I was going through the interview process for a Developer role in a startup. The salary the consultant that redirected to them told me they would be willing to offer was quite high (according to average salaries in Spain, and about double my current salary, which is a similar role).

I did the first interview, but instead of being interviewed by HR or some tech guy, I got interviewed by 2 sales guys that had the script of the interview. This included questions that made me feel unconformable, since I think these kind of questions shouldn't be demanding that level of detail on the answer. Examples:

"As you may know, we're a startup and therefore we need to grow 40% every X months, how would you use your knowledge to improve the performance of the sales team, what tools would you develop in order to accomplish this."

"How would you use a geolocator system to improve our sales on possible affiliates?"

I gave them some general ideas but they kept pushing for me to give specifics.

After the interview I received the technical test. It included creating a webpage on an scratch develop environment where I would later grant them access and paste the code into a git repository with an 8 hour workload.

I suspect, they just trying to get candidates to work for free using the bait of a really high salary in the potential job offer.

Are my suspicions irrational? And, if not, how can I send an email to politely decline the offer, since I think the technical test is unethical from my point of view.

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    Hi Joe, i'm aware this is pretty standard on startup evironment. But I feel like this requires a high commitment into the company which I don't clearly see why should I do it. They are paying me X for Y hours of work, which obviously will be the best I can deliver. If I feel confortable I'm fine with doing extra work, but because I feel motivated, not because they duress me into it. Thanks. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 10:41
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    @JoeStrazzere's right. Startups are based on the idea that since they're groundbreaking, working with (for) them is an opportunity huge enough to enjoy the nights and weekends with them as well. Hopefully not all of the startups are like this, but it follows quite a pattern Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 10:52
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    "They are paying me X for Y hours of work, which obviously will be the best I can deliver." They would also be paying you nearly double your current salary. Surely you can do the math here? They are deliberately being very open about their high workload so people who just want to do their 9-to-5 can self-select out. And as @JoeStrazzere said, it certainly sounds like you should be doing that here.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 11:45
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    I edited out your PD: but look here for an answer to it: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/54304/… Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 17:17
  • When you count review resume, schedule, interview, and review you code they have more than 8 hours invested and not even a given your code will be something they can use. Pushy yes not a cost effective code generation.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jun 2, 2018 at 17:39

4 Answers 4


"Thanks for your opportunity, but I feel I'm not a good fit for this position"

Spaniard here. It could be very likely that salaries vary between companies, by a whole lot (depending on the clients they contact. I went through a 45% salary increase in my last job switch, just because the clients were different).

About the sales guys pushing for solutions. Definitely very impolite. I'd be answering like you, and in fact the second question is very specific, like they have the tool, and want to know how to exploit it. It's not a way for them to test how well you'd match your position, as they have nothing to compare and only look for ideas. Leave

Also, except if you're pushing for a Google position, an 8h tech test is also a red light. Normally you want to see how the employee tries to find a solution, the coding style, if they are organized, and basically if they are a fit with the rest of the team. You don't ask them to do a whole feature for free. I'm not a lawyer, but I feel that's not legal at all

In Spain, any extra time is not paid (quite often), and instead it's covered with other regular hours (which is not yet a good exchange, but better than nothing). If they don't offer even this, it's a no-go.

  • 6
    I've interviewed with Google -- even they don't ask you to spend 8h writing code!
    – user812786
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 12:02
  • A consultant that works with us 1 day x week and I've good relationship with told me this tactic is used by many startups to get almost all the basic work done by others for free, but i'm not sure if he's dramatizing too much over the issue. I just wanted mainly through this question know how often can you face this kind of scenarios. Since i had only 6 job interviews. And only 1 of them with technical test. But the test could be done in one afternoon and was far more reasonable. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 12:28
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    @AlexanderAeonsTorn My first onsite interview with a doomed company took about 3 hours to complete, 1 of which I was directly speaking to the client, on the phone. After close to 50 minutes, I noticed what was going on. They were willing me to provide with enough information and solutions to complete a doomed task (and the poor client couldn't understand who I was, as he was saying all the time "Can I speak to Carlos? He may know it better"). It was painfully obvious they weren't willing to hire me. Moral: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 13:12

To be honest, I doubt that a company is going to make or break on 8 hours worth of an interviewee's code so I wouldn't be too concerned about that (though I've been burned in the past in a similar way for more than 8 hours so maybe....)

You could take a more active interest in the things that concern you:

  • What's your current geolocation strategy and what are you looking to improve?
  • What specifically in my answers are so crucial that I need to write code illustrate it rather than explain in general terms?
  • How do you manage clients' immediate needs?
  • What does the current delivery pipeline look like and how much time is scheduled?
  • When was the last weekend work and why?
  • What options are available for overtime payment?
  • What are the strategies in place to achieve 40% growth?
  • What are the implications of not achieving that?

You may not get the job either because it won't be offered or you choose not to take it but at least you'll know why in either case.

  • 2
    I can provide you some info they gave me during the interview -When was the last weekend work and why? + They told me they had been working the whole month of july all weekends. -What options are available for overtime payment? + Maybe there are some but as far as they exchange info with me all that could be asumed is that ther was no overtime payment, it was expected from you to commit in that way. -What are the strategies in place to achieve 40% growth? + They were actually requesting FROM ME those estrategies. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 11:38
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    Also I want to add that they were requesting a lot of detailed information from me but they were not providing much, I told them I could gave them more adjusted answers if I had more info(which I understand they aren't willing also to reveal to an applicant) , but then they shouldn't be requesting detailed information when they can't provide use cases. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 11:40


If by "suspicious" you mean they're trying to get free work or free ideas from applicants and if they get hired, they will be exploited, I would answer NO. If by suspicious you mean you will probably be asked to work more than 40hrs a week, and sometimes on week-ends or nights, I would answer YES. Because this is a startup, and because they seem to offer twice the average salary, it feels somehow logic to me.

Now what you should do really depends on the kind of job you're looking at...

the long version now :-)

I agree it doesn't sound very exciting as such. Their recruiting process is clearly not too good, which already can give an indication on the quality of your future colleagues.

That said,

  1. On the pushy questions:

I think although it might not be a good thing to ask for so much details in the interview, there's probably no hidden agenda behind it. If they wanted to do some kind of brainstorming to get ideas on their next step, they might as well ask on the web and get a lot more of answers of very various kinds, so they're probably not "tricking" applicants

  1. On the 8h coding test

Although I find it quite long, I don't consider it too uncommon neither. From you're description I'm not quite sure such a task can be accomplished in 8hrs, so this might be a way to see what kind of quality/quantity you can deliver in 8hrs. I don't think this is for you to do free work, because as I said I don't think you can get a quality result in just 8hrs, and even if you would, there's probably not a lot of money to get out of it should they sell it to clients.

  1. On the "working on week-ends and extra hours"

Well at least they announce it clearly. If that is going to be an issue for you, maybe the startup world isn't the right one for you, as it is quite unusual for startup employees to do a 9 to 5 with no extra-hours ever. Some people have no issue with that, some would want it compensated somehow, some might just refuse it, it's all up to you to decide which one you want to be. Note also that even not compensated directly doesn't mean you're never gonna get any reward: in a fair-play management style (and I've been under such management sometimes) your commitment could be rewarded by being proposed a raise, some shares of the startup, a higher-level position, etc... And in this case you mention a salary being the double of the average salary for such a position, this is for me an indication that they expect you to work more than in another similar job. It doesn't mean neither that you would be "blamed" for doing a 9 to 5, but it certainly plays a role in how you would fit with your colleagues. Coding nights or week-ends, as strange it may seem, are sometimes helping the team spirit: you've gone through some harsh times together, but you deliver something on time, that accomplishment as a team is sometimes very rewarding in itself.

The many things you may learn on various fields by working in a startup may also be considered an indirect benefit...

So, does it look like a scam ? Not to me. Does it look like a company that will be exploiting you ? Neither does it to me. Will yo be a good fit, and will that company be a good fit for you? Only you can have an idea about that, and even then you might even realize on the job it's much better or worse you thought in the beginning. I've been dreaming during my studies of a job were I would be paid and not too stressed. I've had such a job after my studies, and quickly realized it was not good for me and it's not what I want at all. Knowing what will make them happy is one of the hardest things for human beings...


Run. Run away fast.

  • You got interviewed by salespeople because there's no technical leadership. If you are a strong developer, this means headaches and a whole lot of imbalance ahead.
  • The technical test is for you to build stuff that the company will gain a lasting benefit from, whether they hire you or not. They're also testing to see if you're stupid enough to engage in activity that doesn't benefit you at all... and now we can segway into the "extra hours and weekends" thing:
  • If they're in the interview asking about extra hours and weekends, assume that this situation is the norm. This is indicative that either the company is cheap or very bad at planning use of resources (such as your time).

Again, run fast. A simple "no thanks" will do.

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