You’re interviewing for a job and the interviewer wants to pick your brain. You sense they want your expertise without paying for it.
“Real” consultants run into this challenge all the time. Most of us learn to charge for “diagnostic” or “test-drive” challenges.
When interviewing, you may feel more constrained, especially if you need or really want the job. Here are some suggestions – but it’s always a judgment call. You’re on the scene. Use your intuition and your judgment.
(1) Are your interviewer’s requests common within your industry?
If not, recognize a red flag. For example, a senior manager normally would not be asked for a writing sample. You have to decide if the company is coming from left field… or if the HR people are incompetent or bored, but your own manager will be just fine.
(2) Did you initiate the contact through a back-door or informational interview approach?
You may be selling the employer on creating a job, not just filling one. Some experts recommend using the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills by presenting yourself as a consultant, not a candidate.
(3) Are you being asked to disclose information about specific programs and processes from your current career or business?
I’d view these requests as a danger signal. Your manager may be testing your loyalty and ethics…or displaying some peculiar value systems of her own.
(4) Are you asked to prepare a written report?
Be sure to write your name and identifying information on every page.
Frankly, I would take a risk and ask, “If you implement my recommendations, what will my compensation look like?” I can’t imagine an ethical company that couldn’t come up with a response.
But I get surprised all the time and I would love to hear from readers on this one. Just click on “comments” below.
(5) Are you asked for on-the-spot recommendations to a specific, complex challenge?
This technique may be legitimate. Some interviewers want to see how you approach a problem, such as the kinds of questions you ask.
But sometimes they’ve got a real problem and they want to free advice. Consider saying something like, “We had a similar problem in my last job. And here’s what I did…”
Prime your intuition: teach your intuition to send you a telegram, not a post card.