How to Avoid Getting Ripped-Off in Job Applications & Interviews – Part I

By Zipline Career Team • June 13, 2018
In this part I of a three-part series, we’ll cover the many ways employers unfairly ask you to do free work. This includes real-life examples (this post), rhetorical strategies and manipulation tactics they use to convince you, and other strategies you can use to come out on top in a difficult situation.

Whether you’re actively applying or interviewing for a new job, keep an eye out for these unfair tactics like these. Remember, if it seems fishy or weird, it probably is, and you shouldn’t feel weird asking questions or getting further clarification.

For now, let’s cover a few real-life free work examples that we’ve red flagged:

A company asks you to complete an unpaid creative or technical project that requires work at their office or your home at any point in the interview/hiring process. For example, a graphic design position might ask for “a creative re-design of the company’s logo” or something similar.

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A company asks you to work unpaid at a full day (or multiple hour) event they’re holding to demonstrate your skills for the position and gauge your fit with their other employees. They say, “you’ll get cool swag and free food.”

In this case, the company gets your temporary labor for dirt-cheap, which is the probably the cost of some delivered pizza, packages of t-shirts or other merchandise that they were already ordering for the event (which is still likely cheaper than even minimum wage).  Again, the same principle applies, look for another way to demonstrate your abilities, or negotiate a creative compromise to make the event worth your time.  If they aren’t willing to work with you, just move on to a new opportunity.    

A tutoring company asks you to grade multiple writing samples prior to an interview. The company asks for detailed written responses and suggestions, to show that you’re a capable tutor and up to their standards.

It’s likely the company would like to have their current papers graded for free by an applicant who is eager to please to get interviewed and hired.  However, many people apply to online or in-person job postings and it’s unlikely they’ll all get selected for interviews and the job itself.  Instead, reference your other skills and experience in a cordial and confident manner.  If there isn’t a way to move forward, start looking elsewhere. The company needs to be a willing participant in giving you an opportunity to show why you’re the best candidate that doesn’t involve making them free profits.

Remember, while job hunting can be extremely tough and frustrating, it’s even more frustrating when you give away more of your precious time to dead-ends.  While it may feel crass, internally and repeatedly ask yourself, “What am I getting out of this?” and “Is this moving the hiring process along in a useful way?” If the answers to this are “Nothing” and “No” you should move on.    

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