an employer “challenged” me and other applicants to work for free for 2 weeks

A reader writes:

I applied for a position with a company that specializes in the sustainability and environmental sector and received the below email as a response. Am I totally off-base to think that (A) this is FAR too much to do for free in lieu of a traditional interview process, and (B) they are planning to use all of the work completed by applicants, even if they do not hire a single one? I did not choose to participate as I believe this is bananas, and if nothing else I hope you and your readers get a kick out of it.

Dear Candidate,

Congratulations for your outstanding credentials and drive!

We appreciate your taking the time to apply, and after careful evaluation of your profile we have decided that we want to proceed with you with our selection process.

At [Company Name], we are proudly different from everything you have seen before. Therefore we want to give you the chance to make an impact from day one!

Indeed, the second step of our recruitment process is to take part in one (or more, if you want) challenge(s) — where you will have the opportunity to understand the activities within our teams, and only your results will decide your employment in our company (not an external opinion).

You are invited to take part in four different challenges:

• Business Development Challenge – This challenge consists in (i) identifying, and (ii) bringing within the [Company Name] Alliance as many ESG oriented startups/companies/institutions/associations. (Note from Alison: I know it sounds like something is missing here but I asked the letter-writer and nope, this is what the company sent.)

• [Company Name] Voices Challenge – This challenge consists in (i) identifying, (ii) reaching out and (iii) publishing as many authors as possible, in the fields of sustainability & energy. (This one makes no sense either.)

• Growth challenge – This challenge consists in finding “clusters” of emails (of organizations, corporations, NGOs, student associations or institutions) to be invited to our acclaimed free newsletter, featuring the most relevant happenings in our industry. You will thus master the techniques of A/B testing and online marketing.

• SEO/Content challenge – This challenge consists in enhancing the SEO of our platform by featuring our content on Wikipedia. You will indeed extract key insights from our [Company Name] voices posts and add them in voices of Wikipedia – a perfect balance of digital prowess and content learning.

You are free to take part in the challenge(s) that you like most. There is no advantage from taking part in more challenges. And yes, we trust you from day 1 to speak directly to CEOs or leading personalities, as much as co-managing our online presence and leading [Company Name] to new heights.

Please communicate to us the challenge(s) that you want to take part in before [date]. The challenge will start on [date] with an induction call at [time]. The challenge will last 2 weeks, and at the end of that period your results will be assessed & compared with those of other participants.

We will also assign you a buddy to help and support you in any possible way, so don’t panic! Remember: the final goal is for you to have fun while making an impact!

Congratulations again, we look forward to starting this amazing journey together!



This is a huge amount of work, it’s clearly designed so the company can benefit from applicants’ unpaid labor, and it’s incredibly exploitative.

If they find anyone willing to participate in this, they’re going to have a group of people working to promote their company for zero pay.

That’s gross enough, but they’re also deliberately misleading about how it will benefit the people working for free. Finding email addresses for the company to spam is not in fact going to help applicants “master the techniques of A/B testing and online marketing,” and embellishing the company’s Wikipedia page is nowhere near “a perfect balance of digital prowess and content learning.” It’s just free PR work, and somewhat slimy PR work at that.

And that’s all before we get into other obvious issues with this, like the fact that loads of candidates with kids, other caretaking responsibilities, health issues, or even just, you know, a full-time job won’t be able to spend two weeks of their lives working for free for a company that doesn’t employ them … or the fact that this company shouldn’t trust strangers “from day 1” to speak on their behalf  … or the misplaced self-congratulatory tone of the whole thing, like they’re thrilled with themselves for coming up with this exciting way to take advantage of you and they think you’ll love it too!

I’m all for seeing applicants in action when you’re hiring because resumes and interviews don’t tell the whole story about anyone’s skills. But as an employer, you need to do that through short simulations and exercises that you don’t benefit from in any way outside of the hiring process.

This is a company that doesn’t know how to hire, doesn’t understand wage and hour laws, and is remarkably comfortable exploiting workers while pretending it’s for the workers’ benefit.

It’s an attempt at grift and very little else.

{ 301 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey all, please stop trying to identify the company in question. This website keeps people anonymous and the LW didn’t choose to ID the employer; I don’t want the comment section full of people trying to do that. I’m removing a bunch of threads for that reason.

  2. LolaBugg*

    Well this company was right about one thing- “we are proudly different from everything you have seen before”.

      1. Adereterial*

        Run, as fast as you can.

        Their privacy policy is laughable, for a start – ‘we don’t collect personal data’, on the page that asks for your name, email address, company and position to subscribe. They’re either so stupid as to not understand what personal data is, or liars.

        If people weren’t frequently suckered in by this nonsense so often, it would be funny.

      2. Worldwalker*

        Also, some peasants were unfree (serfs) and some were free (yeomen, etc.) — given that they were all peasants, and not much into moving around anyway, the primary difference between free and unfree peasants was the amount of labor service they owed, and what other taxes and fees they were subject to. It was possible for villeins (unfree peasants) to gain substantial holdings and wealth. (I’m mostly focusing on England here; France was similar, and it gets less similar the further you go from there. Oddly, serfdom in Russia was a late arrival; during what is commonly called the Middle Ages, Russian peasants were free)

        The term “unfree” is, by the way, the word that was used at the time.

        Also, as Dinwar said, feudalism was a system of obligations that went both ways. The king owned all the land; he granted most of it as fiefs to his vassals — the great lords. They in turn granted parts of those fiefs to lesser lords, all the way down to some rather scruffy knight holding a single poor manor, who in turn did very much the same for the peasants. The peasants produced the food that the entire society depended on. The increasing levels of nobility provided military protection (a big deal when the greatest danger to your average demesne was the neighbors) and law & order. They, in turn, owed military service, attendance at court, etc., to the next level up, who also kept their neighbors (also his vassals, or the vassals of a fellow noble he hopefully had influence over) from marauding, and so on up to the king, who tried to keep the lid on all of it. How well that worked, well, you have to read a lot of history for the details. They’re interesting. Our knight, for instance, would be expected to show up for his military duty with a horse, armor, weapons, probably additional horses, and possibly some number of men-at-arms. His lord would be responsible for providing a certain number of knights, which is why he granted fiefs to those knights. Likewise *his* lord, etc.

        It was a very complex network, and when it worked, it worked well. Like most things made of people, however, it had weak spots and stress points, and there were people who figured out how to exploit those. Just as an example, with the shift to more of a cash economy, cash was accepted in lieu of military service — and then spent to hire mercenaries, who didn’t have to go home for the harvest season. This considerably increased the power of the kings and high lords who were hiring them.

        Oh, and the ransom of Richard the Lionheart was 150,000 gold marks. Not wheat. Lots and lots of gold.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          I sort of love this.

          (No disrespect meant towards Alison or the commentariat—I just never expected a long derail about feudalism would a) happen on AAM, and b) be such a long derail that it be would warrant removal. It sort of just weirdly warms the cockles of my heart.)

          1. Also Alison*

            Agree, that made me chuckle. I kind of hope Alison removes “another derail about removal of the derail about feudalism” lol

        2. Greg*

          “Removed a long derail about feudalism” strikes me as the most interesting meta-comment since “Exit pursued by a bear”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I could not even read the whole thing- it sounds like one of those reality tv shows that are such nightmares.
        I hope that some how TPTB get wind of Alison’s column here.

      1. Tupac Coachella*

        Right!? By the time I made it to the end, I wasn’t even mad anymore. They were so clueless it was almost cute. Almost, because the fact that inevitably a bunch of inexperienced and/or naïve candidates will get taken in by this “opportunity.” There is plenty of Kool Aid to be had at this company, and you want none of it.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I have rarely seen so much tap dancing for so little actual routine, for sure. The whole “write our Wikipedia page!” has flop sweat flying off it.

        1. Kuddel+Daddeldu*

          I would quote the whole letter on their Wikipedia article’s talk page so that WP authors and admins are aware that there is for-profit, almost-but-not-quite paid, content to watch out for. This content will likely be against WP’s policies. It could end in the company’s WP article pared down to basic facts and locked for editing, and other articles mentioning the company would be up for a higher level of scrutiny.
          So the shenanigans could backfire in a fairly spectacular way.

          1. OrigCassandra*

            And any candidate who participated in shilling for this crappy company on Wikipedia could find their account locked. If they’ve put any time into Wikipedia previously, that would be very Not Great.

      3. Caroline+Bowman*

        I’d go further, it IS impressive how completely smug and self-satisfied they are. It verges on the unhinged, so lacking in self-awareness or, I don’t know, the slightest hint of ”wait, maybe let’s run a sense check and get a disinterested 3rd party to have a quick read of what we’re doing”. It’s ”this is the BEST IDEA IN FOREVER, LET’S ROLL WITH IT NOW!” and I love that. I do. It’s objectively banancrackers and that’s a fairly high bar to achieve.

        Also! OP, please do not consider working there but if you do have ”direct access” to the head honchos, a short email pointing out a couple of the most egregious problems with their Awesome Idea would not go amiss. Obviously stay neutrally polite, but pick your 3 favourite WTF’s and suggest that what they’re doing is… not-good.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Why help them? They’ll just find some other way to take advantage. If we’re going to let anyone know, maybe the state labor law department.

      4. Princesss Sparklepony*

        I’m sort of surprised that they aren’t trying to charge applicants to work for them. It seems like that sort of nerve.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      In addition to all of the above, the company sounds incredibly shady.

      They want candidates to spam Wikipedia, manipulate search results, and … shill their products or whatever?

      1. Sandgroper*

        I read this and thought “Ah gads! Another pyramid selling scheme duping people with millennium influencer w4nkery!”

        It’s clearly a ‘sell our stuff, any way you can, even if it’s not completely ethical’

        I mean… who has job ‘contestants’ in a ‘bidding war’ over their Wikipedia page?!!!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, first thing I noticed. Not sure I know what they’re trying to say, because they’re so inept at saying it.

    2. Hamster Manager*

      Malicious Compliance Challenge – Set up a dummy Linked in and email, and apply for our job. After we select you (for surely, we select everyone) hone your prowess by posting true nonsense on our Wikipedia, and forwarding this email to clusters of recipients, detailing all the revolutionary ways we have found to be slimeballs!

      You are free to make us look as dumb as possibly publicly before we rethink our approach. Remember: the final goal is for you to have fun while making an impact!

      1. Sasha*

        I was just thinking this seems like the perfect job for Phoebe from yesterday. Or any other terrible employee with a wonderful attitude.

        “You can speak for our company from Day One” sounds like the kind of thing no company with any imagination should come out with.

        1. darcy*

          this is very similar to the sales pitch I got for a door to door sales job that was trying to pretend not to be a door to door sales job when I was 18 and applying for summer jobs between university terms. They invited me to an interview to “meet clients”, walked a group of us all the way to the train station and got us to buy a group train ticket, and then let on that it was door to door sales. I left and one of them had to chase me down the street to try and get my train ticket because the group ticket isn’t valid if someone leaves.

      2. Caroline+Bowman*

        I absolutely love being commanded to ”have fun” REALLY ENJOY YOURSELF (while working until you’re sweating bullets, usually for a pittance or zero).

        When this happens – less so now that I’m older and have harder boundaries – even if I was genuinely enjoying the work, having fun, giving my best, it makes me full of stabby rage and a strong, almost overwhelming desire to do the absolute barest possible minimum, with a very poor attitude.

    3. RLR*

      Sounds like what the company Brew Dog does. They have brought people in to interview for marketing positions etc, require writeups, use those, and never fill the spot. They just mine applicants for free work.

  3. Software Engineer*

    I’m not as nice as Alison – I’ll bet that this company understands *exactly* what they are doing, and is totally okay with it.

    1. Please Mark This Confidential and Leave It Lying Around*

      Oh yeah. This is pure sales. I am betting the “staff” of this company is, at any given time, 80% “candidates” and 20% paid salesforce grinding out this nonsense. Scam.

      1. Catherine Harris*

        That is what I thought when I finished reading. There isn’t really a position available. This is a scam to get people to work for free. Then they will all ‘sadly’ not be the chosen candidate. Wait a few weeks and then they will be advertising for new applicants.

        1. The OTHER other*

          Yeah if this works at all they will keep “offering” these “challenges” in perpetuity.

          And since, like spam, it costs them so little to do, they don’t need to get much of a return for it to be profitable.

          I’m also wondering if, as with spam, the bad grammar is intentional, as a technique for putting off the skeptical and attracting rubes.

    2. Observer*

      I disagree. Not because I am “nice” but because it’s likely to cause so much trouble, that it reeks of incompetence. Of course, they are also jerks, but if they had any competence, then “enlightened self interest” would kick in.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Yes, it’s just so ridiculous and stupid and clumsy and ham-handed and…and…dorky, that it’s hard to imagine anybody proposing this who wasn’t the King or Queen of Cluelessness.

        If they knew exactly what they were doing, I think they would probably do it *better*. Or at least more subtly.

        1. MM*

          Adding to this impression is that they have a really poor understanding of marketing! Even if huge volumes of this work got done, it would not do much of anything for whatever this organization is.

      2. Lupe*

        I have a thought, here. Does this organization actually have employees? is it some trust fund kid running it, who assumes that everyone can work for free if they’re doing “good things”

          1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

            I also am on team “This is only one slimy dude trying to get people to work for free for him.”

    3. Smitty*

      Agreed. It also seems like we are seeing more and more Letter Writers asking for advice on situations like this. Granted this situation takes it to a new level.

      It’s incredible that employers think that any “assignment” that takes more than an hour or two (let alone 2 weeks), is acceptable when the applicants are not being paid for their time.

      1. Caroline+Bowman*

        Right? I recently completed a test assignment (completely appropriate for the work I do) and they were almost apologising that it might take 45 mins, that it was a sample of something already complete, i.e. not for general use in any way at all beyond the selection process, which is really the only legit way to get candidates to do anything unpaid!

    4. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      If they’re OK with that, maybe they’ll accept a “challenge” back at them, as follows:

      Pay me to do absolutely nothing for 2 weeks, long enough for me to decide whether your benefits package is worthwhile. You will get valuable experience in seeing exploitation from the other side. I promise it will be well worth it!

    5. nom de plume*

      I’m with you on this. The smarmy “we are helping you to help us!” tone demonstrates real forethought about the intent to exploit. No one asks candidates – at the first round, no less! – to work *for two weeks* without even talking to them first to check they’d be, you know, appropriate for the task, much less good at it.

      There’s no confusion about how to hire here. What there is, more likely, is zero intent to hire here, and every intent to profit from free labor.

      1. Miller_Admin*

        I wouldn’t be surprised that this is a letter that is mass produced. Even if only 2 – 4 people participated think of how much money they would save in salaries.

    6. Koalafied*

      This reminds me of those companies that recruit on college campuses to get kids to sell really expensive knives door to door on commission.

      1. Bob Loblaw*

        Been there, done that. Still have the overpriced knives I had to buy with my own money to be able to start selling. Even as I was working there (I really needed the money), I knew it was exploitative and it made me feel so gross.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          Oof, I was “recruited” once by one of these companies — I say that loosely—for an interview. (To wit, I responded to a Craigslist ad which disguised the role as a marketing position/comms position and mentioned nothing about sales; at the time I was very broke and was casting a wide net.) As soon as the interviewer finished his five-minute pitch, I asked him outright how he felt about working for an MLM. He sputtered some nonsense about “vector marketing” and so forth, which I immediately recognized as a misdirect vis a vis jargon. After that, I told him I had no more questions, and the guy declared me an immediate hire and shoved a clipboard into my hands with the intention of having me share the contact info of no less than my ten closest friends and my social security number, among other things. I filled out the form by writing “nope” in each and every blank space, placed it on his desk, and blocked his email and phone number while I briskly paced out the door.

        2. Artemesia*

          it is also really fun to have their parents pressure you to ‘just let him do a presentation, you don’t have to buy anything.’

      2. Former Knife Guy*

        Spent 15 years working for them. Would hardly say I was exploited. Plenty of my friends that worked there attribute their later successes to what they learned during those summers. One of the most famous gift experts in the world started with that firm and STILL uses that product as one of his most-often recommended gifts.

      3. MurpMaureep*

        I sat through part of their multi-hour recruiting presentation in college feeling very confused and kind of terrified at the intensity of it all. Two hours in my dad, who had driven me to what we thought was a normal job interview, went to the office (aka rented storefront in a kinda shady exburb) and demanded to know what was happening to his child. One of the only times I’ve been thankful for parental overreach!

        Oddly, my Better Half actually did buy the initial knife kit (he sold one set to a family friend) and, going on 30 years later, we still use it routinely!

      4. Eater of Hotdish*

        Oh wow, I walked out of one of those a while back! Completely forgot about the experience. They were so flummoxed that I was saying “nope” to this amazing opportunity, too, as if nobody ever twigged to the fact that this was a terrible knockoff of a job.

    7. Ada*

      Am I the only one who got the impression that the CEO just so happened to be a member of the Nigerian royal family?

      1. Oui oui oui all the way home*

        It does read like something written by someone who doesn’t have a comprehensive grasp of the English language.

        1. London Calling*

          Scams are deliberately written that way. If you are smart enough to spot that and be put off (not to mention the inherent improbability of the whole scenario), you’re smart enough not to be scammed. If you’re scammable* you ignore the mangled grammar and just think, wow, someone wants to give me a lot of money (suckering in someone who thinks like that is the whole point, after all).

          *Don’t know if this is a work but it should be.

    8. McS*

      Yeah, something about “give us every email list you’re on so we can spam them and we won’t tell you you’re not hired for 2 more weeks.” I really can’t imagine anyone thinking that is a way to figure out who will be good at a job. Unless, I guess, a key quality for being successful is not quitting when you have a terrible manager, toxic work environment, and unreasonable hours. It is probably a great filter for people who will tolerate that.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed with Software Engineer.

      Big boss: Our company is tanking. Can you think of any way to help?

      Lower boss: I got an idea that will get us some free labor for two weeks. Maybe we can get ourselves dug out and in a better place.

      Big boss: Free? Did you say FREE? Go for it.

      Lower boss: Do you want to know what it is?

      Big boss: Naw, I trust you. We’re good here.

    10. Sandgroper*

      I’m imagining a bunch of teeth whitened Insta influencers sipping Prosecco and hashing this out, to find the most ‘capable at marketing and sales’.

      This smacks of a lack of professionalism, understanding of employment law (in Australia this would be a fast path to Fair Work and Big Fines), and “I drank the bottle that came with the marketing text book and can now speak fluent influencese” (which is unsurprisingly similar to effluencese)

      1. whingedrinking*

        I feel like this could be turned into a Taskmaster-esque reality show where contestants try to see who can produce the most tortured interpretation of the “challenge”.

      1. Edge Witch*

        I re-read the email in Veronica’s voice, and long story short: I applied, was hired, and my cubicle is in sub-basement F and is covered in cat decorations. I couldn’t be happier!

  4. Certaintroublemaker*

    They seem to have confused themselves with a nonprofit organization developing a volunteer program…

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    $50 says this company isn’t even hiring. They want people to work for free to build up their spam operation.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Next they have an exciting opportunity for you to sit in a boiler room & cold call numbers on the Do Not Call list.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Agreed. I wonder if this is really a legit company at all and not a whole Ponzi operation.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I am reminded of a joke my husband came home with: “A Federal IRS Agent, a Catfish and a Nigerian Prince walked into a bar with Walmart gift cards. They’re hiring.”

        That’s the whole joke.

    2. Properlike*

      THIS. It’s all a scam. Slick website for data mining for the other slick websites. I’m tempted to subscribe to the newsletter but don’t want them in my life.

    3. Empress Matilda*

      Oh yeah, I’m not taking that bet. Guaranteed that’s exactly what this is. And as Please Mark this Confidential says above, I would also bet that 80% of their “staff” are just a rotating pool of job applicants.

      Good grief, some people are awful.

    4. Darsynia*

      It does read like they’re touting the free labor they’re tricking people into providing, like basically all but ‘we connect your company with thousands of people who will enthusiastically give short-term labor to benefit your cause before they quit because no one is paying them!’

      NGL though, the idea that they’re exploiting people who think it’s not a grift will likely do their best work in order to get in with a slick looking company is really gross but awfully cruelly clever on their part… till they run out of candidates.

    5. TrixM*

      Yep, spam, data mining, human “bots” pushing garbage on social media, maybe even identity theft of the would-be applicants.

      If it’s not outright illegal, it’s skeevy as hell. Stay well away.

  6. RJ*

    Yeah, no. I’ve worked with many companies in sustainability/environmental in my 15 years in engineering and this is the most blatant attempt I’ve seen to get free business development/digital marketing in some time. This is just wrong. Run away, OP!

    1. ferrina*

      I’m in an entirely different industry and have only ever worked marketing-adjacent, and I was having ALL the alarms going off. Total scam!

  7. Lacey*

    I would be willing to bet the entire company is a scam.
    But definitely this “opportunity” is a scam.

    A/B testing is testing out two similar but different things and seeing which one works better.
    We do it with ads, where we have the same ads but different photos, or the same photos but different ad copy. It has nothing to do with collecting “clusters” of emails.

    I know less about the rest of it, but I’m willing to bet that the other buzz words are equally unrelated to the tasks they’ve assigned.

    They just want people unaffiliated with the company to hype it for them so it looks legit.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      For sure! The challenge with email marketing isn’t finding new emails to spam, it’s tracking engagement – what types of emails actually get read, what links get clicked on, how many of those clicks turn into meaningful interactions. And then maximizing your clicks and interactions.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, this can’t be legit — even if most of the applicants perform spectacularly on these challenges, this company has no idea what it’s doing, and is shooting itself in the foot with these supposed “marketing” efforts. This has to be part of some kind of larger scam, as I can’t see how this could possibly work.

      1. The OP Trina*

        OP here! Yes I would love some more info too. I have already shared the email and this post with a group of my old classmates in the ESG focus and knowing them, they will want the deets.

    3. csw*

      The fact that SEO and A/B testing is thrown around like candy is just… ridiculous?? Both concepts have been around for ages now, and this is not how either work…

      Is this aimed specifically at fresh grads? I don’t know who else would be swindled into doing all this nonsense. Whoever thought this whole ‘challenge’ was a brilliant idea is either extremely dim or a scammer.

  8. AG*

    @Lacey: Oooh, I think you are so right with your last sentence. They are being sly.

    “only your results will decide your employment in our company (not an external opinion).”
    Are they boasting that they will not check references? Are they trying to say “we will only hire based on the results you get, not on what the team feels/thinks?” (Even worse)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m honestly perplexed as to how other companies let outsiders decide who to hire, but not this one! Or as to how this is a major irritant for job applicants.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think it’s deliberately just incoherent. They don’t want people who have actual reading comprehension or experience of the working world.

      1. Observer*

        Like the spammers who deliberately fill their emails with weird stuff to weed out anyone who isn’t an abject idiot? Could be.

        Maybe they are smarter than I gave them credit for.

        1. Former Knife Guy*

          Spent 15 years working for them. Would hardly say I was exploited. Plenty of my friends that worked there attribute their later successes to what they learned during those summers. One of the most famous gift experts in the world started with that firm and STILL uses that product as one of his most-often recommended gifts.

          1. Princesss Sparklepony*

            Who is a famous gift expert? I’ve never heard of this job. I’m thinking you aren’t sincere.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Years ago I worked for a legitimate company that, while not actually doing skip tracing, used similar tools to locate people. Some time after that I was looking for work, and applied to an outfit that seemed to be looking for exactly my skill set. The initial response was enthusiastic, until it came out that I actually knew something about the industry. They dropped me like a hot potato. I don’t know what exactly their scam was, but they clearly were running one.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Wow. OP finally found a company with an alternative that makes checking references look good.

    4. Purple Cat*

      What’s really weird about that line is that they’re acting like the HIRING MANAGER’S opinion is an “EXTERNAL OPINION”. Umm, your employees (if there really are job openings) are internal people. I just got a new job and very much cared who my boss would be and wouldn’t accept my job until his was filled.

    5. Dawn*

      It’s doublespeak for “we consider normal hiring processes (like submitting your resume/references) irrelevant and will completely disregard your qualifications, we are only looking at the free work you do for us”

    6. ferrina*

      “We don’t care what tactics you use, as long as we get the results. It’s okay if all of your previous jobs have fired you for being sleazy and unethical- that’s just how we like it!”

  9. EmmaPoet*

    The yikes have leaped onto the bikes and are riding away at top speed, which is what anyone getting this email should do. Good grief.

  10. Kevin Sours*

    The Wikipedia bit seems like an attempt to pull an end around Wikipedia’s policies against editing your own page/related content (to prevent people turning pages about them into the puff pieces this company clearly wants). Because, technically the candidates are not affiliated with the company.

    1. Wilbur*

      And what gross perversion of what Wikipedia is supposed to be. Against every teacher warning us that Wikipedia couldn’t be trusted, it ended up being a pretty trustworthy source of info. This company would throw that away while exploiting job seekers.

      1. Observer*

        That is the least problematic issue here.

        These folks are supposedly in the ESG field, yet doing stuff that should make anyone interested in ESG turn green.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        meh. Wikipedia is fine for low stakes “good enough” research results, when looking for discrete facts rather than analysis, and with the caution that this does not apply to controversial topics and you cannot know from the outside if a topic is controversial. I do know that within my areas of expertise it runs from poor to atrocious. (No, I am not going to devote my life to Wikipedia talk page arguments.) I know of two pages where my work is cited. In one my name is misspelled, which I find hilarious. In the other they simply got wrong what I wrote. I just looked at that page for the first time in some years. They have fixed the getting wrong what I wrote part, but added a whole lot of misinformation that I don’t remember, the whole thing being an incoherent mess.

        In general, a response of “they get my area of expertise entirely wrong, but otherwise they seem pretty good” is a giant red flag. I use Wikipedia for low-stakes looking stuff up. If it is important, I track down better sources.

        1. Dr.+Vibrissae*

          Agreed. On a page in my field someone has included an image from Wikimedia commons, but had cropped it so that the thing being talked about was no longer in the image. Easy to do since even specialists sometimes have difficulty identifying said thing, but an example of how it is mostly good for broad strokes understanding and information that is not highly specialized.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          To be fair, for established math and physics, Wikipedia is pretty good. If you just want to look up an equation or constant, it’s quick and reliable (and the trig equations page is gold). Even more advanced physics aren’t often incorrect, more likely incomplete.

          Anything that could be controversial though – no. Anything that needs interpretation (like laws), definitely no.

    2. raktajino*

      I hope some of the Wikipedia edits were along the lines of “this company exploits workers and is profoundly idiotic about it”

      1. Chief Bottle Washer*

        Yeah, I would accept this challenge and then spend two weeks writing about how shitty they are on social media.

    3. Just Like Heaven*

      THIS!!! Everything about this goes against Wikipedia policies on creating pages. Likely this place wouldn’t even meet the notability guidelines and anything someone created would likely just end up in the void.

    4. Miette*

      I came here to say just this. If I were OP I’d try to alert Wikipedia in some way so the org’s content could be flagged.

  11. MechanicalPencil*

    I’ve done a work trial as part of the application experience, but I was actually *paid* for it. This is hella sketch.

  12. Annisele*

    I’d be tempted to take on the “SEO/content” challenge. Wikipedia has rules about conflicts of interest, and it would be _such_ a shame if my incompetence and failure to follow the rules properly somehow caused the organisation’s Wikipedia page to be deleted.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      If I found the right website, the company doesn’t even HAVE a Wikipedia page. So maybe you’ve already done this? Nicely played.

    2. sofar*

      Ok so, reading between the lines here, I think this SEO Wikipedia challenge is WORSE than how everyone here is interpreting it. And shows how clueless this organization is.

      I don’t think they are asking the candidates to create/write the company’s Wikipedia page.

      I work in content/SEO and one of the old ways to “game” the system was to use Wikipedia as a trojan horse for backlinks. What you did was edit OTHER Wikipedia pages and link back to “useful information” on your site. For example, say this organization does a bunch of surveys and has a bunch of research/data on environmental stuff. You’d go into other Wikipedia pages about the environment, plastic bag use, climate change, whatever, find something that “needs attribution” and drop in a link to YOUR company’s data. If that edit doesn’t get removed, you’ve got yourself a backlink AND a mention on a prominent Wikipedia page.

      This is an old tactic, though, and Google has said that Wikipedia gaming does NOTHING to elevate you in the search engine results, that these links contain no SEO value.

      But a company that’s as clueless as this probably had some consultant back in 2015 tell them this is what to do. They try to get their current employees to do it, they have no time or desire (I was tasked with doing this back in 2015 and just didn’t do it). So now they’re trying to get candidates to do it for free.

      1. Laika*

        Ohh..! When I tried to find the company’s Wikipedia page (surprise, it doesn’t exist) I was slightly baffled to see that a few other pages had citations that linked to articles hosted on their website. Thought it was weird that they wouldn’t be notable enough to have their own page but would be notable enough to be considered a reference. This explaination fits that perfectly.

      2. STAT!*

        Very interesting! Never even heard about Wikipedia gaming till now. Acting the goat with fake/ stupid pages, yes, but not this kind of thing. Thanks!

  13. NYC Taxi*

    Working for “opportunity” needs to be illegal. None of what they’re asking makes sense, but they did you a great favor by showing you who they are before you wasted any time on them.

  14. Jackalope*

    In addition to all of the other points made, the Wikipedia one is particularly screwy. Because Wikipedia is a platform that anyone can access and edit, even if the hypothetical job candidate were to write a brilliant statement about this company, it’s entirely possible that the statement would be edited away before the results could be seen by whomever is reviewing their work.

    1. Mrs. Entity*

      And if more than one candidate is working on the Wikipedia “challenge”, they’ll be overwriting and editing each other’s work, resulting in chaos.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      It would still be viewable — every change is publicly accessible — but what’s the point of that over submitting a writing sample.

    3. Olivia*

      I do think, though, that this kind of BS on Wikipedia is usually really transparent. But maybe that depends on how media-literate people are and how good their critical thinking skills are. I guess they might sway some people, but I think Wikipedia articles that are promotional stick out like a sore thumb. It seems like it would eventually be noticed and get a warning placed at the top and more senior editors keeping an eye on it.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes, this^. No matter what a “job candidate” did on Wikipedia, it would probably be either useless for the company or backfire on them completely. What a ridiculous idea this company has.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is a perfect opportunity to update the Wikipedia entry to show this “opportunity”.

  15. Chris*

    HUGE red flags. This company is trying to suck free work out of you. And there is a chance it might even be a scam. Run away.

  16. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Oh My God. The “Indigo Tiger” started his own company.

    (For readers unfamiliar with this dud, he’s described in the comments of the July 21, 2016 post titled “Ask the readers: bad behavior from job candidates”. Hoo, boy.)

  17. Christmas Cactus*

    Probably illegal (even as a “trial”) since an employer must pay people doing work for it. th state Dept. of Labor might want to know.

    1. Wisteria*

      I thought that, too. Unless this is a non-profit, I would have replied back and asked the pay rate for these promotional activities bc this would not be a bridge I cared about burning.

    2. Ann Ominous*

      Is this true? Employers do have to pay their employees for work, but do they also have to pay non-employees (which these candidates are)?

      1. Snow Globe*

        If they are doing actual work that the company can benefit from (as opposed to an exercise that would never be used), then it is work and must be paid.

      2. irene adler*

        If this company received work product from the non-employee/job candidate, then yes, said person must be compensated for that work product.

        Otherwise, businesses could employ 100% volunteer staff.

        But I think a violation of the employment law needs to occur. Such a: a job candidate actually submitting the requested work product and subsequently not receiving compensation. I believe just advertising for what amounts to free labor isn’t actionable. Although it might put them on the Labor Dept. radar.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Depending on the country the company and the “candidate” is located, the company could be in hot eater with their Department of Labor, even more if their candidates are abroad or lacking the necessary work permits

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Good to know I’m not the only one who had trouble reading that! I had to read it as “consists of” in order to pay attention to the bonkers content of the “challenges.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My brain automatically fixed a bunch of their typos as I read…..but yeah this place is a huge mass of burning neon red flags. At least they are blatant that they are looking forward to scamming you.

  18. Aphrodite*

    But, Alison, these are excellent ways for the candidates to get the word out that [Company Name] is to be put on the spam lists of every other company worldwide. Think of it. It’ll be the tastiest spam ever!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      And they trust you to go out there and connect with CEOs and speak on behalf of (company).

      I say ride with it. “As the new spokesman for (company), I have called this news conference to announce a bold new initiative using the CERN accelerator to open a portal to the land of the care bears.”

      1. Deborah*

        This kind of f***ery was exactly what I was thinking. I can speak for the company from day one? I have some things to say!

      1. London Calling*

        Rewriting the letter so as to make sense and send it back with your rates for proof reading and correcting grammar.

  19. Falling Diphthong*

    The spelling is unusually normal for the bat***tery of the content.

    I was surprised there was no “To show our trust in you we will allow you to link our Cayman account to your checking account,” but then realized that obviously they need to eliminate folk like OP before that step.

  20. Event Coordinator?*

    Run! Away fast! It’s suspish!

    I’m also confused about how finding email “clusters” translates into a/b testing as well as how one can write wikipedia content about a company they are literally just applying for. 0/4 of these challenges make sense. I feel like they are just a few steps away from a sort of Ponzi scheme of labor. not a reputable company you want to work for.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I think you’re supposed to get the info for the Wikipedia page from the company’s website …. which another candidate is developing right now. *sigh*

  21. Pocketgnome*

    Ugh I really really wanted to work for a big company and they put me through 5 months of interviews and 3 projects/presentations that took me about 20 hours each and then didn’t even hire me after all of that. Never again.

  22. CoveredinBees*

    Ohhhh, hard pass if ever there was one.

    The first one looks like it translates as, “Please share your professional contacts list with us.” I’ve been asked to do that before as part of an interview process before having spoken to anyone at the org. I just said, “no”.

    The Second one is part of a series of pieces from “thought leaders” in the field (Google helped me figure out the company). None of which was written for the company but taken from other sources and republished. I’m not convinced these were published with permission.

  23. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Is one of the exercises to receive funds for a “Nigerian prince” or give your computer access over to “microsoft technical support” ?

    Was the original job posting as scam like?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Given that OP posted here and was smart enough to nope right out of this “opportunity” I’m guessing the site/listing they applied through was far more professional.

    2. Diana Ethics*

      When I heard Berlin I wondered if a certain Org with a noted Cruise director as one of its overlords was in any way affiliated. Not that they’d have to be; they don’t have a monopoly on sleazy…

  24. ZSD*

    This company has explicitly given you permission to say whatever you want about them on Wikipedia. I say have at it.

    1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Include the complete quote on Wikipedia from the letter, and upload a PDF to demonstrate authenticity.

    2. Slow+Gin+Lizz*

      Yes please do this, OP! (I mean, not really, you don’t want to be blacklisted at legit companies because of it, but it would be amazing if you did this.)

  25. CatCat*

    So scammy. The company deserves to be embarrassed. I hope someone who also opted out of this sketchy nonsense shame them on LinkedIn.

  26. Corporate/Compliance Lawyer*

    My favorite thing about this is that this company apparently doesn’t know what the G stands for in ESG. Good Governance includes compliance with laws, sound company policies, and accountability – none of which is on display here.

    1. Tuppence Beresford*

      Yes! Clearly this company desperately needs someone who understands both Governance and Marketing — but somehow I don’t think they are going to find that someone using this kind of nonsense exercise.

    2. The OP Trina*

      OP here! Thanks for adding that! I used that line when sharing the post to a group of former ESG classmates of mine to hopefully discourage anyone from applying there in the future.

    3. Miette*

      This is Cutco Knives-style pyramid scheming in ESG clothing. I would be surprised if there were real jobs connected to this at all.

  27. Nesprin*

    “And yes, we trust you from day 1 to speak directly to CEOs or leading personalities, as much as co-managing our online presence and leading [Company Name] to new heights.”

    There’s so many evil things you could do with this. After all they say right out that they trust completely random strangers to speak directly to vendors, media, influential persons etc.

    1. Buona Forchetta*

      This is so clearly a scam, but in addition to ALL the other red flags, no legit company would be fine having random people promoting and prospecting for them as a test.

      1. Miette*

        As a person who’s been responsible for corporate communications, I wouldn’t want actual EMPLOYEES promoting and prospecting for the company half the time, much less unknown people. This has to be a scam, right?

  28. Former Retail Lifer*

    Send me the company name. I will ABSOLUTELY update their Wikipedia page, but I bet they won’t like it.

    Is this one of the energy companies that send young people out to go door-to-door to try and get you to change providers (in de-regulated areas)? I manage an apartment complex and anyone they managed to scam into it always complained about much higher bills. I’ve kicked them off the property several times.

  29. pamela voorhees*

    The publishing one is so next level funny. I love how they just assume you’re a journal editor. Or are you supposed to create your own fake journal? Either way, absolutely amazingly hilarious. They should get an award for comedy. But for real don’t work there.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      This entire thing is just completely bonkers. But it was the publishing one that got me too! What, you’re supposed to cold call a bunch of authors and offer to publish them on some website that no one has heard of? How exactly is that supposed to work?

      1. Tomalak*

        And the task involves asking those authors to do it for free, right?

        Presumably they will jump at the chance as long as you phrase it as an exciting challenge for them.

        1. Tomalak*

          “are you supposed to create your own fake journal?”

          I have no idea, really, but isn’t the idea they get published on the company web site? So the challenge is to contact huge numbers of writers for free and ask them to do some copywriting work for free. It’s certainly a challenge!

  30. Nethwen*

    Before reading the letter, I thought this might be a misguided effort at EDI – “See, we don’t discriminate because we don’t do interviews; we have you do a high-level project and hire based on that! We never even see you before we hire you!”

    But yeah, this reads like a scam. I really hope when someone replies with which challenge they want, the company doesn’t respond by asking for their bank account number for direct “deposit” (AKA unwanted withdrawal).

  31. Michelle Smith*

    This is some of the most insane shit I’ve ever read.

    Every project I’ve ever done during an interview process was basically 1-2 hours max and still a waste of time.

    My current job gave me an idea to think about in advance and then asked me a behavioral interview question during the final interview that dealt with that topic. I probably spent about an hour outside of the interview thinking about and looking up that topic, and that was too much time. Find an employer who respects your time.

  32. Secret Squirrel*

    So when do you get to find out how your bank accounts will be used for money laundering because that’s got to be the next step after this?

  33. Observer*

    From a moral point of view, Alison’s ordering is correct. From a practical point of view, I think that the idea that they are ALLOWING, never mind REQUIRING a bunch of un-vetted people to take part in such public facing activities means that these people are dangerously incompetent. And I suspect that that includes not just publicity, but all sectors of their work.

    Which means that this would likely be a terrible place to work, and one with no stability and a very high likelihood of blowing up with no warning. Not the kind of place I would choose to work for if I had the ability to choose.

  34. bamcheeks*

    I’m not in marketing but I read that and thought, I’m PRETTY SURE that’s not what a/b testing is? so I’m glad Alison and the commenters confirmed that one for me!

    1. OyHiOh*

      I’ve done a little bit of marketing (small org, wear lots of hats) and I got confused for a moment RE their description of email clusters and A/B testing. What they describe is not what I understand A/B to be, not even close.

  35. learnedthehardway*

    This is such a scam – there’s no job here. They’re just trying to get free work and contacts out of you. It’s pretty heinous, honestly.

  36. Raptor Blue*

    Off topic, but I really enjoy the colour Alison has chosen for her inserted comments. Very pleasing for the eyes.

  37. Vito*

    I wonder if part 2 of the process is for a group of the applicants to cook dinner and entertain the executives at the ceo’s house?
    (remember that one)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Haha, yes, once you have fed and entertained the executives, you can now prove your worth by doing this job – for free!

  38. i'm walking here*

    I will join those positing this isn’t a legit company and/or is “spam” trying to hook the naive into giving them something.

  39. Dawn*

    This struck me immediately as one of those fly-by-night “sales” slash MLM companies that drastically misrepresent themselves at all stages of the process.

    I also wouldn’t be particularly surprised if after candidates agreed to these “challenges” the company tried to extract money from them for like “providing resources” or something.

    1. Lils*

      This seemed very MLM-like to me too. Except instead of upfront money buy-in, it’s labor buy-in. “Personalities” is also a word that triggers this for me.

  40. hbc*

    Can we just take a moment to pity the most obvious companies to target for those who choose #1, who will be mystified why they’re suddenly getting 18 different requests for meetings from random people who want to talk to them about Company? Yikes.

    1. ferrina*

      I also love that they think that they can do business development with candidates who don’t have any insider insights into the company. It’s kind of a brilliant way to screen for candidate who have a lot of sizzle and without steak.

  41. KatEnigma*

    Why is it that the companies that tout about how they are “completely different from anything you’ve seen before” are usually “different” in these totally inappropriate ways? (Unless they aren’t at all different) Yeah, the reason no one else does this kind of thing is because it’s illegal and would be inappropriate even if it weren’t.

  42. Foila*

    In addition to all the ways that this is scummy, the prose itself reads like it’s been machine translated through at least two or three languages before arriving in English.

    1. JustA___*

      There is no company, it’s a newly self-aware AI that was trained on buzzwords and MLM marketing and is now seeking to enslave humanity!!!

  43. Chocolate lover*

    “Remember: the final goal is for you to have fun while making an impact!”

    Uh, no, the goal is to get a job.

    This is absolutely absurd.

  44. HereKittyKitty*

    I work in this area and there’s not a lot of us and now I’m dying to know which company it is!

    But yeah- all this is a no. Don’t do it.

    1. Miller_Admin*

      I am wondering if the letter even originated from the company? If it came from the company, is HR even aware? Sounds like spam or someone has run amuck without any experience with the hiring process. Something a student intern comes up with? Or employee with a large assignment that is trying to get other to do it for them? Think of the amount of data they can farm from all of these “volunteers.”

  45. Miller_Admin*

    Is this something that could be reported to the State Labor Board, Better Business Bureau Chamber of Commerce? I’m wondering how large this organization is?

    This is one of those things were I think the organization should be publicly shamed. That the letter should be posted on Glass Door. Is there an organization that overseas non-profits? An association, or any type of government oversight? How about forwarded on to the local news outlet? etc.?

  46. Shhhh*

    I’m a librarian, and I get *a lot* of unsolicited emails from people who want me to feature a specific webpage or website on my online research guides, I assume for SEO purposes. I generally send a polite but firm email declining to do so the first time and then ignore all subsequent messages. It would not surprise me if (a) the companies that those people are reaching out on behalf of are doing the same thing and/or (b) this company is one of those companies.

  47. North Wind*

    Put a review on Glassdoor, tweet and tag the company, and depending on your state – maybe check in with the Attorney General or Labor Department.

  48. Lifeandlimb*

    Oh my god. Wow. I felt dirty just READING this email.

    Is there a place where LW can post this online and call them out publicly so that unsuspecting candidates are less likely to be pulled into this charade?

    1. The OP Trina*

      OP here! I have just added a review on Glassdoor under the ‘Interviews’ section. We will see if it ends up being posted though since it wasn’t really an interview. I have also shared with a group of former ESG classmates of mine to dissuade any of them from applying there.

  49. Indigo*

    In addition to everything else wrong with this email, I’m pretty sure the Wikipedia one is against Wikipedia’s no self-promotion/neutral point-of-view rules

  50. TeapotNinja*

    This is a scam. 100%.

    This company doesn’t employ anyone. They have job “applicants” do all their work for them for free.

    Avoid at all cost.

  51. Agnes A*

    Once I decided not to proceed when the company asked me to write a response to just one question. “How will you be able to work 3 times faster than an average person?” or something like that. I asked myself why would I want to work much faster while getting paid less than an average person…

  52. Bless their ever living hearts*

    If nothing else this is NOT a sustainable business model and thus a big red flag/fail around their stated core competencies.

  53. Cookies For Breakfast*

    While job searching last year, I came across a company that promoted a “trial period” of working for free as part of the application process described on their website. Their language was also all about how different they were from other companies and how big an opportunity it was to see for yourself what the role involved. The visceral “nope nope nope do not apply” reaction I had is what this post reminded me of. Even aside from the legal implications, the assumption people can just drop everything they’re doing and work without being paid for a company that feels entitled to just reject them at the end drives me nuts.

    (it was a tech company offering some kind of workplace learning or productivity software if I recall correctly, though I don’t remember the name off the top of my head)

  54. Nina_Bee*

    This scenario screams of design contests / competitions [or insert your preferred creative field here]. We’ll probably see more of this as companies find sneaky ways to get work for free now that workers aren’t as willing to be exploited. Or the newer people will fall for it. Overall, just gross.

  55. A great resignator*

    Oh my God this sounds like what my ex-manager would I have done. Another sign I was right to run away! (And despite quitting with no job lined up last year within 3 months I had a new job that I am loving and is way more reasonable). Unsurprisingly, my ex-manager had no respect for people’s time or personal lives once they were hired either.

  56. Bubba*

    I am certain is a scam company. Hit the delete button on any further communication from them and don’t even bother contacting them to let them know you are turning down their “offer”. It’s is not worth worying about burning bridges or trying to give feedback on their “hiring process” since they are not legit.

  57. Calamity Janine*

    well, LW, in good news, you do have a rare and exciting opportunity to capitalise on here:

    not every day you get to have the reply to a business proposition be the youtube video “Tidus laugh 10 hours”.

    or if you’re not into final fantasy, the “what makes you haha” one direction cover is equally applicable.

    or – now, this is only for the truly daring, mind you – a memo that mirrors that flawless classic of lawyerin’, Cleveland Stadium Corp’s response to Mr. Dale Cox Esq., circa 1976.

  58. CLC*


    I’ve been in the energy and environment space for about 15 years. There are loads of companies out there, mostly for profit, that think they can exploit employees because they are only doing it out the goodness of their heart. They also know that “young people” are excited about this type of subject matter, and that “young people” can be easily taken advantage of. Many of these companies not only exploit employees but also customers and the public with greenwashing.

  59. Jay*

    My take is this:

    They are using the same rules for scamming job candidates as those “Nigerian prince” email scams use on their. Specifically, they are using the perception of incompetence to weed out anyone too savvy to fall for it. It’s a way to make certain they are only hearing from people either too desperate for literally ANYTHING to put on a resume to make a fuss, or too young and unsupported to have any recourse other than walking away when they finally DO catch on to what is happening.

  60. Didn't think it through*

    “…to speak on their behalf …”

    Oh, oh, oh…

    “As part of an pre-interview challenge for a prospective employer, I’m calling you today to ask for your contact details so said employer can spam you with emails, perhaps phone you directly… Oh who’s my potential employer? Sure, they’re called [name] and I’m speaking on their behalf.”

  61. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

    I never laughed so hard at a letter as I did this one — hoo boy, this company got JOKES. Ain’t nobody got time for this. Nope, nope, nopity nope away, LW. They’re wasting your time.

    1. danmei kid*

      They aren’t employees at all! They haven’t been hired! This is part of the “interview” process!!

  62. AnnaKonda*

    Did they say it was unpaid? It seems like it could be a paid trial but the email as published here doesn’t seem to clarify if that is the case.

  63. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I am wondering if this company is incredibly naive or incredibly “smart”.
    I think its the latter given how tight this scheme is, they don’t miss a beat.

  64. London Calling*

    I’d nope the hell out of that for the first para, which sound exactly like a scam letter telling you that you’re one of a select few people who have been fortunate enough to win a MegaPrize and all you need to do now is send the fee and the money can be released.

  65. Wintermute*

    Anyone want to bet they’re doing this to use your IP address because they’ve gotten their corporate IP rangebanned by wikipedia for attempting to manipulate the wiki or posting inappropriately or unverifiable content?

  66. Robyn*

    I have to say I admire their chutzpah.

    I would bet they know exactly what they are doing. Totally banana crackers.

  67. Vicky*

    The thing is, I can’t imagine a functioning company bouncing between 2-week workers like this. You can’t get a lot of high level strategic work complete in 2 weeks and trying to cobble together efforts by different people would be more time-consuming and less effective than just having a full-time employee do the job. The stuff they’re requesting is pretty clearly “get us a bunch of contact info to be able to pester people while also hyping up our company so it looks legit to a cursory google search.”

    Like those weird YouTube channels that are essentially content generators that take Reddit posts and play them through text to speech, this model doesn’t support any real intent to create an authentic product. Basically, if this isn’t an insurance sales MLM then I’m pretty sure it’s genuinely a scam. There’s no way this company produces any real work in their supposed field, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve posted a bunch of ads across various fields, possibly even just copying real job ads. Like Craigslist apartment rental ads that just steal pictures from other ads to scam people out of their money.

    1. Wintermute*

      They don’t care about “high level strategic work”, I’d put down good money that what they care about is the fact that they’ve gotten their entire corporate network banned from Wikipedia for inappropriate editing and need someone to remove damaging content, and they want to harvest emails from people (by getting them to identify “target clusters” from their own networks)…

  68. TW1968*

    Is this something that crosses the line legally, enough to report the company? And hopefully get them some bad press as well?

  69. Big Bird*

    My daughter’s overseas job was postponed due to Covid and she was looking for short-term work to tide her over. Being a gourmet cheese aficionado she applied for a cashier job at our locally famous purveyor of unpasteurized imported dairy products. She was told that she had to do an UNPAID “stage” (pronounced “stahje”) as part of the interview process. Of course she noped right out of there but I could not believe the nerve.

  70. An SEO*

    That’s not how SEO works but hey! Good luck to them. OP, literally none of the things they say will show/teach the things they say, but I suspect you know that.

  71. irianamistifi*

    My thoughts about this are all over the place, but entirely negative.

    Like obviously, this is a lot of work that you’d be doing for free. But it sounds like they want to sell the role as a marketing position (use of the words SEO, A/B testing), but it’s clearly just sales. “Tell your friends and family!”

    But even beyond that, what kind of company wants marketing from people that:
    a) they don’t even have under contract
    b) aren’t following a branding template or guidelines
    c) weren’t given specific talking points about the company
    d) have no idea what specific targets the company is focused on
    e) will have accounts that the company can’t control?

    Like, it’s just so messy on every level that I’d be inclined to do some malicious compliance here and just destroy the brand by using old or incorrect logos, incorrect product names, poor verbiage or even offensive verbiage that the company can’t correct or change on their own. Good luck fixing it, guys!

    1. Little Bobby Tables*

      And f) will be mad that they put in two weeks’ work without getting the job. This is New Coke level marketing.

  72. Freya*

    Yeah, this is just a legal case waiting to happen. I can’t believe that they would win any legal action against them for unpaid labor.

  73. Ilima*

    How about “challenging” them to give you full pay and benefits for two weeks while you do nothing so you can try them out?

  74. Pucca*

    I find it alarming that a company large enough to meet Wikipedia’s notability standards is using these tactics tbh

  75. unemployed again*

    While this is scam, I have seen several other more realistic job announcements where they ask unpaid work, like writing a vision how to develop the task. While this sounds half legitimate to test the applicants when visionary talents are really searched for, it raises red flags as they seem to want the applicants to give free ideas for them.

    I have worked as a free lance consultant and have learned that I should not do my job for free during the negotiation process.

    Hence I never ever apply for a job where they require me to do anything useful for them without payment. I can take tests, even longer ones, if they pay my travel costs to the site, which rarely happens.

    P.S. Where I come from, not US, such two week’s test period would constitute a concludent work contract, i.e. they would be obliged to pay me the minimum salary for a respective job and they cannot terminate the contract thereafter except for legally described reasons after an appropriate notice period, unless they make a written legally valid contract for two week’s work.

  76. CaptainsOtherHand*

    Hang on, so they’re a sustainable company and don’t know the Three Pillars? One is people, often particularly focused on not exploiting people. That’s before we get to the pretty icky practices they want to use to grow

  77. Raida*

    “You will thus master the techniques of…” and “a perfect balance of digital prowess and content learning.”

    Just show that they don’t know what they’re talking about – Either you are providing skills, so it’s not learning, or you are being trained, and there’s no suggestion this is a company-provided training activity with the associated lessons, learnings, communication with a pro.

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