What the hell? That is the whole _point_ of a job. You know...to get paid for it.
Like, what do they expect their employees to do for three months while they're not getting paid? Live in a cardboard box down by the river?
I mean, I get it. It is probably just a scam to get people to work for free, but regardless, that policy is absolutely idiotic.
They're also advertising for a "Junior Front End Engineer" for no salary and 2-5% equity. They seem to think they are doing the world a favour. Arrogance in the highest. 
From the Reddit thread this is a guy who is still in college and brags about his 3 month internship at Amazon. Someone's gotta knock him down a peg, or two, or five.
Fuck it, just throw him all the way down the stairs, he really needs it.
I guess I was using the idiom wrong, it's apparently "take (one) down a peg" but I've always said "knock (one) down a peg," and when I say it I always pictured, in my head, a bunch of pegs lined up like stairs and someone being knocked "down" to a physically lower peg. it's actually one of the few idioms that prompts me have a mental image of it in my head.
I wonder what the actual origin of the idiom is.
"Violent" idioms are not uncommon:
"My wife is going to kill me when I get home."
"This company is raking me over the coals."
"That's it, the gloves are off."
"She's out for blood."
(Since I can't reply to the inner comment: - the phrase itself seems to have no solid canonical first reference but a few sources online say it's to do with ships and the navy, eg http://jimcofer.com/personal/2011/04/13/what-the-navy-gave-e..., I guess pick your favourite and run with it! :)
>It has been suggested... or... Either of these might be correct... 'pegs' could relate to many things.... it isn't clear what they were... Lacking any real evidence, we can't be sure of the origin.
Yep, and that's why I acknowledged it was hyperbole. There is no need to then say he needs to be thrown down some stairs.
Yeah, this company is the absolute worst.
I would also bet that the engineer would get fired before ever being able to cash out on that equity.
Their business model is "paying" people for stock photos with exposure. I'm not surprised they're averse to fairly compensating people who do work for them.
I guess with more and more automation, problems like these are only going to get worse.
OK, I was intending to be snarky and cynical but re-reading that...apart from the last sentence it probably is their plan!
These middle men will the go pay companies to secure internships.
I’d expect more of this happening as the divide between rich and poor deepens.
I’m not sure it’s totally a bad thing. You get to work for a renowned agency. The problem is that it excludes skilled people who don’t already have money
“Money flows toward the writer.”
or, to generalize:
Money flows towards the people doing the work.
Anything which involves the other direction is a scam of some kind. If Weiden Kennedy thinks that they are so awesome that people should pay them to learn from them, the legitimate thing to do is to open a school, not pretend that they are employees.
Pay an employee to take care of the company's problems; get paid by customers to take care of their problems; but if they're not paying you, their problems aren't your problems.
For example, in most states mental health therapists are required to finish their course of study with a certain large number of hours working "under supervision". They pay for the supervision, but at the same time they are working, so they are paid by their patients. Paying for an education isn't a scam.
If registered dietitians have to pay for their "internship", where they actually do work for the facility but don't get paid for it, yes, I think that's a scam too. Just because it's institutionalized doesn't make it an ethical practice.
There are clearly some (such as at the company in the post) but in my experience software internships have gotten really good in the past years since so many companies are competing for talent. Most places that I’ve seen in SF, interns are paid a pro-rated fulltime salary, but since they’re only working for 3 months they have few day to day operational responsinsibilities and get to spend all their time on interesting projects of their choosing (that are also also still useful to the company).
It’s pretty much the best job I can think of, I wouldn’t feel too bad for them.
Companies want it both ways now - they mandate having a CS degree or similar and then in the same breath tell people they expect months of low or unpaid work "so they can be useful". No wonder millennials are fed up with business culture. I don't blame them.
This is of course a particular terrible example of a "company" but I think good, strong internships as you describe are rare - from what I've seen in the UK at least.
Oh, or there's calories in regular Coke, so as long as the guy doesn't prefer diet, maybe he can subsist on that!
"Please do not apply if you know you do not have the skill necessary build something extraordinary."
So I guess I'm out. Shucks.
Unfortunately a steady stream of newbies will fall for this sort of trap. The rest of us should follow the wisdom of Mike Monteiro: https://theamericangenius.com/entrepreneur/the-entrepreneurs...
It's a bit rude, but there is a LOT of sage advice therein.
So....maybe that is what they expect?
And it gets worse if you're not looking for software development jobs. At least for the former, there are some paying extremely high wages to make up for the low end ones expecting Silicon Valley quality engineers to work for free. In non tech jobs... forget it. Anything that doesn't have 'manager' in the title (and many that do) is probably not going to offer enough to live on in the location its based in.
The site has its uses, and it's not bad in theory, but I suspect it needs more moderation to strip out stuff like this.
Edit: I guess I should have been less ambiguous, I wasn't really talking about an employee/employer situation, I agree all work should be paid for. Now that I think about it more, I guess the scenario I was describing was 1-2 people working on a project, and then getting someone else in their immediate circle (i.e. friend, connection, etc) involved. I guess this person would then be called a co-founder, since they are assuming similar risk as the 1-2 original people. My question was more, how have others structured equity for those people, (co-founders?) who join significantly after inception?
You don't hire people if you can't afford to pay them, holy shit.
"Hi, you mind cleaning my house? I'm a college student so I can't afford to pay you but I might get a job when I'm out of school, so I'll think about paying you then."
What you really are looking for if you are at that "I got an idea but no business plan" stage is investor(s). This could be a bank or one or more people, but these people wouldn't be employees.
Realistically though, you won't proceed with your crackpot idea as you realize "starting a business" is not "finding someone to work for you for free", ie, having them take on all the risk just so you can reap the rewards.
If a trusted friend with a good idea wanted me to "invest" in their software idea, I would be much more willing to invest the time for development than enough money to hire a developer. Especially if I could do that and work.
The context was "bootstrap without investment." The answer is, you don't, you either invest yourself (capital or labor) or you look for investors. You don't "make someone a co-founder," that strongly implies that they are a passive actor, you look for someone willing in invest, you look for someone looking to start a company. You don't have "employment agreements," you have "business partnership."
Pay people for their work, or don't hire them. Anything else is at best ethically gray, but almost always bad.
If you aren't generating profits, and want someone to work for you, either:
* borrow the money in your own name
* borrow against your house
* don't bring them on
You're the one creating the risk. You've gotta eat it.
Anything else is massively unethical.
If you're less than 3-5 people and have no money, you're looking for a technical co-founder, not an employee.
I've done say, 1 day a week of dev on the weekend while having a dayjob to get a project started for a share of equity because I liked the project. (So have others I know.)
Just have realistic asks in terms of time/equity trade so people can balance their risk by having other work as well.
People pay them for their products or services, then they take the money so gained and distribute it to their employees in exchange for their work.
My understanding is that this concept has been quite popular historically.
It's almost like people have forgotten how a business works...
(One pitfall however is that some bootstrapped business owners become unreasonably cheap even when there is reason not to be.)
If you don't have operating capital now, what guarantees can you give that you will have x months later?
The former means giving more than you would to an "employee" and giving shares rather than options, and giving them a real say in the business.
The latter means going to people like me who earn well enough from consulting etc. that we can afford to spend some of our time on startups without getting paid in cash fully knowing it's a high risk thing, and who will insist on seeing your cap table and investment prospectus so that we can judge the risk, and who will insist on terms that provides additional security.
Note that in the latter case my first question would be "why haven't you been able to find an investor yet"?
I've talked to people who have had convincing reasons, but I've also talked to people who presented me with investor decks where it took me 5 seconds to see why they'd failed to secure investors.
Personally I don't think devs who are inexperienced with startups should consider those kind of arrangements. For me it's kind-of a fun gamble that I take on the side of making more money than most from my paying clients - I expect most of the won't pay, but that's ok.
Secure financing by convincing someone with money you have a viable business model, then bring people on since you can pay them.
Yeah, it might take a bit longer to reach higher revenues.
You wait until you have the operating income to afford to hire another. Until then, focus on growing your current business.
Two people taking on a third after 6 months would probably not split out 1/3 to the new person, but it should almost certainly be more than 10% and on the same voting terms as all the other equity.
Don't forget that this now gives them a say in further dilution when you want to take on a fourth or fifth, or carve out an option pool etc.
(I've been the "first non cofounder employee" at a startup, but they paid me properly from day 1 with actual money, as well as options on a normal vesting schedule)
"This also isn't one of those startups that is trying to find a developer to do what they can not. We have a fully functioning in house dev team and simply want to move faster. As such, you will also be working alongside one of the leading React developers in the world who will assist you every step of the way."
Go get a business loan. Go get funding. Don't ask others to work to make you rich for free. It's quite disgusting.
"These 90 days are specifically designated to bring people like you up to speed on our very complex tech stack."
I'm all for onboarding and training, but 3 months to get a grasp on a glorified photo sharing app?
The example the lawyer used to explain it to me is a railroad can have an unpaid intern who moves cars from place to place. However those places all need to be places where the car isn't needed. If the intern moves a car from a siding to an unloading dock and somebody then unloads the car that was useful work and the intern needs to be paid because it was useful work.
BTW, if you get an offer for an unpaid internship and do useful work for the company you should contact a lawyer after your employment and sue for back pay AFTER you get your letter of recommendation: it is any easy lawsuit to win (be sure to ask for lawyer fees) if you have any evidence.
Its also illegal if the unpaid training position is directly tied to employment, which the “this is unpaid for three months” listing seems to directly indicate.
I suspect, if someone were actually hired on these terms and subsequently filed a wage and hour complaint, they’d be due back pay governed by minimum wage laws, damages for any violation of mandatory break and other working hours regulations applicable to non-exempt employees (since, regardless of the kind of work, a $0 salary is below the minimum for exemption), plus penalties and interest for payment being after the time required in law. And, on top of all that, the employer would pay additional fines to the government for the violations.
The only industry I know of where interns get a decent deal is in software as companies are competing to try and get future employees, and those internships are only in the hot markets like SF
Any company worth their salt should not care about this. Any company that would be upset that someone sued because their employer was treating them poorly is by definition a shitty company.
Otherwise it would be no problem to start a software union cause that's just making sure the company doesn't treat you poorly right? Yet I have not met a manager who hasn't stated that they wouldn't look on someone being involved with a union as a red flsg
Like a letter of recommendation describing the work you did.
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I don't understand at all what they're trying to build. An easier way for people to let brands use their images for free?
Do I detect a pattern there?
The hope is probably that they'll get freebies. Take a photo wearing this sweater, then keep it. That sort of thing. This confuses me though:
Your photos, not your follower count, is what matters.
The whole reason a brand is interested in you is because of your follower count, not because you're good looking (though I imagine that is also a requirement).
What do they expect to get? A bunch of cell phone pics and maybe a few discards from a few professional photographers who were curious?
The whole thing looks like severely out of touch wishful thinking.
'Make game of that which makes as much of thee.' Employers are going to treat employees like a cost center to be reduced, a factor to be manipulated in order to optimize things, etc and the only way that can not end in tragedy is if everyone is aware and the employees play the employer just as much. This is what employers chose.
Thus, an intern can do work that the company profits from, it just doesn't need to be immediate.
Having something done now that will start being useful later on still has arguable immediate value from the perspectives of scheduling and investing in the future of the company.
Erik Byargeon, Lucas McGartland, Lukas Huberman, Andrew Ullmann . Three of those guys are not technical.
So I am not sure how you are going to mentored by top Amazon Engineers. It also doesn't look like their site has much traction so I don't know how the stock is worth anything.
I guess you fake it until you make it.
We've all been young and made mistakes - I know that does not make all of this OK but I also know I wouldn't want to have to live in infamy for everything I did when I was in college either
I was trying to find this world leading React developer and assumed it was the CTO.
From their job ad
> As such, you will also be working alongside one of the leading React developers in the world who will assist you every step of the way.
Some people are so dehumanizing when it comes to work and full of themselves.
Woo-hoo! Daddy Soro's just got a new wrinkle under his eye!
- Whiteboard coding is too far removed from "real work", not effective at testing general aptitude, and is demeaning.
- Asking to see side projects presupposes an unhealthy amount of focus on work, discriminates against people with lives, and is demeaning.
- Asking for a custom piece of real-world code that matches the company's actual stack is exploitative, should be illegal, and is demeaning.
- Basing everything on answers to 'soft' questions about previous experience discriminates against people who aren't interested in showmanship, leads to too many suits and bros, and is demeaning.
What on Earth should we be doing, then? Everyone on Hacker News is so enlightened and skilled at their job, that any form of verification is demeaning and beneath their dignity. Apparently I should make my hiring decision based on their comment history or something.
There's bad interview practices, and then there's abuse.
Are we reading the same post? They want basically two API endpoints, one to receive a POST upload and another to return all the things that were uploaded. You could do this in Django (which they want you to use) in significantly less than 100 lines of code. It seems like an ideal little sandbox.
>...Authentication system that only allows authenticated users to upload photos but all users to view photos -Automated testing -Code coverage does not need to be complete, just generate that some critical functions of the system have tests attached to them. -Write-up on the systems design pattern choices
They are basically saying "make our entire product."
Even if they paid him to make this app it would stop being unethical but it would still be silly.
This "company" is
1) Not a company at all, just 4 cocky and extremely naïve college students who think doing a 3 month internship at Amazon makes you "one of the leading React developers in the world."
2) is asking "interns" to build their entire product before they even consider "hiring" them
3) Has a weird idea what "hiring" means because they won't even bother to pay people they "hire" for 3 months because they think expecting a paycheck in return for labor is "toxic."
What on Earth should we be doing, then?
Trial periods solve false positives, and you eat the cost of onboarding someone and their 1st 3 months or whatever. It sucks, but make the decision and move on. If you have this happen multiple times, your interview process isn't rigorous enough.
To improve false negatives you need a mix of inputs in your interview process. One way to get this is long/multistaged interview, but you will lose people this way too. Accept that if you are asking an interviewee to do real work (e.g. real world code) independently you should pay them for the time, and know that you'll lose some good candidates if you ask.
The company in question is asking for someone to do actual work that they will use as part of the job interview, and then to work for free for 3 months, "non-negotiable".
You somehow think that is reasonable, and that anyone on HN who complains about it is simply whiny?
The same happened with this post. (Of course I think in this case the behavior is exploitative and abusive. But do notice that not all folks in the thread disagree with the practice. Unfortunately they’re getting downvoted for disagreeing.)
They want an HTTP endpoint that takes a file over POST. Then they want an HTTP endpoint that returns the list of files over GET. They would also like basic things like a way to take an auth token to check if you have permission to upload, some unit testing, etc.
If you think this is anywhere even near to the ballpark of "actual work that they will use in their product", you're insane. This is basically 95% Django boilerplate that an experienced Django dev would be able to type out faster than it takes me to write this comment. To suggest that "write and read a .jpg" is somehow a part of their system that they're outsourcing (rather than the kind of thing you can find written out in dozens of Stack Overflow answers) is absurd.
I don't know about apetresc but I'm vested in that being a good way to assess candidates, and think you're doing the world a disservice discouraging people from it just because you don't like the company/product/offer it's for.
They are looking for an intern.
If a company in San Francisco wants an intern who knows how to build a POST endpoint, believe me, that is not an unrealistic ask.
Interns are not expected nor required to have any experience. You're being entirely unreasonable if you're looking for experienced interns.
If you're friends were so experienced already that they could land an entry level job by 18 then why did they go to college at all?
BTW, in the context of a job posting, "experience," means "professional experience," not "I threw together some shitty code one weekend in high school."
The simple answer is “no”. The HN community is not a monolithic block. You might as well ask if there’s one that would satisfy everyone. The key is to find one that works effectively for your organization.
It was the only time I felt a fair exchange of time and money was tendered and I also felt that it adequately demonstrated my skills to the company and their codebase (and impression of future work) to me.
I didn't get the job but the company will always have my respect.
I faced something similar to the OP and posted the results on Workplace
I don't see how objectively criticizing the above practice lands squarely in this ivory tower strawman you're invoking.
(N.B., The linked Reddit post is indicative of abuse, so I’m not talking about that.)
A lot of SW engineers complain after an interview process, especially a rejection, because of some “if only”-hypothetical. “If only they tested my real skills and not whiteboards. If only they saw that I’m a hard worker at work and I just don’t have time for side projects. If only they read my resume and know that I don’t need no stinkin’ coding test.” This is a strong aversion to false-negatives. But it generally seems to be in the company’s interest to over-reject according to some “stupid” rules than to over-hire.
I’m not saying that there are no wrong interview styles, but I think there is a supposition and sensitivity of a problem that isn’t being framed correctly—around applicant satisfaction and not company success. I think if more folks ended up being hiring managers, they’d understand the inherent difficulty in the construction of these supposed silver bullet interview styles.
(PS, I say this as someone who has complained very loudly and publicly about mistreatment at Google interviews.)
I think all 4 forms of interviewing you are suggesting are reasonable and whether or not they are demeaning for the interviewee depends mostly on the attitudes of those involved. If the interviewer is a jerk setting out to dominate the interviewee, and does not even bother to conceal how they think the interview is going, it's going to be a demeaning experience. If the interviewer is polite, empathetic to the interviewee, and probes without hinting at the opinion they are forming, even a terrible candidate should be able to leave without feeling like they were unfairly treated.
- make a quick onboarding of the candidate
- explain the general architecture of the system
- find an issue/story that is "superficial" enough to be taken by someone with zero-experience at that job, but "deep" enough that you can test their experience and knowledge (oh, and that story better not involve anything that might be related to core company IP.)
- do a pair-programming session with the candidate, and be the main driver ALL OF THE TIME (because the candidate does not have any git access, so their development environment is useless)
- evaluate the candidate
You really think that is something for "a couple hours"? Even if it were, do you think it is a good use of the time of the engineer that is going to be allocated to the task?
> Even if it were, do you think it is a good use of the time of the engineer that is going to be allocated to the task?
So what exactly is the alternative? Look, if you can't prioritize hiring, don't be surprised that you aren't able to hire. Yes, the engineers should be able to do this.
What is the alternative? As most of things in life, the answer is "it depends". It depends on the size of the company, the type of candidate they are looking, the industry, and so on.
But let's assume we are talking about the average startup that is neither looking for superstar candidates nor only looking for fresh graduates from Stanford. For those cases, I believe that one simple programming task, that exercises some of the technology required can be used as a screening filter. The task should not take more than 2 hours to reach a working state. If the solution presented by the candidate is satisfactory, then you go to the interview to discuss the solution and how they got to the solution, the things that were easy/hard, and so on. Then you ask about the things that are missing, and the candidate's evaluation on how they would like to tackle.
Is that a satisfactory alternative?
> How many "systems" do you think your run-of-the-mill startup has?
These dont need to be production systems, they can in fact be simple systems used just for interviewing.
So in your alternative, how long does an engineer really spend on interviewing the candidate?
- Check out the code and review the solution.
- Give a pass or "call for interview".
Let's say that is half-hour of work.
Only for the candidates that get called-in, you can have an hour-long interview. Make it two hours if if you want. It will still save the interviewer time, and allow a better use of the time together.
This is not HN being picky about interviews. This is a delusional company making absurd demands for which they are rightly being mocked.
One thing Ive noticed is that asking for the hardest interview they have or can do usually gets them excited to talk with me. Which I like because there is nothing worse than a boring "reverde a linked list" type of interview.
However, it does appear as if the community is pretty united on the idea that asking for free labor like this means you deserve to go get fucked.
The three months without pay thing...that's a little different. I'd tell them no way.
I absolutely would not. They're a company; they can afford to pay me. Me, however, my landlord isn't going to accept "I had to work for free" in lieu of rent.
This argument is so ridiculous, because I enjoy programming it means I don't have a life? Is this an actual argument people make?
"it discriminates against people with lives [outside of programming/tech/work]."
"It should be ok, if you want to, to not spend all your time outside of work doing unpaid work."
Excluding candidates that don't have a github or whatever is a signal you are looking to get employees that you expect to spend their entire lives at work.
If hobbying programming is your strength, own it. Nobody is going to disregard code samples you send them. The context is employers requiring hobby programming.
That explains the "very complex tech stack" that requires a 3 month unpaid stint before you can even get hired.
I look forward to the inevitable Medium post when they fold next month.
Man, where do I sign up!
He probably felt this hiring approach was a) legal, and b) economical.
Which sounds more like anthropology or something, USC defines as:
>This major is designed for students drawn to interdisciplinary study of legal and cultural issues, as well as those who intend to pursue a law degree. It offers students an interdisciplinary education in legal institutions, languages and processes that are central to social, cultural and political developments in the past and present, and play a critical role in shaping our most basic concepts and categories of thought and identity. It combines approaches from history, literature, philosophy, political theory, religion and classical studies to explore the law's position at the nexus of society. The major will help students develop the critical skills of reading, writing and analysis crucial to both a liberal education and the study of law. Students will gain theoretical and analytical perspectives on ethical, political and social issues relevant to law as they explore specific legal issues from a humanistic perspective.
And the requirements seem... um, not very comprehensive, to say the least... There's only nine classes required for a major! I just checked my college transcript, because I have it handy, and I required eight classes just for my minor. Is it actually common to have so few classes required for a major?
He also has
Bachelor of Arts in French Literature
Minor in Business Economics
"keeps us from hiring engineers that end up being toxic to our long term goals and just looking for a pay day"
Our interview code test is to make a URL shortener (two endpoints: create and redirect, use any tech you like). I'd never expect more than 2 hours max to be spent on it. If you can't work out whether you want to employ someone based on that (and discussion of it with the candidate) then you're probably not worth working for.
But realistically, I don't think the company would get much from an intern at this level. If they want the intern to build the app, then they better be good enough to demand payment.
Doesn't seem like the company will be successful with this approach.
Reading the thread, it appears they were at most SWE interns at Amazon so the learning opportunities would be minimal I imagine. This feels all sorts of icky and the poster did the right thing by just walking away IMO.
I'm confused by this, when I was at amazon I was not aware of the role of SWE, (can someone tell me what it stands for?). We were SDE's, which was Software Development Engineer, and SDETs: Software Development Engineer Testing, and others, any idea what it is?
You are really overestimating the skills of an Amazon engineer. Or just working at Google/Microsoft/Facebook doesn’t say all that much about your skills.
I'd also bet that anyone who can build a Django photo sharing app with auth has a much better skillset than what I'd expect from a first-year intern.
Intern's at Amazon, etc, tend to be pursuing a Masters and usually have some experience. One intern project was adding Jepsen testing to a distributed database, for example.
I guess he truly does fit that description.
I suggest everyone apply for the internship from HN and send them all our resumes with all the mediocre things we have all helped build!
After all it's best to avoid companies toxic to ones long term goals that only care about how much work one produces.
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I would've been pretty much the only engineer, so it's not like I would've gotten any training or support. They also never told me what the product was. I had to go find a notary to sign an NDA, but I tore that up when I got the offer. I'm pretty sure the company never went anywhere.
All these experiences make me curious as to where the salary floors lie for programmers, city-by-city. And excluding unpaid work, like the internship discussed here.
This position is paid after a 3 month training.
Not to mention that no self-respecting person would work in an environment that toxic.
> It’s the uncompensated three month onboarding and training that sticks out to me.
This part is just cherry on top in all honesty. Its insane.
Bingo. Unpaid internship for a USC student will put you in $1800 debt (1credit == ~$1800)
I wish there were a law to prevent such exploitative hiring practices.
This is a completely different company than the original post mentioned.
I may have to take a leave from my current work, take half a day off off my current contract or spend a significant part of my weekend on this problem, instead of with my family. I certainly expect to be paid for it.
But doing half a day coding exercise even before any technical interviewer in the company is ready to talk to me has a very imbalanced investment of time from both sides. I invest 4 hours in the company when the company invests none.
Since you asked for alternatives, here are some suggestions I have:
- If you want to do a 4 hour coding round even before a phone interview, at least pay for your candidate's time and effort.
- Otherwise, restrict your coding round to 1 hour. I think this strikes the right balance between lack of pay and my time spent.