomly the thought popped into my head, he also said working 2-5 hours a week would mean an extra $1-2000 a month for your family but I quickly dismissed that thought.  It would be too painful to add up all the hours, dollars, and gas I had so far invested into this “business”.

The evening eventually came to an end, and I watched John as he scored 2 new recruits.  I wanted to be pumped but I found it hard to ignore the fact that John had blatantly lied when the professional-looking man had asked if there were any additional costs other than the $99.  John said no.. yet I knew that wasn’t true.  I also knew what John would say if I asked him about that one.  Same thing as he told me when I asked him why I hadn’t been told about the fee to write the state exam: “we give recruits information on a need-to-know basis.. too much information would overload your mind and paralyze you from making smart business decisions.”

Once the new recruits, the professional-looking man and a scared-looking, awkward young guy who looked about 20 and was wearing ripped jeans and left on a bicycle, had left, John was photocopying the paperwork to put in the mailbag for tomorrow.  I noticed that he put me as a recruiter on one of them, and himself on the other.  I raised my eyebrow, curious as to how he could explain that one away.  He noticed, and must have read my mind because he said in an argumentative way, “hey, I need something to show for my time too right.  It won’t end up mattering in the long run anyway, you’ll have enough new recruits to train.”  I nodded silently, not wanting an argument.   Deep down I felt angry.. what part of this was training to help ME?  I realized, for the tenth time that night, that this guy was an asshole, and that was most likely what had halted his progress in his business.

We walked out to our cars, him telling me about how successful the evening had been.  He clapped me on the shoulder with a hearty “see you tomorrow for training!” and I watched him climb into his beat-up Honda civic.  I had heard him talk many times about the cars and houses that the top leaders in the company owned, and had asked him when he was going to get the viper posted on his wall.

I remembered now, although I didn’t pay attention then, how defensive he had gotten as he told me he was “too wise to throw away money on a car”.  Baffled, I shook my head.  What’s this guy’s deal anyway?  Discouraged, I climbed into my own car and went home.  I wasn’t really looking forward to more training in the morning, but figured with the scared-looking new teenage recruit coming, John would at least be in his “jovial, upbeat” mood.  It was sure better than his “you guys aren’t doing anything, you’re being a bunch of losers” talks he usually gave at training meetings.  I shook my head, frustrated again, starting to wonder how long it would take til I would really succeed at this.  Wondering if it was even actually possible.

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Comments (16)

  • Bridget McArthur

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    Many years ago, I got a call at work from a Primerica recruiter. I was VERY unhappy in my job and I had been actively looking. The man told me he was a head hunter and had seen my resume on Career Builders. He asked if I had heard of Primerica. He acted surprised that I had not. He launched into his clearly rehearsed and scripted talk. I said that I was exclusively looking for Purchasing/Procurement roles as I was a buyer. I was not at all interested in becoming a sales person. He said he absolutely understood that and that his office was new and he had many openings. He specifically mentioned that he was looking for a qualified office manager and that my resume looked like I was very well qualified. I was very interested in that. So I booked an interview with him. I arrived at the interview and when I walked in the door I heard LOUD hard rock music playing. That really put me off. I walked in and saw chairs set up like there was going to be a lecture. There were 10 or so young men dressed nicely milling around. There were about 20 other people sitting in the chairs. I was looking for a receptionist or something. I ended up seeking out one of the young men and telling him I was there for an interview with Mr. Blah Blah. He introduced me to that person and I presumed we would be going to an office. He told me to have a seat and that there was going to be a presentation. I sat and as soon as the presentation started I was NOT happy because it was clearly a come sell this stuff and get rich thing. When it was over I again thought, ok so now I’ll get the interview. The dude ignored me completely. I went up to him and asked him about the office manager role. I don’t remember exactly what he said to me but I realized I’d been lied to and I was so mad that I just walked out.

    Reply

  • Ashley Darnell

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    I though I was going on a great interview in my early twenties when I strolled into Prime America! I wasn’t amused. There was a Prime America in the office building I currently work in, and I can’t tell you how many young, eager, looking people would pull up looking nervous right before their big “job interview”. I had to smile a shake my head every time I saw one of these unsuspecting people heading in….

    Reply

  • Marshall Jones

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    I interview with a Primerica Financial guy like 15 years ago. Got a free dinner out of it, but I never did anything with it and didn’t give them any money. Ha!!!!

    Reply

  • chris

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    I have an apparent interview with this so called “PRIMERICA” today and from reading these blogs I will not be going, this looks like Kirby (the vacuum cleaner) a 10 person session and rudeness and inconsideration to those looking for a job I don’t think so…I will pass on this thanks to all of your blogs its a fraud obviously and I am not going to waste my time on this, thankfully enough I do have a real job and to think I almost turned it down, I got a phone call from this lady name Ratna Kong she was calling me from her cell phone and she told me someone recommended me to her about a position, about being a supervisor and training I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t look up her number on google or find her name or the company….thanks again

    Reply

  • Annoynimus

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    I wish i had read this before i went, wasted 20 bucks of gas to go, and was exacly has described, what a waste of my time, and i went all nicely dressed.

    Reply

  • Carlie

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    I also am one of the many that got called out of the blue for posting my resume online. The woman who did the “phone interview” was very nice but once I got off I didn’t even recall what the job was really about and realized she set me up in a few days for an in person “group interview”. Sounded too good to be true about the money and needless to say thank-you to everyone here I will not be going. I can feel it’ll just be a waist of my time and I would rather work for a company with a good reputation.

    Reply

  • Maggie

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    I also received a phone call from a guy who said had my name refered to him by someone. He said they are looking for people to sell financial products and to recruit and train new employees. After reviewing those comments I will not be going for and interview. Thank you all for saving my time and money.

    Reply

  • blast

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    I was actually recruited by a Primerica rep that paid the $99 fee for me. After realizing her main focus was getting recruits I began to question this whole Primerica thing. And yes the higher ups do benefit from your recruits they aren’t going hard for no apparent reason and they will convince you they are blue in the face that Primerica will help you build your own business within a business. They prey on the uninformed, they want your warm market, and your warm markets warm market.

    Reply

  • leslie

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    Wow I just spent $99 on nothing!!!!!!!
    They have my info and address and all kinds of info will they use it against me if I dont work for them?

    Reply

  • Thania

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    I have an interview with them tomorrow. but after reading this I won’t be going. The guy recruited me at the mall and all he gave me was the address, no description of the job, not the name of the company. But i’m not stupid so i looked it all up what the job was and where it actually was and this seems to be all true. thank you for opening my eyes!

    Reply

  • karine

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    i have an intervew tomorrow too, but i decided not to go after reading, thank you.

    Reply

  • amy

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    I also just had the same call and scheduled interview for friday. The call was so unclear and left me with wanting more information. So i googled and seems like a scam i called back and canceled

    Reply

  • tiffany

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    I am suppose to have an interview tomorrow as well. I am unemployed and the guy on the phone made it sound so good and easy to earn some extra cash. He told me he worked with Primerica before it was Citigroup, and to hear that made it sound great because Citi is a huge opportunity in my area. I had the same gut feeling to google and see if this was a real thing. I looked up Wallace Murphy with Primerica, it showed his picture and what he was about, but after reading this I will also be canceling my “interview” as well. Thank you for the honest comments, saved me time and money.

    Reply

  • Jay Gaultieri

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    Called a local Primerica agent in the spring of 2011. The agent was a very nice Italian-American woman who actually knew something about financial services. She had once had an office in an actual storefront on a mixed commercial/residential street in the neighborhood, but now ran her business with no outside marker out of her husband’s auto body shop. She was pleasant and I was willing to pay the $99 up front and take the life insurance exam. Primerica offers web-based learning materials and a practice exam. I studied and passed and was prepared for take the NASD Series 6 exam.
    The agent kept calling me for a congratulatory luncheon at a local Chinese buffet. After dodging her for a few weeks I finally agreed and ate enough of the steam table food to be polite. Then she laid it on the table: I needed to go out and start recruiting. I mumbled something about “I’ll see what I can do” said my goodbyes, and bowed out. My angel on the shoulder came in the form of a call for a contract position at a big investment bank. I emailed Primerica’s Compliance department and was told they could not give permission for me to take the job because it would violate SEC rules. That’s legit, and I drafted up a Letter of Resignation, which included the language “This is without malice.” I didn’t have the heart to tell the agent why I quit, something I regret to this day.
    Primerica’s main financial advice is the slogan “By term and invest the difference” which means figure out what a whole life policy will cost you, buy a term life policy, and invest the balance of what you would have paid for whole life into mutual funds. It’s not bad advice. But like all of these MLM businesses, it’s not set up for money to be made through only selling the product. It’s all recruit, recruit, recruit and eventually a profit will be turned when enough people are in the downline. There’s constant turnover from people like me, so recruiting needs to continue indefinitely. It’s an exhausting way to make a living. Which is why a I didn’t go down that path.

    do amnddo

    do

    I finally

    Reply

  • joijoi26

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    Wow i got a callcfrom Primerica and the guy jhon who called made it soumd legit. thanks for the honest comments I we’ll be cancelling my interview tomorrow.

    Reply

  • srussell135

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    I, too, have an interview for tomorrow that I doubt I’ll go to now! I’ve read a ton of comments on other sites as well, and this is just not cool! There are too many of us out there that are unemployed and in search of a real job with steady income. Is that really too much to ask for?

    Reply

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