Thursday, May 26, 2016

How To Work For Free - The Phony Job Interview Scam

I just returned home from a job interview in Boston.  It wasn't until I sat in the Logan airport gate area for four hours thinking about how frustrating and annoying the interviews went, that I suddenly realized that I had been scammed.   (I won't mention the company name for fear of a lawsuit). 

When searching for a new job opportunity beware of this 'Phony' job interview scam. 

It goes like this: 
  1. A recruiter calls with a  job opportunity for an unusually high dollar amount and really great perks like working remote etc.  The story is told that they have had a really hard time finding qualified candidates with the specific skills you possess and they think you are a great fit. 
  2. You go through a few steps in the process, phone interview, skype etc and then they bring you in for a series of face to face interviews with other members of the team.  In my case, they shelled out money for an airline ticket, so I figured, not only were they serious, but that my chances were really good.  
  3. When you arrive, there is a group of people waiting for you, all are extremely friendly (You think to yourself, this seems like a nice place to work!).
  4. They show you the problem they are having and pump you for ideas on how you would solve the problem.  
  5. Feeling pressured to show your creative and technical abilities, you dig deep to pull out every idea that you can to help solve their problem.
  6. Each time you explain an idea, they respond with, "But how would you solve it?"  They never acknowledge that any of your ideas are good.  In fact, they act as if it is not good enough.   You feel compelled to try harder and dig deeper.
  7. After three or so hours of this continual 'pumping' for ideas, they abruptly end the meeting, thank you for your time and hustle you out the door.
Clues that they were not serious:
  1. No one had seen or read my resume
  2. They show you the problem they are having have and pump you for ideas on how you would solve the problem.  Your ideas are never good enough and they pump you for more.
  3. Thinking you need to prove your value, you deliver more and more ideas for their problem solving.
  4. There is apparently no shortage of the required skills.  In this case, all were knowledgeable about python, algorithms, machine learning, etc.
  5. There is no discussion about the job terms, working conditions, team,  equipment, logistics etc.

So for the cost of a one day travel ticket (under $300 total), they received a wealth of information and ideas about how to solve their problem.  For me, I got $0 pay for my free consulting, plus I sat for four hours on a plane and over six hours in the waiting area at Boston's Logan Airport (flight delays etc). 

Have you had a similar experience?  Does anyone have ways to combat this dirty trick?

All comments are welcome.  Comment below or on twitter @anlytcs


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I once had a suspicion that it was the case. The job posting asked to solve a problem and submit the solution, prior to getting the interview. What I did instead was built a webpage which allowed to submit arbitrary data and test my solution. As an added bonus I got a notification whenever anyone accessed the page.

    The ad was legit. When I arrived for the interview the first question was "When can you start?"

    Best job I've ever had.

    Maybe you should send the company an invoice for one day of consulting services and hint that otherwise you'll publish their name.


  3. Good One !

    Not sure I am ready for blackmail though...


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