‘Spec’ Work: Companies taking advantage of your ideas

by epi on June 14, 2012

Q: What do I do when a prospective employer (in this case a consultant) taps my brain over a five-month interview process for ideas on how I might bring him more business and then, when I bring a bona fide client, reneges on a verbal job offer without any explanation?

A: For years I owned an advertising agency.  Every now and then I was offered the chance to do “spec” work for a prospect, which basically meant: Submit your ideas, and if we like yours better than the other guy’s, we’ll hire you.  I avoided spec work like the plague.  You should, too.  In the same vein, no reputable company should ask or expect you to do work without compensation as part of an “interview process.”  If this situation comes up again, tell the prospective employer you’ll need a written contract for any work you do, stipulating any conditions about the work and how you’ll be compensated.  The serious prospective employer will step up to the plate.  The others will show their true stripes, and you’ll avoid a repeat.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vanna Keiler June 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I think EPI response is spot-on with this one. I too, have had “opportunities” to participate in spec work, and I ensured there was a contract that if my ideas were used I would be adequately compensated. The other option is to decline the participation and look for other opportunities which offer more reasonable job interview procedures.

In regards to the original question, what kind of interview would be ongoing for five months?? This sounds utterly absurd. There should have been some kind of contractual agreement (again) regarding expectations from the onset. To go into a five-month period sounds like a job to me. I would contact the individual by email or letter, requesting compensation for the work you did. If no compensation or response is forthcoming, I would contact the client, explain the situation and let the cat out of the bag. Surely there should be someone to complain to (BBB? Some other governing agency) regarding getting essentially swindled for non-compensated work. At the minimum, the consultant should have acknowledged your contribution in getting this client with your idea, offered to write an amazing reference letter to you for future employees and offered an explanation for not hiring you as verbally agreed. I hope someone else has better ideas on how to resolve this, but that is where I would start.


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