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I'm a grad student who's currently in the process of waiting to hear back from a front end developer interview. I interviewed with this company in person last month , and received a take home project a few days later to complete within a week. The project consisted of rebuilding a website from scratch based from images of screens that they had given to me. I sent my project back to the interviewer within the timeframe, and he told me that my project looked good and met all the requirements they wanted. Since submitting my project 3 weeks ago, the interviewer has been telling me that they are waiting to receive projects from other candidates and deliberate among them. As of 2 days ago, he told me that they are still talking to candidates and comparing projects that they received. While they were deliberating, he said he wanted to give me the opportunity to go back and add more to the project that I've created, "to give more life to the page and consider where I could go next with it"

I find it a little weird that they want me to go back now and add more to the project I've given them. I already took one week before to work on the project, and at this point I feel that they are taking my time for granted. It feels like they might be taking advantage of their candidates. Do you think that this is a reasonable thing for an employer to ask or is it a red flag?

marked as duplicate by Dukeling, Dmitry Grigoryev, IDrinkandIKnowThings, gnat, BigMadAndy Nov 8 '18 at 18:17

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Do you think that this is a reasonable thing for an employer to ask

It's fair to believe they take advantage of candidates, or are extremely unprofessional. It is not reasonable to give a time-consuming assignment (presumably a week long) to start with, but is quite over the top to be delaying an answer for 3 weeks and being suggested to work more.

Do you think it would be reasonable things to ask if you were employed elsewhere, or if you were negociating other opportunities ?

is it a red flag?

It says something about the kind of management to expect. They are taking advantage of your availability and lack of experience. So it is a red flag.

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    Does anyone see any possible legitimate reason for them to ask for more work at this point? – JollyJoker Nov 8 '18 at 11:12
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    dv - this isn't a "week long task", it's a task with a one week deadline. – bharal Nov 8 '18 at 11:29
  • @bharal correct, ill make a small edit – Arthur Havlicek Nov 8 '18 at 14:55
  • At this point you should just send them an invoice for one week of work. What they have done is not legitimate in any sense. – R.. Nov 8 '18 at 14:58
  • Well I emailed my interviewer yesterday, telling him that I was pretty busy but I could look into adding a few animations. I've also asked him if he knows when he'll be able to make a decision about the candidates. No response yet, unsurprisingly. – Nia Nov 8 '18 at 20:05
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Call me distrustful. Maybe they just use the interview as a cover to get a free website, and they take advantage of the candidates to create it. It gives me a bad feeling that a company does that. Normally they ask you some questions to know your level not a whole project. Maybe it's not like that but it's very suspicious

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    "Maybe they just use the interview as a cover to get a free website" - what about multiple free websites for multiple clients, by assigning to each candidate (or groups of candidates) separate projects? – Val Nov 8 '18 at 10:37
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    @Val how many people do these coding tasks, exactly? You're assuming a surplus of quality unemployed and eager-to-do-tasks people who have also applied for this position. – bharal Nov 8 '18 at 12:25
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    @bharal : whenever an academic year ends and a whole year's worth of students finish with their studies, there will be quite a lot of them for a short period of time. – Val Nov 8 '18 at 12:30
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    @bharal you don't have to be unemployed to apply for a job like that. – Gertsen Nov 8 '18 at 12:57
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    @bharal The company is saying that it has lots of candidates doing these week-long coding tasks. So if you think that is unlikely, then you think the company is lying. – DaveG Nov 8 '18 at 15:12
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Definitely a management issue and red flags for a couple of reasons:

  • after 3 weeks without notifying the candidates of any further interview or meeting on a fixed date (e.g. for a second phase interview), they still reply that "they are waiting to receive projects from other candidates and deliberate among them". Could this deliberation last a whole year? No compromise from their part was made, so who knows?
  • giving the opportunity "to go back and add more to the project" is just another way to say, "we saw some more cool stuff from others, so can you spend another week doing the same?"... These kind of opportunities can actually be opportunistic behaviors from recruiters to avoid hiring a person and getting part of a project done and are just a way to nitpick people with the exact same skills/abilities that likely have not the same availability to work on the same project. They are not even interested on how you work or how you handle work in a team.

If you still want to apply for that job, I would just suggest them to set a definitive day for letting you know when the actual selection interview happens before you start working on their opportunity and deliberate accordingly to their response. Best of luck, but if you do get hired, be prepared to expect further management issues and possibly overtime work.

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Yes, you've been taken advantage of and they're trying to take advantage of you further. Send them an invoice for one week of work at a reasonable rate. If they balk, get a lawyer. In addition to labor issues, any subsequent use of your work will likely be copyright infringement, since they were not employing you to produce it and did not have any license or transfer of copyright from you to use it. Predatory shops like this need to be shut down.

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    I was going to mention copyright infringement, so I'm glad you did. The copyright is the OP's, and the OP has a perfect right to demand that it not be used. The OP might want to talk to a copyright lawyer at some point. – David Thornley Nov 8 '18 at 16:06
  • Also: for a lawyer, this is an opportunity to find and represent lots of clients (all applicants who were preyed upon), not just the OP. – R.. Nov 8 '18 at 18:33
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If you want the job and have nothing else going on, why not expand on it? At least you boost your skills while working on something, right? It's better than, idk, playing minesweeper.

A task with a one week deadline - not a "one week task" - is pretty fair for a coding challenge.

Delaying the answer is different, but then we don't know the quality turned in. Normally few people do these tasks, and normally companies want to interview at least 4 people for a given role. So they're probably trying to scrape up new applicants to interview for the role themselves. This would explain the delay.

We don't know why the interviewer suggested the candidate work more on the task - maybe the interviewer is quite new and inexperienced, or maybe they figure if the candidate shows interest they can argue to just select this candidate instead of waiting to find other candidates to interview.

But sure, maybe somewhere someone is making money off the work of grad students submitting already-designed work. It is possible, but then,

  • if they were doing that why did they wait weeks to request new changes?
  • why did they leave it up to the OP to make the changes - a normal client wouldn't say "oh, it needs more... um, sparkle! Just add random things please".

I think this is just a case of a bad candidate pipeline and a low turnout of candidates submitting work, and the company being unsure how to proceed.

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    I think you're being waaaaaaay too lenient on the company. This kind of timescale and further request is absolutely outrageous - even at the senior reaches of IT engineering. If the company is unsure or isn't confident in picking then they should state that and attempt another round of interviews - they're taking advantage of naivety by stringing OP along and dangling the carrot of "Oh, maybe do some more" is unfair to both OP and anyone else who only got a week to spend on it. Again, points to a serious cultural issue – Dan Nov 8 '18 at 12:16
  • @Dan idk, i prefer to assume gross incompetence than supreme evil. It turns out to be more accurate most times. The company probably has a recruiter or two working for them finding candidates, and it has to pay for that - why would it want to pay for another round of interviews? – bharal Nov 8 '18 at 12:23
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    @Dan Weighing the options, the OP can either get a job or get taken advantage of for some non-life-changing amount of time. It's not that big a risk for the OP, is it? – bharal Nov 8 '18 at 12:23
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    Your answer adds up to "why not work for free?". They have a significant amount of work already. They are asking for more work without any follow up interview. OP would be foolish to do so. This is a HUGE red flag. – DaveG Nov 8 '18 at 13:27
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    @bharal I'd actually agree with you to a point, if they have just "offered a chance for improvements" without requesting anything else or adding specific features, then it may be a legitimate extra chance. however if they have said feel free to improve it along these guidelines or include these features then that sounds to me like they are profiting from it – Blade Wraith Nov 8 '18 at 15:42
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It seems they are genuinely trying to keep you interested while waiting for the screening process for other candidates to finish and this is not a red flag. No company is going to benefit from how a grad student designs a website with pictures as there are literally thousands of free templates and content management systems out there and they could have chosen any.

I would like to supplement this with an anecdote where I helped a friend with a very similar screening work that involved XSLT and a picture gallery and she ended up working at a company in Seattle for a few years afterwards, so this sort of thing certainly happens and positive outcomes are plausible.

If instead they asked you to make a business process management system that was tailored for their workflow, I would say that is a weird flag if not a red one.

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I am a senior web developer and we do something very similar at my workplace. It is important to note that the assignment being given is not turned into a revenue project for the potential employer, but they are simply looking for an example of what the candidates can do. This industry has a large number of people that say they can perform and have excellent code samples, but when brought in cannot perform some of the basic duties.

My guess is they like you as a candidate, but you underwhelmed them with the given task. We encounter this situation often. Add some real punch to the project and send the new version out.

I would refrain from condemning the company. My company is a very excellent place to work and highly value their employees, which is why they work so hard to make sure they choose the right one. If you aren't comfortable with the assignment simply decline and move on.

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    Regardless of whether you're happy working there, what your employer is doing is unethical and indistinguishable to the job applicant from something illegal (unpaid work/wage theft). – R.. Nov 8 '18 at 16:37
  • Interesting perspective. I never thought of it like that, and it is very common in the industry. I would love to discuss it more. I don't want to propagate anything that could be considered unethical, much less illegal. – Ryan C Nov 8 '18 at 16:46
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    I dispute that it's common in the industry. Typically you would do a coding "quiz" of some kind (nothing that generates a "product") then put the successful applicant on a probation period for a while so you can ensure they actually generate useful code in reality. Ideal for the company? No, because if they fail their probation you've lost 3 months and have to start your search over again, but then that's what the interviews and coding quiz should usually reduce the risk of. Giving people actual jobs to do before you've hired them, though, is unacceptable. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 8 '18 at 16:59
  • .. I'm glad to hear that your company isn't doing it maliciously and that everybody employed there is happy regardless of this practice, but that doesn't excuse the practice. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 8 '18 at 17:00
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    "It is important to note that the assignment being given is not turned into a revenue project for the potential employer" - may be true for your company, but we don't know about this case. Still - a shady practice and far from standard. – autonomy Nov 8 '18 at 17:35
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It's important to take a step back and ask yourself how much is this possibility of getting a new job worth to you?

If you are currently employed and open to the idea of working for another company but aren't dead set on changing jobs, perhaps it's not worth your time to do a week long project.

If you're unemployed and/or absolutely want/need to work for this company, then it probably is worth your time to complete the week long project.

Evaluate your time spent and your desire/need to get this job and make a decision based on that.

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