back to article That time a startup tried to hire me just to push clients' products in job interviews

Years ago, prior to his UK government service and AMP rebel period, Terrence Eden was running a mobile technology consultancy when a London-based startup offered to pay him to take job interviews with no intention of accepting any offers. His sole purpose in approaching companies under the pretense of seeking work there was to …

  1. Efer Brick

    "Fronking "

    Think someone has just coined the verb for this behaviour pattern.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: "Fronking "

      I see a marketing opportunity for Fronking filters - browse social media and have all Fronker's blocked just like AdBlock et al.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Block all social media - it'll be quicker and just as efficient.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Block all social media - it'll be quicker and just as efficient.

          Best to nuke from space as it's the only way to be sure.

          1. chuBb. Silver badge

            In this I'd nuke it again to ensure a proper game over man

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: "Fronking "

      The big scam these days are the companies conducting personality tests on applicants. My company used them for a while until we back analyzed everything and found zero benefit. But the testing companies got boat loads of innocent folks personal info.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: "Fronking "

        Not only that - there a companies that do personality tests as a team building exercise. I was shocked when I friend told me that they also had to reveal their results to other colleagues and form "diverse" groups to do exercises, like pitching an idea. He said it was compulsory and they had to agree for their "anonymised" data to be owned by the company supplying the tests.

        1. Woodnag Silver badge

          Re: "Fronking "

          ...and there's the wellness assessments. Some years ago, I enquired of one what the privacy policy and data use was, was told they followed all laws, but couldn't get an answer for what exactly happening with it.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "Fronking "

            If the laws at the time included GDPR either they told you what happened to the data or they weren't following the laws.

            1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

              Re: "Fronking "

              If the laws at the time included GDPR either they told you what happened to the data or they weren't following the laws.

              What difference would that make?

              1. SCP

                Re: "Fronking "

                Not sure which part of the statement you are asking about; a couple of possibilities:

                a) If they did not tell you what the data was to be used for and who it would be shared with, then any consent you might give would not be informed consent. This would be against GDPR principles.

                b) Given some pretty lacklustre performances by the ICO and the oft imbalance of power between employer and emloyee - not following the law might make no difference to an employer that did not follow GDPR principles.

                HTH

        2. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: "Fronking "

          "they had to agree for their "anonymised" data to be owned by the company supplying the tests."

          I've met that in government service (without the guarantee of "anonymisation") within the last few years. A "team building day" required everyone to document their "strengths and weaknesses", and they hadn't bothered to find out that the information was shipped to the US by the "team builder" organisation with blanket re-use assumed.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Fronking "

        These days?

        It couldn't have been a PII gathering scam then but I came across one of those nearly 40 years ago.

        One half of it was the sort of intelligence test I'd first encountered a few decades before at 11+ and that my son was now encountering for the same reason. The only difference was that now they had, or merely pretended they had, some sort of scanner to read and mark it. The guy came back looking puzzled and asked "Have you been practising taking intelligence tests?" and I was puzzled because I'd got one wrong.

        The other half was a series of head-shrinker questions from which I learned one thing: it's harder to write those things in a context-free manner that its devisers thought.

        One question was "Do you sometimes have feelings of panic?". We're sitting in a quiet office in a quiet side street in the centre of a peaceful town like Cambridge. I live and work in a different part of the UK with an on-going terrorist campaign. The job I do could make me a target. I sometimes have to have an armed police or even military escort. There was an attempt to bomb my place of work which was subsequently burned down, probably because a live incendiary device got taken in along with a number of imitations. Does the answer "Yes" mean the same thing for me as it does for you?

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: "Fronking "

          "Do you sometimes have feelings of panic?" How about, "Have you ever worked in an inner city school and been faced with; a student wanting to disclose abuse, a student who wanted to throw a chair in your direction, a sudden OFSTED inspection (or a not sudden one for that matter), a parent looking to beat up a teacher ( any teacher) because their little darling had been told off for some appalling behaviour.......

          Sometimes feeling panic is the only sane response..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Fronking "

          Re the "do you sometimes have feelings of panic".

          I had a couple of particularly stupid examples of that on a medical questionnaire when going for treatment for a condition that involves exhaustion and pain as two of the symptoms.

          From memory it was "are you more or less aware of pain than normal" on a scale of "not at all" to "Extremely aware" (same for exhaustion).

          Which led me to two questions of my own, how do I know what everyone else is thinking?

          And given I'm in constant varying levels of pain and exhaustion at what point is it normal to not ignore it? (especially as some people have more pain tolerance than others).

          What made it worse was that the only way to avoid things like collapsing whilst doing routine stuff is to note the changes and adjust my activities accordingly (slow down or stop and test), so the question depending on how they wanted to look at it could be used to either show the person filling it in was being overly sensitive or not looking after themselves because they're ignoring warning signs.

          I think I answered "slightly more" as I'm aware of changes but try to ignore the background levels, but at no point was there any way to explain the answer given.

          It didn't inspire confidence in the process, especially when I realised they were basically telling me to do exactly what I'd been doing for years.

          Posting anonymously as I try not to put too much personal information online.

        3. ThatOne Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: "Fronking "

          > One question was "Do you sometimes have feelings of panic?".

          It's a standard question out from an old questionnaire for mental disorder triage (yes!). HR often like to throw some of those in, probably thinking they'd weed out the (dumber) madmen among applicants. But most important, it sounds ominous and serious - to HR. You know, Dunning-Kruger and all that.

          Anyway, as a lantern-jawed hero applicant you're not supposed to feel anything except undying loyalty and the urge do drive forward, towards the next fiscal quarter. Admitting you sometimes feel human marks you as a low achiever, a weak link, a liability.

          All those questionnaires should be brazenly lied to, while looking out for trap questions (small, innocent weaknesses you'll have to admit lest you stand out as a liar), or duplicate ones with different wording, where your answers should obviously be matching. Never forget, it's not about you and your traits and preferences, it's about portraying the almost ideal applicant.

      3. Persona Silver badge

        Re: "Fronking "

        Decades ago one of the firms I applied to used graphology to build a profile of the candidate. They required me to submit a hand writing specimen. I declined. Better to have them write me off as being someone who wouldn't jump though silly hoops rather than giving them written evidence identifying me as a potential axe murderer.

        Apparently graphology was and perhaps still is prevalent in France.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: "Fronking "

          Some roles in the US require a lie detector test.

          I'm not sure if you pass for pointing out the detector is the lie.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Current par for the present course of future event horizons

    when a London-based startup offered to pay him to take job interviews with no intention of accepting any offers.

    Excuse me .... but that is standard default fare religiously copied by all those government RFI [Requests for Information] which dangle the carrot of a gazillion dollar/multi million pound sterling contract before one's eyes.

    The secret to unparalleled success in one's ambition to server uniquely and obliquely the proprietary intellectual property sought and offered, is to feed a few free crumbs which prove far too costly to ignore and deny further stealthy engagement with for a bigger slice of the cakes baked with options to exercise on others planned for future proving and baking.

    One thing in such a situation is absolutely certain ..... no home team engagement in such a disruptive constructive competition has the opposition advised and credited with the possibility of prime primary use activity.

    1. elkster88
      Coat

      Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

      Anyone know if Google Translate is accepting nominations for languages to be added to their Translate product?

      Asking for a friend. Mine's the one with the dried up babelfish in the pocket.

      1. Draco
        Windows

        Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

        I believe amanfromMars 1 is a bot. If you peruse its posts, you will find they have the appearance of English, but without semantic meaning.

        1. Bibbit

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          He’s got a silver medal too. Next stop Skynet.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          Down voted. Bot programming these days seems to have made great strides. They usually make pretty good semantic sense. amanfromMars(n) however........

        3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          > the appearance of English, but without semantic meaning.

          There's a job for him in the civil service or politics, then.

        4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          >they have the appearance of English, but without semantic meaning

          So a management consultant then?

        5. meander

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          amanfromMars posts surely look very very weird.

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

            Sometimes though he slips and there is some logic and reasoning in his writing

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

              "Sometimes though he slips and there is some logic and reasoning in his writing"

              Random things can seem meaningful. It's a matter of odds.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Current par for the present course of future event horizons

          "I believe amanfromMars 1 is a bot. If you peruse its posts, you will find they have the appearance of English, but without semantic meaning."

          I never thought of that, previously, but went on, reading his post again with this in mind.

          And I think you're totally right ! Random assembly of concepts, linked by some ressemblance of english glue.

          Not sure this is a cannon discovery here, but well done !

          This or a totally enhanced https://www.bullshitgenerator.com/

        7. tekHedd

          Emacs

          Anybody remember the disassociated press program, available as a plugin in emacs? It wrote like this.

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    How about interviewers that get candidates in and ask them how they would deal with this "situation" and "could you show us how you would go about dealing with it".

    The situation turns out to be some longstanding technical issue that their own staff have been struggling to solve and they are after some free consultancy.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      and they are after some free consultancy.

      Isn't that illegal though? You have to pay at least a minimum wage for their time.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Are you telling me you aren't paid to attend interviews? Hah!

        ... no, me neither ;)

        Though you can recoup lost time by drinking as much of their coffee as you possibly can :)

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: drinking as much of their coffee as you possibly can

          "Well, thank you for coming. Do you have any final questions?"

          "Yes. Where's the toilet?"

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Only if the interviewees don't realise what's happening.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Isn't that illegal though? You have to pay at least a minimum wage for their time."

        Illegal, don't think so (how to prove anyway). Unethical, for sure.

        If I had 10 bucks for every hour I spent doing free consultancy, I'd have bought whole countries !

        I'm still doing it today, BTW, but part of pre-sales.

    2. ShadowSystems

      At Werdsmith, re: deceptive interviews.

      I once interviewed at a small mom & pop computer repair shop to be a hardware repair drone. They handed me a computer, told me they knew what was wrong with it, but wanted me to fix it "to prove I knew what I was doing". Fine, reasonable request, so I got started.

      I spent nearly an hour going through every minutia step to check every last thing I could think of that might prevent the hardware from operating properly, removing/cleaning/reseating all the cards, checking that all the various cables were in good condition/plugged in properly/not bent so as to present a possible break in continuity, etc. Eventually I finished, turned it on, & was rewarded with the purr of the fans, the whir of the HDD, and the chirpy chimes of Windows booting. I was about to turn it off when the interviewer slapped my hand away...

      He promptly had one of his other techs come in with a ZipDrive, slapped in a fresh ZipDisk, & copied the entire drive's contents off in a mad rush to archive the data. Turns out they did *not* know what had been wrong with it, none of their own techs had been able to get so much as a blinky light out of it, and they were tearing their hair out trying to recover the data. Interviewer had the bright idea of advertising for the job, using the aforementioned computer as the "test system" if the candidate sounded as if they knew their stuff (as I did), and having found someone that had indeed fixed the machine, wasted no time in archiving the data.

      My reward for saving their asses (it had been their accounting computer & all their financials were in an Excel sheet on the drive, but not backed up anywhere)? A firm handshake, a "thanks for stopping by, we'll keep your application on file" load of happy horseshit.

      I think that was one of the first events that proved the path of good intentions will be littered with the corpses of my enemies.

      *Cough*

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: At Werdsmith, re: deceptive interviews.

        I'd have submitted an invoice and a warning that a county court judgement for non payment wouldn't be a good advert for them when, not if, the local paper got to hear of it.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: At Werdsmith, re: deceptive interviews.

          I'd have submitted an invoice and a warning that a county court judgement for non payment wouldn't be a good advert for them when, not if, the local paper got to hear of it.

          An invoice based on your mutual contract and agreed statement of work?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: At Werdsmith, re: deceptive interviews.

        The techs must have been pretty shit if they couldn't pull the HDD and get the data off via another computer. Or was this so long ago that there wasn't any real standardisation yet? eg CP/M days.

        1. ShadowSystems

          At John Brown, re: the drive.

          I'll say four words that should be all the excuse/reason required to explain the nature of their inability to get it working properly: SCSI card IRQ conflict.

          I noted it was set to the same as another card mentioned in the AutoExec.Bat file, but the card the entry related to was not installed in the system - the computer was reserving it for that card anyway, thus the SCSI drive controller card was up shit creek when attempting to initialize.

          Pulling the card+drive & putting it in another machine might have worked IF anyone had bothered to edit the AE.B file to no longer include the aforementioned entry.

          Want to guess if any of them bothered?

          I'll give you three guesses & the first two don't count. =-Jp

          I REM'd out the entry, rebooted, & vroom - one working system.

          I was irked (I almost wrote IRQ'd) about getting taken advantage of, but Karma had the last laugh.

          About a month later the place went out of business as their accountant had taken a runner with the balance in the corporate bank account.

          Oh darn, no love lost from me - nope a nope a nope! =-)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: At John Brown, re: the drive.

            "I'll say four words that should be all the excuse/reason required to explain the nature of their inability to get it working properly: SCSI card IRQ conflict.

            I REM'd out the entry, rebooted, & vroom - one working system."

            Good work on your part, well spotted, IRQ conflicts can be a bitch, but I still say their techies must've been useless because IRQ conflicts don't just happen on a working system. Someone had to have changed something in the first place, borked it, then slunk off and denied ever touching it, especially if IRQs were being reserved, or more likely configured, in the autoexec.bat, usually just SETting a variable that something else would later read and use.

            On the other hand, and in their defence, I guess it;s possible the CMOS battery backed RAM got corrupted or reset and there was a BIOS non-default config reserving certain IRQs that reverted back to defaults. Sometimes, on rare occasions, that's unavoidable, but every really ought to be taking when setting up a computer to make sure that it can at least boot with the default BIOS config.

            IIRC IRQ 10 and 11 were usually used for NIC and/or SCSI, but if no onboard HDD controllers, 14 & 15 would also be available.

            1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

              Re: At John Brown, re: the drive.

              Piece of cake, by the sounds of it. How I'd go back to the days of solving IRQ conflicts rather than weird CSS interactions.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I suppose that one could be gamed. Send one of your employees to an interview at a rival to point them in a direction you know will fail.

    4. pirxhh

      I got a question like that for one of my first job interviews. The veep hiring a brand-new IT Team had no technical background but an issue he wanted solved ("how can we send faxes from all our computers? We have Novell NetWare..."). I proposed a solution (involving something not many companies had in 1992, Email) and got the job. Only disagreement was on the salary, they wanted to pay 15% more than I asked for.

      I found it a brilliant tactic for the hiring manager-"can you come up with a good plan and explain it so non-technical but business savvy people can understand?"

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Only disagreement was on the salary, they wanted to pay 15% more than I asked for.

        Congratulations on that.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Faith in the system

    Just recently the FBI warned about criminals using fake websites and job ads to entice job seekers into surrendering personal information for the purpose of identity fraud.

    Where have they been? That has been going on for decades...

  5. martinusher Silver badge

    Job Interviews are great intelligence gathering activities

    When I want to learn about a company and what it does the first place I turn to is their job board. This will tell you what sort of work they're doing and where they're doing it and you can also glean from the distribution of those jobs whether the firm is solid or chaotic, even bordering on collapse. A job interview is even more telling, especially if you're a senior level developer. Ignore HR and their attempts at psychological profiling -- the truth is that if the company needs you that badly they'll ignore HR's voodoo anyway (it doesn't hurt to play along, though -- no point in developing a premature attitude problem!). At the interview, which may well last all day, you'll get to meet other developers and in the process of them forming a picture of you as a potential colleague you'll get a very good idea of what they're doing, how they're doing it and what kind of problems they have.

    Its a bit of a waste of time pitching products in these situations but on the other hand if I was working for a VC or investment bank interested in funding the company I could very quickly figure out if its worth putting money into.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Jobs throwing money at IT are great intelligence gathering activities

      Its a bit of a waste of time pitching products in these situations but on the other hand if I was working for a VC or investment bank interested in funding the company I could very quickly figure out if its worth putting money into. ..... martinusher

      With particular regard to that specific aspect of the funding decision process, martinusher, those working with all due care and vigilant diligence in the Cyber Command and Remote Virtual Earthly Control Sector must make that commission extremely simple for the likes of such as may warrant being tarred with that very broad brush which paints one as an Executive Searching Headhunter, as the hunted betatest and exhaustively experiment with their wares for sharing in plain sight of all out in the Fields of Ultimate Endeavour and Immaculate Dream .... which can be seen and experienced as Just Reward from/for a Heavenly Task Master.

      Find that on your travels and how can one justify not putting money into it/throwing money at it? :-)

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Job Interviews are great intelligence gathering activities

      Its a bit of a waste of time pitching products in these situations but on the other hand if I was working for a VC or investment bank interested in funding the company I could very quickly figure out if its worth putting money into. ....martinusher

      If you can believe at least some of what you can read is available for comprehension and assimilation here, there would appear to be a newish kid on the National/International/Internetional Intelligence Community block intent on stealing everyone's goodies away for themselves.

      And they be perfectly placed to do all that which is discussed with practically no real effort needed from themselves.

      Is that a surprise to y'all or are you going to admit that you fully expected it and even suspected it was happening since a long time ago and decided to be happy playing along with them and their ilk in the Great Game, continuing to feed them myriad countless seeds of information to allow and assist them to future satisfy your every need?

      What do you think you can do about it if it offends you ..... apart from bugger all, that is?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Sleepy Joe obviously skipped all of the great intelligence gathering activities interviews ....

        And here's more very recent and prescient news of some other clueless bugger thinking to bolt stable doors after all the thoroughbred horses have bolted. Strewth, what a palaver.

        Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy JULY 09,2021 • PRESIDENTIAL ACTIONS

        The American information technology sector has long been an engine of innovation and growth, but today a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, to extract monopoly profits, and to gather intimate personal information that they can exploit for their own advantage. ...... https://cryptome.org/2021/07/Executive-Order-2021-0709.pdf

      2. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

        Re: Job Interviews are great intelligence gathering activities

        Tell me, do they have hospitals where you are? Just curious.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Holmes

    A new way to sell snake oil...

    Never heard of this approach, doesn't seem like a very good vector for sales, how many times is the procurement officer in an interview?

  7. Persona Silver badge

    Alternatively

    It could just have been a slimy recruitment consultancy using this as a novel trick to con its clients into believing it had very good applicants on its books. Even better should the applicant really like the job where they were "interviewing" they might screw up and accept a job thus earning the recruiter a fat fee.

    1. jtaylor Bronze badge

      Re: Alternatively

      It doesn't have to be slimy.

      I finished one short-term contract through a reputable agency and hustled up another to start 2 weeks later. While travelling on my vacation between jobs, the recruiter asked if I would interview with a client. It developed that several previous candidates had embarrassed themselves there, and the recruiter wanted to make a better impression. We were still finishing paperwork on my next contract, and I was intrigued and had almost nothing to lose.

      The client liked me, I liked the client, and the recruiter liked the deal. The only bad part was that I had to call my would-be-future-client to apologize and explain that I took a very attractive offer elsewhere.

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