Today: 20.08.2018
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Today

Beware the hiring process that takes your ideas for free.

When Nicole Cueto interviewed for a public-relations-director job nine months ago at a biotech company, the Upper East Sider felt taken for a ride. “They asked me to come in for a trial day to see how I’d fit in,” she says. “They gave me an assignment — create a year’s worth of editorial calendar...
Time: 15:37     Date: 22.07.2018
US Living News: Beware the hiring process that takes your ideas for free. NY Post 24 - US News

“They asked me to come in for a trial day to see how I’d fit in,” she says. “They gave me an assignment — create a year’s worth of editorial calendar for the company.”

After fulfilling the task and providing a list of potential influencers to collaborate with, the recruiter told her she wasn’t the right fit for the job.

“Yet they kept my work and, down the line, I saw my strategy executed. Basically, they got free work out of me,” says Cueto.

The recruiter ultimately told her they were looking for someone with more tech experience, something Cueto questions because the recruiter previously indicated “how much they loved me and if they could sign me up tomorrow, they would.”

After noticing that an influencer she had recommended to them started promoting their product, the p.r. pro felt “betrayed and naïve for giving them so much. I will never again give up that amount of work, experience, knowledge.”

Submitting sample work may be considered part of the hiring process, but unfortunately, employers may actually use that work for their own benefit for free.

Mark Spund, partner in the employment-law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP in Midtown East, says that when a company asks candidates for new work during the hiring process, it becomes a judgment call for the applicant.

“On one hand, you want to show your talent to a prospective employer. On the other hand, you don’t want to be working for free,” he says.

Legally, he says, Cueto doesn’t have much recourse. “The editorial calendar and list of influencers were provided voluntarily as part of the hiring process — at that point, the company can do what it wants with the material.”

While it’s not practical for job seekers like Cueto to insist potential employers sign a non-disclosure agreement (most companies, he points out, “will say, ‘No thanks!’ ”), Spund says job seekers can help by keeping each other informed about the practices of a particular company via word of mouth and sites such as Glassdoor.com.

Greg Williams, author of “Negotiating With a Bully: Take Charge and Turn the Tables on People Trying To Push You Around” (Career Press), recommends asking employers if requested work will be published or used in any manner outside of the position’s application.

“If one is suspicious, a better question might be, ‘How might this be used?’ Request in writing how your content will be utilized. If your request is denied, that might serve as a red flag,” he says.

Another red flag? Being asked for information that’s beyond the job description. Last year, social-media strategist Colleen Armstrong interviewed to teach a five-week social media course at a community college.

The Park Slope resident applied online, interviewed with program coordinators and was asked to submit a five-week lesson plan.

“A one-week plan should have sufficed. Nevertheless, it took me a full week to complete it and I submitted it via e-mail.”

One week later, Armstrong interviewed with the program director who clearly hadn’t read her resume. “She started telling me that she needed ideas to promote the course. She wanted marketing tips and tips on how I could change their Web site content. I interviewed to teach the course, not market the course. It seemed like she wanted as much info as possible,” Armstrong notes of the rushed interview.

After providing generic answers, she was informed one week later that another candidate was selected. Armstrong believes they probably had already identified someone in-house, and suspects they wanted to conduct interviews just to get ideas.

“It was horrible, but I’m definitely more alert now.”

Vigilance is key, notes Barbara Mitchell, co-author of “The Manager’s Answer Book: Powerful Tools To Build Trust and Teams, Maximize Your Impact and Influence, and Respond to Challenges” (Career Press) — especially if you’re asked for information, or to provide new work samples without having at least connected via Skype or Zoom first.

Do your due diligence, Mitchell cautions.

“Check their Web site for testimonials from happy clients or other information that can be verified. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) or Dun & Bradstreet (DNB.com) to determine if it is a legitimate business.”

Remain alert regarding job scams as well, especially upon receiving e-mails with faux job applications requesting personal information, or offers to earn big bucks working from home without any experience or job interviews.

“No legitimate business will ever ask for your Social Security number before you are hired, so that is a huge red flag,” says Mitchell. “Protect your privacy to the extent possible including not putting your street address on your resume — city and state are enough.”

Job seekers — especially the long-time unemployed — may be particularly vulnerable, so stay cautious and suspicious when things don’t seem exactly right.

“They need to trust their instincts, ask good questions to determine what’s real and what isn’t, and not fall victim to people who want to use them,” she says.

Spund adds, “As in all areas of life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

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