I have several friends looking for jobs. Lay-offs, downsizing, unstable companies, you name it. Almost every one of them has encountered a bottom-feeder, someone looking to capitalize on another person’s desperation. They fall into three groups:
Last-call: this bottom-feeder can smell blood in the water. They sense the desperation in your resume and know that you may be talked into something a “sober” person would not consider (hence last-call). They offer an “opportunity” or maybe a “career day“. Their real goal is to force you into another profession. For example, one friend is a seasoned marketer. For some reason, he continues to get “new opportunities” to sell insurance or financial investments. All of these professions rely heavily on networking, so selling one widget is like selling another widget. Right??
Cheapskate: getting something for nothing has never been easier. The interviewer is thrilled with every last bullet point on your resume. But, they need that last piece to be sure that you are the “right candidate”. They offer you a test to see how you perform. Maybe a comp for a new ad or a possible marketing plan for a new product. Basically, a “spec” to test you out. And, after you complete the task, they will get back to you with a final decision. A month or two goes by and you have focused on other job prospects … when you see it … your “test”! The company took your sample and implemented it themselves!
Bourne Conspiracy: you get an interview with a competitor of your previous employer. They are very interested in your previous job and ask very detailed questions (ex. What vendors did you purchase from? Where did you get your customer lists? How often did you send out incentives?) Such questions could be testing you for inflated claims on your resume. However, they could also be using the “new job” as a way to gain inside information on their competition. Very devious!
So what can you do?
First, good luck with that interview! Now, keep your wits about you. Take another look at the job listing. Was it on Craig’s List? Has it been removed? Two red flags right there! Most companies will leave a job listing up for the duration of the ad and will remove it only when the job has been filled (if they remember). If the listing has been removed, it could be they do not want you to check it again … or report them for the scam!
Does the ad talk about an opportunity? This term has become code for change of profession! Think long-term — will such a change help or hurt your career? If you are open to such a change, great. Otherwise, ask questions and do not be afraid of saying NO!
Did they offer you a take-home “test”? Such spec work is very common for freelancers or cold-call pitches. It can mean the difference between getting the job and waiting for the call. Many people refuse such spec requests. And, in better times, I would agree with them. Try to get the company to agree to a small “development” fee up-front. The fee could be waived if you are hired or applied to the overall project budget.
Whatever happens, remember you have the right to say NO. Something better will come along. It always does. Good Luck!