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When the rules change, should you?

Posted by Colleen Wainwright on

A couple of weeks ago, we got an email from a reader about an interesting–and rather horrifying–experience they had while job hunting via the Internet.

After applying for a web creative director position with a major (and I do mean major) financial news brand, this person received a cheery email reply requesting not more information, not a telephone conference, not additional samples, but to submit four–that’s F-O-U-R–home page mockups to demonstrate how she’d design for various news events. And the fourth? Was (and I quote):

"Re-designing the website in total, as if you had a blank slate."

To add insult to injury, the email from this potential employer came in on a Friday afternoon; our hero was asked to submit sketches by the following Friday.

On spec. In a week. For a major financial news outlet. For, as one person on KERNSPIRACY, the designers’ mailing list, put it, a creative director position–a "big picture", supervisory role, not an in-the-trenches design gig.

According to this designer, who had been working solo for years before deciding to get back into full-time employment, this wasn’t an isolated event, but rather "…is typical of what’s happened in the Internet market for full-time jobs."

On KERNSPIRACY, most people expressed at the very least surprise, and at the worst, resignation. Changing economy, changing times.

So I put it to you: is that it? Times are tough, the rules are different, go with the flow? Would you give away work for free? Some work? This much work at the very beginning of the interview process?


I have my own thoughts on this. I think it’s perfectly reasonable, in the course of the hiring process, to discuss with a potential candidate how he might handle certain situations, or to query her on ideas she had for what needed improvement and how she might address them.

But this seems egregious.

What do you think?

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