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Engineers saddled with unpaid work to get jobs

by on26 February 2024

…and it's getting worse

Crooked employers force developers to work for free by dangling the prospect of a job.

Wired said that engineers say getting hired can mean days working on unpaid assignments.

Nearly a dozen engineers, hiring managers, and entrepreneurs who spoke to WIRED describe a situation in which technical job applicants are treated like dirt.

Take-home coding tests used to be rare, used only if an employer needed more proof. Now, interviewees are regularly given projects that are supposed to take two to three hours instead of days.

Live-coding exercises are also more brutal, industry insiders say. One job seeker told of an experience where an engineering manager said during an interview, "OK, we're going to build a To-Do List app right now," a process that might normally take weeks.

Emails seen by WIRED showed that in one interview for an engineering role at Netflix, a technical recruiter asked that a job candidate submit a three-page project evaluation within 48 hours -- all before the first round of interviews.

A Netflix spokesperson said the process is different for each role and refused to comment further. A similar email at Snap outlined a six-part interview process for a possible engineering candidate, each lasting an hour.

A company spokesperson says its interview process hasn't changed because of labour market changes.

That might be the case. However, there is nothing to stop companies from outsourcing chunks of projects to unpaid workers hoping to impress job interviewers, and there are signs that this is starting to happen.

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