Black ListingI recently read the outraged complaint of a frustrated job-seeker describing the job interview process for “an entry-level program coordinator position.” Said process consisted of two phone interviews, after which selected candidates must travel to the corporate headquarters (at their own expense) and endure a 15-hour-long “final interview stage.” Excessive? Maybe… but just wait.

Once there, interviewees were told their itinerary consisted of five individual interviews lasting until 5 o’clock, after which there would be an unspecified “group project.” At 5 PM, the 20 gathered candidates were told they must now: plan a menu, go to the store to buy groceries, and prepare a meal for 40— while also providing suitable entertainment— to be served at 7:30 PM at the boss’s house.

Interviewees were given a budget of $350 and information about food allergies in the group, but told nothing else. They even had to figure out the address of the house where they would be providing this little shindig. This wasn’t formally acknowledged as an evaluation of their job skills— instead, the senior staff spent the majority of the night ignoring them while drinking and dancing. The party didn’t break up until 10:30 pm, when the ongoing festivities were transplanted to a local bar.

So, what kind of awesome job would be worth suffering the indignity of being used as free party labor for a bunch of executive jerks?

An entry-level position at a low grade Non-Profit, that’s what. And the salary these involuntary party caterers were competing for? Less than $25,000 per year.

If not selected as one of the lucky few to be hired, then guess what? You just spent a lovely evening working for free, waiting hand and foot on a bunch of assholes for zero pay.

These days recent college graduates often get bombarded with these sorts of “opportunities”— and many are scams to squeeze them for money or unpaid labor. Red flags for unscrupulous hirers include applicants being asked to pay hundreds of dollars up front for their own “background checks,” or being asked to pay their own flight and lodging costs to attend an interview on the other side of the country. Those are the kind of tactics you’d expect from a religious cult… for such outrages to be practiced by “legitimate” companies is seriously a new low, even in today’s competitive job market.

Sadly, such douchebaggery often scores free work from skilled candidates: for example, when graphic designers get asked to complete “skills-tests” in which scummy companies con them into doing small design jobs for free. You see such scam “job openings” ads on sites like Craigslist, where the same small agency keeps posting the same job every week, forever, and keeps assigning new “test materials” to job seekers, yet (strangely) never ever fills the position. Most designers steer clear, but enough desperate newbies fall for it to keep the scam going.

This is essentially the same game as the “House For Rent By Owner” advertisements that describe a beautiful property for a fantastic price, but request a $25 application fee. Those same houses keep taking rental applications year round, but (again, strangely) NEVER actually get rented to anyone new. Meanwhile the owner goes right on accepting application fees while shredding the applications— but cashing the checks.

Don’t get suckered in by promises of impossibly-lucrative jobs with “marketing firms” that schedule mass all-day “pre-hiring field interviews.” Whole batches of candidates get trucked off to various locations and dropped off to peddle someone’s cheesy merchandise at lame mall kiosks or dingy phone call centers for free. No one ever gets hired in such scams, but those phones and kiosks are constantly manned by desperate grads.

Life’s too short to work for nothing. If your so-called job interview involves putting in a full day’s work, run for the hills. Your time is worth more than that.