A first glance at Taylor Ross’s LinkedIn profile will tell you a few facts about her.
She has a media arts and advertising degree from the University of South Carolina. She’s done a ton of volunteer work. She’s interned at a couple of advertising agencies. And her longest work experience is at a company called c0ffe3, where she’s been a strategist for over a year.
She writes in her job description: “In order to make the best insights I not only believe in having an unparalleled understanding of the brand, but culture as well— this requires social media prowess, paying attention to new platforms and locations, and observing ever-increasing niche audiences and intersectional experiences. From there, we can figure out how to allow the brand and audiences to stand on common ground and have an equitable exchange of values.”
It sounds like a perfectly legitimate role, impressive even. That is until you read Ross’ next line: “F*ck yeah, that sounded cool.”
Clicking on c0ffe3’s LinkedIn page will tell you that the company is based in New York and falls under the marketing and advertising sector. You’ll see the company has over 500 employees and nearly 7,500 followers. But a quick skim of the firm’s about page will reveal the most shocking fact about the company: it does not exist.
Brewing up opportunities
c0ffe3 is a fake company that a few individuals created because they were tired of hearing the “we can’t find diverse talent,” excuse from companies.
For many young professionals from minority backgrounds, entering the workforce can feel daunting, difficult, and at times, near impossible.
It’s easy to see why. Companies demand numerous years of experience for even their most entry-level positions, and corporate ghosting has most definitely become a thing. Slap on the fact that many industries remain predominantly white, and things can get really frustrating.
An increasing number of companies are adopting diversity and inclusion policies in a bid to diversify their payroll. But not all companies are willing to put in the effort to seek out and hire diverse talent. c0ffe3 is designed for this very purpose: to help recruiters find professionals of color.
The idea is simple. Anyone can add c0ffe3 as a past employer on LinkedIn and list the next role they want as their job title at the company. They will then start appearing in LinkedIn or Google searchers whenever recruiters and hiring managers, seeking out diverse talent, add “c0ffe3” to their search terms.
Ross first heard about c0ffe3 last year as a fellow at the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP). Although she was initially unsure of how to use the company to her advantage, she eventually listed it on her profile, tailoring her job description to the work she was interested in doing.
Her current job and supervisor found her profile not too long after that. She now works as a strategist at marketing and advertising firm Doner.
“Many initiatives, programs and pseudo agencies like c0ffe3 are a brilliant way to combat the excuse of ‘We don’t know where or how to find the diverse talent.’ I’ve always found that ridiculous given the resources and finances some agencies have had for years to easily do so,” Ross said. “While it is disappointing that multicultural and underrepresented communities have to do the legwork to create space and exposure for ourselves constantly, it also showcases the caliber of talent, culture and value the industry has been missing out on.”
Ross isn’t the only one who’s found success through c0ffe3.
Caitlyn Pierre discovered the company through a mentorship program called Women Who Create and immediately added it to her LinkedIn page. Through c0ffe3, an executive creative director reached out to her and offered Pierre her first junior art director position. She says besides added visibility, c0ffe3 has also helped her connect with other professionals of color who are trying to enter the workforce.
“[Through c0ffe3] you can be a part of a greater purpose to showcase that there is hidden potential among POCs who would otherwise be looked over,” she said. “Without c0ffe3, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“I’m not a token hire.”
Despite c0ffe3’s success, some young professionals say they still aren’t 100 percent sold on the idea of adding fake experience to their profile.
For Kofi Aidoo, who heard about c0ffe3 through some MAIP colleagues, one disadvantage of adding the company to his LinkedIn page is running the risk of misleading recruiters to think it is an actual job experience if they don’t know what it is. However, he said the positives still far outweigh the negatives for him.
“I was able to get a few initial interviews through c0ffe3 earlier this year as I was approaching college graduation and looking to start my first job,” he said. “I’d say it is successful because it has given me extra exposure to companies that are looking to prioritize diversity within their organization which is a good sign for me as BIPOC talent.”
Ishita Sharma is currently a junior strategist at marketing and advertising agency Mekanism, where she’s been working since February. She says she added c0ffe3 to her profile a few months ago.
“Apart from my qualifications, I believe the team took a chance on me (as an immigrant) because I had a WOC in a leadership position at Mekanism advocating for my position,” she said. “That’s not the case for most agencies and why I added it to my profile, to be available for those recruiters and agencies who realize the advantage of diversity.”
She said at the end of the day, it’s hard for her to measure the benefits of adding c0ffe3 to her profile because while she’s had recruiters reach out, it isn’t the best feeling to have to show off her diversity in order to be noticed.
“I am not a token hire and would want to be taken seriously as a possible candidate for any future roles,” she said. “c0ffe3 gives companies a way to recruit diverse talent, but I hope its purpose is served as the years go by and recruiters realize our worth.”
Saniya More is a correspondent at Marcom Weekly covering employment trends and immigrant experiences in advertising, marketing, PR and media. More previously founded Globalists where she also served as editor-in-chief. Her work previously appeared in CBS News, Bangkok Post, Thai Enquirer, Byline Times, and other publications.