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I'm a programmer and I am currently interviewing for a new position. One of the companies that I interviewed with gave me two assessments which required me to work through some code problems at home. The first required around 5 hours to complete and the second required around 15 hours. For the second assessment, the company said that I would be paid an hourly rate. I completed both assessments. A few days later, the company decided not to offer me the position. A week later, the company contacted me about the payment and asked me to sign and submit a contract and tax forms, and then they asked me to sign up for a payment app (either Zelle or Quickpay) on my phone. (note: I asked for a check instead and they agreed to send me a check.) I have a few questions regarding this situation:

1) Is it a normal practice for a company to pay applicants for part of an interview?

2) Why would a company want to pay me for something that I would probably do anyway?

2) Is there a benefit for the company to have me sign their contractor agreement?

3) Could there be adverse effect for me if I do sign up as a contractor for this short term "project"?

4) Should I be concerned about giving them my personal info, considering that I only met them once and I will not be working with them?

This is the first time that a company has offered to pay me for an assessment. I want to avoid scams and I also want to know if my work could be used as a part of their application, and if I could be assuming responsibility for something.

Edit: The company was located in Peachtree Corners, just north of Atlanta, Georgia. I visited the location for an on-site interview, however the address did not match the address on Google or on their web site. The company has fairly high reviews on Glassdoor and a good presence on LinkedIn. The number that I was called from did match the number on Glassdoor and on their website. At least one of the employees was recognizable from their LinkedIn profile. The web address used for their email addresses, company website, LinkedIn, Google and Glassdoor was the same.

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    Please disclose country if possible. – tweray Feb 14 at 20:02
  • I just added some info about the company, let me know if i can / should add more info. – user17580 Feb 14 at 20:20
  • Clearly they've been reading great advice here on Workplace.SE. – user1602 Feb 14 at 20:52
  • It's not totally unusual, but it's somewhat unusual. It's impossible for anyone here to make a judgement if it's just some sort of fake scam company, unless you say which one it is. that's not normal on here, so, really I doubt anyone can help. – Fattie Feb 14 at 22:53
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As coding tests are getting to be more... involved, some coders will just outright refuse. So, the companies were faced with a dilemma. They want to still screen people, and they don't want people to walk away at the prospect of facing a 5 hour or longer test.

The answer is to compensate people for their time.

This is not common, but it is not unheard of, and it takes various forms.

Some companies will even take you on for a week, have you do real tasks, and then decide at the end of the week if they will extend an offer.

This also helps to combat the "free consulting" rap many companies are starting to get, rightly or wrongly, for having people come in for long coding tests.

which has been a real concern for years now as this Slashdot article shows

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    personally, I would see this as a good thing. This company realises that peoples time is worth something. It also means that they were interested enough in you as a candidate to actually pay you to do an assessment. – SaggingRufus Feb 15 at 13:20
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  1. Not usually.

  2. Probably to encourage you to actually complete the interview process. There's been a lot of push back by programmers being asked to spend an insane amount of hours on interview work. I would consider 15 hours to be insane and can't see a situation in which I'd participate in that without some sort of compensation.

  3. Hard to say what the benefit is without actually reviewing the agreement but it likely covers them in case you want to try and claim you were an employee. It's also likely to ensure they own what you produced to prevent you from trying to sue them over the rights if they somehow end up using it.

  4. Without seeing the agreement it's impossible to know.

From what you've described, yes, they could use your work. However without knowing your specific local/country laws it's hard to say you could be responsible for anything. If the USA then I can't see a situation in which you'd be held responsible for anything at all.

  • The contracts appear to be the same that woudl be used for a full-fledged contractor. They are several pages long and include non-compete and intellectual property sections. – user17580 Feb 14 at 20:43
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    @user17580: my recommendation: sign it, accept your money and move on. Basically just consider this as a really minor contract. Although I'd tell them to remove the non-compete clause because it doesn't apply and is needlessly limiting to you. – NotMe Feb 14 at 20:45
  • @user17580 That's an awful lot of contract for a fairly trivial amount of work, especially now that it's being handed to you after the fact. If the company had competition and IP concerns, they should have executed the contract before exposing you to proprietary material. Unless you really want what they're going to pay you, I'd tell them no thanks and walk away with the knowledge that they're a little sloppy. – Blrfl Feb 14 at 23:41
  • Many small companies just have a single copy-paste contract that's the same for everyone. I wouldn't sweat about the non-compete and IP clauses as they'd get laughed out of court if the company tried to enforce them. Insisting on changes may mean a delay or that you don't get paid. – Matthew Barber Feb 15 at 1:01
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1) Is it a normal practice for a company to pay applicants for part of an interview?

Not in my experience, but it should be. When I'm creating programming exercises, I try to make them easy enough that someone of average competence could complete them within an hour. This is respectful of the candidate's time.

2) Why would a company want to pay me for something that I would probably do anyway?

Because it can be taxing on a candidate. If you applied for 5 jobs (and you ARE applying at more than one employer, right?), that could easily be 15 hours + 75 hours of work--more than a full-time job--for no gain.

2) Is there a benefit for the company to have me sign their contractor agreement?

My educated guess is it protects everyone from misunderstanding (i.e., you may/may not own the code you wrote, you can't sue for benefits, etc). I am also not a lawyer, so it is best to contact a real one to review any agreement before you sign it.

3) Could there be adverse effect for me if I do sign up as a contractor for this short term "project"?

Depending upon the laws of your state, you may invalidate unemployment benefits and/or other benefits. Best to check with a lawyer or the help line of your state/city benefits department if that applies.

4) Should I be concerned about giving them my personal info, considering that I only met them once and I will not be working with them?

If they seem legit (and they sound pretty professional), then it is probably not a problem. If they "hired" you and you gave them all your information, they (or an unscrupulous HR employee) could scam you anyway.

That being said, I'd suggest you look into setting up your own company. I personally have an LLC with its own EIN (employer id number) that I use for occasional side gigs. If I were in your position, I would give them my EIN and make sure they understood it was a business-to-business payment, not a 1099 or whatever. My personal information is protected, and if anything goes wrong, they can't personally sue me (YMMV and make sure to consult with a lawyer)

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