10

In other words, they expect that I'll send the completed take home test (which took me 8 hours) to them and they they'll forward it to the client's engineering team. I asked the recruiter for a client email address, even if it's an admin so that I could send it to them.

I simply find it unusual that it wasn't the client emailing me the test and that I'm supposed to send it to the recruiter, and not them.

In every other interaction with a recruiter, the client wants to have at least an initial phone interview before handing you off a lengthy take-home test/task. And I always had the client send me the link/docs for the test. Thus far, I've had no contact with the client. Fore all I know, the recruiter has no contact with the client and is using my completed test as a way in. Or maybe the test is going to be used to promote another candidate. Or maybe, the test is for a different company.

Is this as fishy as it sounds to me?

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  • @Kilisi I'd say it's a matter of trust. The recruiter might hand in the test to promote a different client. Apr 26, 2021 at 10:34
  • 1
    yeah, I would not do this...
    – Neo
    Apr 26, 2021 at 12:08
  • What country is this ?
    – Fattie
    Apr 26, 2021 at 12:31
  • 2
    "In every other interaction with a recruiter, the client wants to have at least an initial phone interview before handing you off a lengthy take-home test/task". Taking the opposite view on that: it's almost no effort at all for the client to instruct the recruiter to hand out a take home test to each applicant. It would be much more of an investment of the company's time to use a phone interview as the initial contact with every applicant. To me it seems a terrible way to gauge someone's skill, but that's a different question...
    – spuck
    Apr 26, 2021 at 15:16
  • How easy is it to find a different recruiter where you are? Apr 26, 2021 at 18:37

3 Answers 3

43

Recruiters earn a commission every time they "sell" a new employee to a company. So the last thing they want is a candidate who bypasses the recruiter and talks to the company directly. They want to remain in the middle, so that they can claim their fee when you are eventually hired.

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  • 1
    I feel like this answer probably needs a bit more info. Wouldn't this be handled through an agreement / contract between the recruiter and the company (presumably signed before your info is shared with the company)? Obviously they'd need to talk to the person they're interviewing at some point, why is this different?
    – NotThatGuy
    Apr 26, 2021 at 21:00
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    Sometimes recruiters trust employers and employees to honor the fee agreement, even when it is only verbal or implicit. Another justification for staying between both ends is that sometimes an employer wants the benefit of only talking to qualified prospects, and the recruiter does the filtering.
    – donjuedo
    Apr 26, 2021 at 22:25
  • @donjuedo I was under the impression this is the whole point of (independent) recruiters: if one could allow to request all their best engineers to work only on hiring people and never on a product, recruiters become redundant. For some reason that is never the case.
    – Vorac
    May 3, 2021 at 6:44
20

It is unlikely it is "fishy".

It is "unusual", "dumb", "bad practice" but it's unlikely to be literally a scam or lie of some sort.

You mention possible scams such as "the recruiter has no contact with the client and is using my completed test as a way in. Or maybe the test is going to be used to promote another candidate" - I would say it's very unlikely those are the case.

In general take-home tests (particularly those that take all day) are a painful part of the business; some folks refuse to do them (there's plenty of other opportunities after all).

You've now introduced to the list an even more annoying version, the "company-anonimized take home test" - !

I'd say it's very unlikely to be literally a scam or lie: unfortunately, "recruiters do annoying things" as surely as the sun rises, so, the explanation is that it's just in that category - recruiters doing annoying things.

Do note that (unfortunately) any time a recruiter implies to you that they have a lock on a position, you're a shoe-in, it's a certain contact from the company to the recruiter ...... you can take that with a grain of salt. The recruiter themselves may, sometimes, have the weakest of connections to the company. Unfortunately, that's just "the norm" with the process; that could be the case here - just like any interaction with a recruiter, unfortunately.

Recruiters are terrific, but, you have to be a realist.

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  • 19
    Indeed. YMMV, but for me personally, I refuse any lengthy process (especially technical tests!) without at least a 15 minute screening interview to make sure that there is at least a potential match and we're on the same page. If a company can't make 15 minutes for me before asking for 2+ hours of my time, then I take that as a sign that they don't respect my time as a person, and it won't work out long-term anyway. That's my view anyway... As a result, I'd personally refuse, regardless of possible recruiter shenanigans. Apr 26, 2021 at 19:15
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    I could not agree more, @ConorMancone
    – Fattie
    Apr 26, 2021 at 22:12
5

In the U.S. at least, it's unfortunately normal to be firewalled off from the actual client company by the recruiter -- the recruiter wants to make sure they protect their role as middle-person until they're paid and/or a contract is signed. I once had a tense situation where a company really needed someone in a hurry and they liked me, but I was on the fence about the commute (and the weird tech stack) and ultimately decided not to join them. I had an offer letter via email from the hiring manager, so I figured I'd better contact him right away with my decision formally so he could continue searching. The next morning the recruiter I was working through called and screamed at me, accusing me of being 'unprofessional' for having declined the offer directly instead of through her. It's a jealous business, recruiting.

As for the take-home, the company I currently work for sent me a take-home assignment via a recruiter before anything else so they could judge my aptitude before taking significant developer time up interviewing me. I've seen a mix of assignment -> interview and interview -> assignment (-> and usually more interviews) before; every place has their own preference. Take-homes also help screen out applicant bots and people who might not be serious about the opportunity, so it doesn't necessarily seem strange that there hasn't been any interview with the client yet.

Combining these two heuristics, I would complete the assignment and submit to the recruiter as they requested. However, you might ask them if you can open-source your work such that even if all else fails you will build on your personal portfolio and protect against having your work plagiarized.

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  • 1
    I do not think you have to ask them. If they are not paying you, then it is not work for hire. It is yours to do with as you wish. If you want to open source it, go ahead. If they do not want you to open source it, then they need to pay you.
    – emory
    Apr 27, 2021 at 16:07
  • 1
    The recruiter was going to yell at you no matter how you had communicated your declination. The particular rant you received was perhaps because they didn't get a chance to try to convince you otherwise before you made it official. Last time I declined a job through a recruiter, the recruiter was more upset about it (so upset I could tell over the phone) than the people I would have been working with/for.
    – stannius
    Apr 27, 2021 at 16:25
  • 1
    @emory fair point, but some clients might be annoyed if you just go ahead and open source your implementation because they have a stock take-home assignment they use for everyone forever and so don't want implementations to become publicly available. That's a bit silly and lazy on their part, essentially the old "answers to last year's midterm must remain secret... because it's also this year's midterm" conundrum in academia, but somewhat understandable. Anyway, the client is the one who can make the job offer so it's wise to play it safe.
    – CCJ
    Apr 27, 2021 at 19:03
  • @CCJ I understand that. I would recommend sitting on the solution for a while before open sourcing it. Who knows? maybe your competitor will read your solution and tweak it just enough to pull ahead of you and get the job. But if they rejected you or ghosted you, then there is no longer any reason to care what they think or do. Especially if you think you did a good job go ahead and open source it.
    – emory
    Apr 28, 2021 at 2:03

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