Last month, in an unprecedented move, the US mafia launched a recruitment
drive after undercover police operations and staff defections reduced their
numbers. Paul Simpson explains why, despite some stringent work practices, this
is a job to kill for
In these tough times, when employers announce job cuts every nanosecond,
it’s good to know one large multinational is recruiting. The mafia in the US,
hampered by an ageing and shrinking workforce, has started a recruitment drive,
according to Michael ‘Cookie’ Durso, a mafioso now co-operating with the
In New York, deaths, defections and arrests shrank the workforce of
‘wiseguys’ by one tenth last year to 570.
The mob, subtly glamourised in America’s top TV show The Sopranos, has usually
been in the business of making people offers they can’t refuse. But it is
realising this slightly old-fashioned approach isn’t as valid in today’s tight
employment market, so there’s never been an easier time to become a ‘made’
But before you pick up the phone, here’s some information you might need to
The US mafia has never been what you might call an equal opportunities
employer. And even in the current recruitment crisis, you’re more likely to get
a job if you’re a white Italian-American male. You could be Jewish, like Bugsy
Siegel and Meyer Lansky – two of the most famous American mobsters of the last
century – and Irish-Americans have been accepted, although they don’t get
promoted that often.
But even if you’re from none of these backgrounds, don’t give up. One mafia
source has said "you have to inject blood into the family", so it’s
just a question of how head office’s new line is being applied in your neck of
If you’re female, you’ll probably only be accepted if you already have a
close relative (husband, son or sibling) in the mafia. That said, in the
Italian mob, there is no glass ceiling for women with the right connections.
Last June, Italy’s first godmother, or madrina, Maria Liccardi was arrested.
One of Italy’s 30 most wanted criminals, she famously refused to accompany
police to the station until a beautician had improved her coiffure.
But the mafia’s new inclusive recruitment policy has limits. Disabled people
need not apply. And the mob is very ageist – they’re not interested in
40-something career changers.
How to apply
Tricky. The mafia still doesn’t put recruitment ads in the local paper. They
don’t use Office Angels, preferring to use their own specialist recruitment
agencies and methods. Ringing up the production office of The Sopranos won’t
help – the producers did talk to wiseguys for research but they’re not in the
business of dishing out phone numbers. The safest course is not to apply at
all. Just wait for the mafia to come to you. If you’ve got the skills the mob
wants, they’ll find you.
The recruitment process
You won’t get a letter specifying time and place for your job interview.
You’ll probably get a phone call and be invited to a restaurant owned or
protected by the mob. Don’t be surprised by your interviewers’ foul language.
They don’t all mumble like Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone, but FBI wiretaps show
that many mafioso use the f-word five times in every sentence. For research,
rent Brian de Palma’s Scarface in which the f-word is heard 206 times.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear from them for a while. Each new
appointment must be approved by mafia bosses and, as many of them are in the
slammer, it can be hard to get their sign off on new recruits.
What kinds of jobs are on offer?
The ‘honoured society’ as the mafia calls itself has eight basic grades of
If you’re not Sicilian or Italian, you’ll probably join as an associate,
known as a giovane d’honore. If you’ve got the right connections, you’ll start
as a piciotto – a junior enforcer, also known as a ‘button man’. Do well and
you could become a sgarrista, a proper ‘made’ member of the mafia. After that,
you could be promoted to capo regime or capo decina (lieutenant) in charge of a
crew of 10 sgarristas. Those with expertise in business studies might become a
contabile, a financial adviser – not the most glamourous job admittedly, but
safer than many. Sadly, further up the career ladder, it is a case of not what
you know but who you know. Your chances of becoming a capo bastone, a second in
command, or a capo crimini (a boss of bosses, like Don Corleone in The
Godfather) may depend on having a surname like Genovese or Gambino. If you
don’t, or you’re not from the right ethnic background, you can become a
consigliere, a counsellor to a capo crimini, which is almost as lucrative and
less likely to attract the FBI. The mob is also looking for people with online
skills to exploit the web for their nefarious ends.
What is the package like?
You may start off earning less than your peers, but the fringe benefits are
enormous. You’ll get discounts of up to 100 per cent at certain restaurants,
never have to worry about being ripped off by your builder, and given the mob
ties to the US health industry you won’t have to worry about medicare and
you’ll get a decent company car (but be sure to buy a model with good
Being a mobster hasn’t quite retained the glamour it had in the Rat Pack era
but casual sex is still one of the perks. Be careful though. Don’t cheat on
your other half if your other half has a surname like Genovese, Gambino, Gotti,
Colombo, Luchese or Tocco. And don’t cheat with anyone with that surname
As your career progresses, the greater your obligation to maintain a certain
lifestyle. FBI wiretaps show middle managers in the mob are, like middle
managers everywhere, stressed about the mortgage, the school fees, the kids who
don’t understand them… the difference being that the middle manager at General
Motors can change companies.
Traditionally, staff leave the mafia in two ways: in a coffin or in FBI
custody. And although the organisation is trying to adjust to the modern labour
market, these rules still apply.
On the upside, working in the mafia isn’t like joining an impersonal
bureaucracy. In the right outfit you could quickly impress the capo crimini and
there’s always scope for promotion: in one swoop on the Genovese family in
April 2001, 45 mobsters were arrested.
The competitive position
Russian gangsters are moving into the US market, trying to exploit the fact
that the traditional mafia has been weakened by prosecutions, feuds and deaths.
In New York, John Gotti, the ‘Teflon Don’, has succumbed to throat cancer at
age 61. Another mob boss, Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Defede, is helping the FBI with
its enquiries. And Joe ‘Bananas’ Bonnano, head of one of New York’s five great
mafia families (which still employs some 200 mafiosa) has just died of old age
in Arizona. He was exiled there after trying to wipe out the other capo
criminis in the 1960s.
The Genoveses now lead the New York mafia and like to call themselves ‘the
Rolls-Royce of organised crime’. The largest of the five families, the
Genoveses have recruited nine men in the last year, and employ more than 310
members and associates. The DeCavalcante family, a small outfit in New Jersey
that inspired The Sopranos, has hired eight members to swell its ranks to 36.
A word of warning: think twice before you join the Colombo family. The other
New York syndicates don’t recognise this faction-ridden clan as a family so the
traditional benefits of being a wiseguy – other mafiosa not trying to kill you,
for instance – do not always apply.
A career in the mafia is not for everyone. Once you’ve had a picture of a
saint burnt into your hand and recited the omerta vow of secrecy, you will have
made your bed. If you change your mind don’t be surprised to find a horse’s
head in it.
The mob isn’t big on part-time work or flexible hours. You won’t necessarily
travel the world (except for the north eastern seaboard of the US and, perhaps,
Sicily), but you probably will meet interesting people and have to kill them.
Those made uncomfortable by repetitive profanity, mindless violence and
rigid hierarchical organisations need not apply. A certain degree of initiative
is welcome, but the mafia doesn’t want well-motivated self-starters. Mob
employees aren’t judged by their innovation, but on their obedience – 360
degree feedback is a concept the mafia has yet to embrace.
On the plus side, you will be given clear performance objectives by your
immediate boss and you will be given lots of feedback on how your doing.
You should by now know enough to decide if becoming a wiseguy or a godmother
would be the right move for you. If you’re still in any doubt watch Martin
Scorsese’s GoodFellas. "