Scam Job? - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity


Scam Job?

I'm a software developer. The last time I was looking for a job I came across an ... interesting ... want ad. Instead of asking applicants to simply send a resume, they asked them to write a program meeting requirements listed in the ad. The requirements were not some simple quiz problem, but a complete system. They listed at least 6 data entry screens and 10 reports. Plus, they said, submissions must include "complete documentation".

I've had times when I applied for a software job and at the interview they gave me some simple practical problem. Write a function to calculate a square root. Write a program to play the game bizz/buzz. That sort of thing. The sort of program that one could write in half an hour, maybe an hour. This was a whole different league.

And I thought to myself: There are two possibilities here.

1. Maybe the job offer is a scam. The company isn't really looking to hire a programmer. They just want a program meeting these requirements. So they get a bunch of programmers to develop a system for them meeting all their requirements, and they pick the best one and use it. Then they tell all the applicants, including the author of the "winning" program, "Sorry, the job is filled." They then get a program for free that would have cost them thousands of dollars if they'd had to hire someone to write it for them.

2. Maybe it's completely legitimate, in the sense that they really do plan to hire whoever submits the best program.

Except, even if it really was legitimate ... Writing a system with 6 data entry screens and 10 reports, it would have required a database to back it up so that would have to be designed and built, plus writing documentation. Assume just 4 hours per screen or report. 6 screens plus 10 reports means 64 hours. Assume that includes time to design and build the database. That's still 8 full days work. One could throw together some junk faster, but if the point is that you want to impress the client with a quality job, you can't do that. And then you have to document it. Maybe it would take an hour to write up a description of each screen and each report, plus a couple of hours to write some kind of introduction and overview. So another 18 hours for the documentation. Let's round down and say 2 days.

So they're asking someone to dedicate 2 full weeks of work just to APPLY for the job. And to do that as a cold application. I mean, you're not even on the short list at that point, you could be one of hundreds of applicants.

I thought to myself: Which is a more efficient use of my time? Devoting 2 weeks to applying for this one job? Or spending that two weeks searching for other jobs and sending out resumes? I could send out dozens, maybe hundreds of resumes with two weeks work.

I skipped that ad. To this day I wonder if it was a real job, or how many people actually built a complete system for them for free.

© 2022 by Jay Johansen


Dale Aug 27, 2022

I would have submitted a program ... but included a time bomb in it so that after two months or so it would scramble all their data and quit working. Then if they really give me the job, first thing I do is remove the time bomb. If they don't give me the job, and then when it blows up they call me to complain, I act innocent and say, "I don't understand. You hired someone else but you used my program?"

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