How much of a WTF is this interview?

  • Fresh on the heels on a small company front page story, I found myself interviewing at one.

    After the HR interview, they wanted me to work on a small example project. OK, fine, I can see where this would tell more than a couple questions ever would, and at least it was a little interesting. So I go in for the second (technical) interview, and while I usually suck at interviews this was going one was going well. 

    At the end I ask "What's the next step?" Their response "We want you to come in for a while and show us how you'd deal with normal work, being thrown into the fire." Me "You mean for a day or something?" Them "More like a week." I had enough self control not to say WTF right then and there, but I think my eyes still bugged out. Granted they agreed to pay me, but this is still the strangest request I've ever heard, especially given I'd already completed an example program.

    There were a few other minor alarm bells ringing in my head but I figured they were all due to it being small company. That said, would I be wrong to drop them right now and start looking elsewhere?

  • Unless you don't have many other prospects, or really have nothing better to do, I would steer clear of this place.  Interviews and programming tests are one thing, but requesting that you do work for them before, actually work for them is ridiculous.  In my experience companies will first hire you, then set a specific probationary period.  Two to six months is common.  It is within that period of time that both parties should determine if you are a good fit.

  • @Atticus said:

    In my experience companies will first hire you, then set a specific probationary period
    Indeed, you shouldn't settle for anything less. If they want to test you under normal work loads, they should offer you a contract with a well-defined probation period. That's what it was invented for. If you had a good feeling about the company I wouldn't turn them down for this, but I would ask them to offer me a contract or leave me alone.

  • It is irregular, but I don't think I would reject it right away.  While it gives them a chance to see what you can do, it also gives you a chance to see what the job is like.  You get to see first-hand the co-workers, codebase, work setting, etc, while picking up a little bit of cash. 

    There are 2 reasons that immediately come to mind why they would do this:

    1)  They need to get a week's worth of work done cheaply, so they bring you in for that week with no intention of hiring you long term.

    2)  They have been burned in the past by hirees that have excelled at the interview and have been bad employees.  So they want to make sure about you before they hire you.



  • I've seen this done before (not by a programming company), about 1/2 way though the day I realized EVERYONE working was promised an employment for a 1-man position... I immediately spoke to the boss asking "WTF", he promised me I was the only hire. Unfortunately I was hired, the basement (I was stock) where I would go had so much dust that I actually developed a healthy cough, then the boss laughed at me wearing a mask to the basement, when in a day it turned black from the dust.

    Don't go for one of these jobs, even if you have nothing better to do. You time is worth more than $0/hr.

  • I assume that you already have a job and you're simply looking for a new one?  I can't fathom why any company would expect somebody to quit their current job just to take a week-long test, paid or unpaid.  Unless their ability to screen applications is really poor, it's doubtful that 1 week is going to reveal more about your abilities than a technical exam..  I've had two development jobs in my life and the first week was a struggle at both places because no matter how good my development skills were, every company did things differently and it took a while before I got my bearings. 


    I'm almost surprised they were willing to pay you...they seem like the type of company that would expect you to be a slave during that week. 

  • So they have a project they think needs "a week or so" of work by someone with your skills and experience.

    They let you come in for a week, probably unpaid, with no contract. After that week the project is done and you're told that "we don't think you're going to fit in our team" and not hired after all.

  • I hate when people don't keep their word.

  • @metrogirl said:

    I hate when people don't keep their word.

    So do I, but over the years I've come to expect it. It seems to be standard human behaviour.

  • The difference between what this company is trying to do, and what most companies do (namely, a probationary period) is that at the end of the week, this company can (probably will) let you go without needing to offer any explanation.  Maybe you didn't buy into the office xmas fund or maybe the secretary doesn't like you, who knows.  With a normal company, they go through the full hiring process and then they hire someone, but with a specified probationary period that let's them waive the normal, lengthy terminaton process for a specific cause, like if you can't actually program.  But what they can't do is fire you without any cause at all.  At best, this company is trying to bypass that.  At worse, they're looking for a week's free work.

    I suggest that you be very nice about it, because maybe they aren't trying to rip you off, maybe they're just clueless, but explain to them that this is very unusual and off-putting and at this stage in the hiring process, you're looking for a certain amount of commitment from them.

  • I think there is just one question you need to ask yourself. 

    Do you want to maintain code that is quite possibly written by lots of people who all worked there a week?

    Not saying it is, but that's your worst case scenario 🙂

  • I'm not sure that offering advice on this a month later is going to do much good.  He's probably long since made his decision and acted on it.

    OP, what did you decide on and what happened?

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