I have a problem which seems the opposite of what a few posts around here are about. I have received a CV with cover letter that clearly states that the person is willing to work as a developer for free during the first 6 months.

Of course my manager wants to interview him straight away (and already booked this as well). I honestly, from a personal point of view, don't like the idea of hiring people for free, because I don't like to work for free in the first place and now that I'm on the other side of the fence I want people to get paid what they are worth.

I would like your opinion on your experience about hiring people for free or for a very low wage. Do you have any suggestion on how to approach his interview? How should I approach my manager if he/she insists on hiring even after a failed interview?

Please note that I already had great experiences with fresh graduates or students coming for internships (usually very low pay or free) and that later turned out to be good hires. This specific question is about hiring people with already relevant experience in their field.

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    I'd check with a lawyer about whether it's even legal. I'm not a lawyer, but in countries that have a legal minimum wage, I'm not sure you could legally hire somebody who worked for you but wasn't paid for it. Oct 22, 2015 at 12:24
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    You have not even met the guy and have decided you don't want him?
    – paparazzo
    Oct 22, 2015 at 12:25
  • Added country tag, according to the OP's profile he's located in the UK.
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 22, 2015 at 12:30
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    Tallmaris: can I convince you to drop the specifics of your situation that you detail in your question? As written, the only true (and largely useless) answer is "No, because it's illegal: only volunteers (who don't expect permanent positions and who'll still be considered employees/workers here) and interns or people on work placements (probably unjustifiable given his experience) do not fall under the UK's National Minimum Wage laws". You already have two answers that explain the pros and cons of hiring someone for free and that would be a valuable question on this site, if reworded.
    – Lilienthal
    Oct 22, 2015 at 13:11
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    @JoeStrazzere Because I don't like to work for free in the first place and now that I'm on the other side of the fence I want people to get paid what they are worth.
    – Tallmaris
    Oct 22, 2015 at 14:16

3 Answers 3


Assuming this is legal and you and your boss have already verified this...

What to learn in the interview

Do you have any suggestion on how to approach his interview

You want to figure out a very clear explanation as to why he wants to work for free. A senior (24+ years experience) tech professional not having any paying options seems really weird to me.

If the explanation doesn't make sense, don't hire him. Without any other details, my guess is this person knows that getting a job when you are employed (vs unemployed) is far easier and is going for the "easy" way to get employed.

Also look at whatever resume gaps exist for the employee and try to understand them. They may add context to the above.

So, Boss...

eventually how to push back on my manager if he really really wants to hire this guy no matter what?

Six months is a long time to work without a paycheck.

How much money will your company spend investing in him (training? lost productivity from other people? actual training? technology costs? Etc). Just because he is not being paid a paycheck does not make him free.

Your boss should understand this. If not, talk through the still actual costs of the employee.

Talk through, "what would happen if he gets a paying offer elsewhere while working for free here?" and the answer is probably - leave, immediately.

Mention that someone working for free will probably be less dedicated than your current team. This can affect others the free-hire is working with and bring their productivity down. "I'm not getting paid, who cares if we take an extra long lunch break every day and talk instead of work?" etc.

Also, I would strongly encourage you to talk with your legal department or HR to fully understand legal implications of content produced by this person, what liabilities you might incur (can he sue you for back wages?), etc. You want to have a perfect understanding of what the implications of this are, given your local employment law, etc. Check out this link as a relevant source for the UK.


My read on the situation is he's desperate for anything and hasn't had any luck, so is trying to work for free. I'd also say that it seems likely this person isn't that great to begin with or they'd have been able to get a paying job somewhere already.

Also, read this question for some good insight.

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    "Just because he is not being paid a paycheck does not make him free." +1
    – zfrisch
    Oct 22, 2015 at 20:15
  • Its NOT legal in the UK
    – Pepone
    Oct 22, 2015 at 22:30

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

You need to be aware of the UK's Minimum Wage Legislation. There is an exemption for volunteers - but it is also tightly regulated.

Amanda is a unpaid intern at a design company. She’s been promised that she’ll be taken on as an employee after 3 months. This counts as a reward, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage for the whole time she spends at the company.

I would strongly suspect that you cannot easily take someone on for such a long period without pay.


Beyond the 'moralities' of whether this is right (or even legal?), like you, I'd also be questioning the motivations of the individual. This a tactic that someone new to the industry might use, or someone attempting a career change - but even if he needs to update his technology set, his non specific skills should be good anyway and he shouldn't be struggling to find roles.

The other thing to consider is that his willingness implies he doesn't particularly need a job. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think employees should be working because of fear, but it does rather imply he'd have nothing to lose by simply stopping turning up one day.

With all that said - it's just speculation. Why not have a telephone interview where you can discover the answers to all your questions and make a decision based on their answers.

  • I disagree with the second paragraph, the willingness to me implies desperation for a job - not a "doesn't need a job" situation. Far easier to get a "real" job if you have a job, even if you aren't getting paid.
    – enderland
    Oct 22, 2015 at 12:39
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    @enderland: It could go either way. The guy in this question could be so desperate for a job that he is willing to put in six months of uncompensated work, or he could be independently wealthy and bored and is looking for something to do. Can't know without talking to him.
    – GreenMatt
    Oct 22, 2015 at 12:50
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    But with modern globalization and cheap internet access, if he's really bored, he would be signing on to open source projects and code right away, not applying to jobs.
    – Nelson
    Oct 22, 2015 at 13:05
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    @Nelson: That depends: If the guy is offering to help with mundane things, you have a point. OTOH, there are a limited number of pro sports analytics jobs or Nobel level physics labs around, so the guy may be trying to get a foot in the door in a domain that is difficult to get into. Or maybe the guy actually likes being around people, rather than interacting over the internet.
    – GreenMatt
    Oct 22, 2015 at 13:23

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