muscular man playing arm wrestling with a skinny oneThis article is strictly for all my job seekers. I know it can be tough. I’ve applied for job after job with no callbacks. I have definitely been there, done that. And at times when it feels like your entire job hunting efforts are going unnoticed, it’s easy to become desperate. But, in these moments, it’s very important to reevaluate your situation, strategies and approaches to avoid allowing the state of desperation to lead you into a situation where you’re being taken disadvantaged of.

Here’s an example: I recently read about companies scamming job seekers into working for free during interviews. Headhunter Nick Corcodilos tackled the following scenario on Ask A Headhunter:

In the past six months I’ve had two interviews where I have been asked to work on a real-world problem. The first time, I suspected that this “interview” was to get an outsider’s opinion on a problem the staff was working on. (They wanted free work). I never heard from the employer again.

The second time, I asked the interviewer if the problem was something they were working on. He said, yes, and that this was a way for them to get a combination of interview and consulting work! I finished the problem and sent them an invoice for the time I spent at the firm. I can appreciate demonstrating your skill to a potential employer. However, the candidate has to be on guard for those seeking free work. How to handle these situations?

Now, luckily, this job seeker caught on to this practice and billed the company for his/her time spent during the interview. But not every job seeker is as aware of this issue and/or concerned with it. Most people are in such desperate need of a job they may overlook a company’s ulterior motives during the interview thinking if he/she does the work well perhaps that will give the job seeker a better chance of landing a position.

This is the wrong mindset.

Yes, you’re in need of a job and most certainly want to go above and beyond to impress an employer, but you are also a human being and should not be taken advantage of. Working for free is called volunteering, and if your goal was to volunteer you wouldn’t be at a paying job interview.

You have skills and talents, and just like the rest of the working world, you deserve to be compensated for using them to benefit a company. But just because this is true doesn’t mean a company is going to always extend you this courtesy. It’s your job as a job seeker to know your worth and value and not allow desperation to cause you to settle.

Aside from being asked to work for free during an interview, below are four other red flags to watch out for to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of:

Fake Interviews

Many times a company already knows the person it intends to hire (especially if it’s internal), but still has to go through the motions of putting up a job advertisement and conducting interviews. Pay attention to the signs. If the hiring manager cannot give you an official start date the company is looking for, seems disinterested and the interview was short with no time for Q&A, this could be a sign that the company is “interviewing” you just because. Don’t waste your time and effort on a role a company never intended to hire you for in the first place.

Low-ball salary offers

The economy is rough and this can lead to companies taking advantage of workers when it comes to proper compensation. Do your research on the role you’re applying/interviewing for. If the employer gives you an extremely low offer—especially one well below the average for your experience level and region—it could mean the company is trying to make you do the same amount of work for less pay.

Underemployed

Be sure to review the job description again before interviewing. If during the interview the position sounds nothing like what you applied for, be cautious. Don’t allow the desperation of needing a job to cause you to take just any position. A company can put you in a role you’re overqualified for, and like point no.3, pay you significantly less than you deserve.

Unpaid Internships

Although we typically think of internships for college students, more and more companies are offering internship opportunities for all types of workers. Yet, be aware. Just like “for credit” internships, companies can be seeking free labor. They’ll offer the hopes of full-time employment once the internship is complete, yet truly only intend to hire one or two people from the batch of interns.



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