Job Search – Career Question – Test or Audition Task Valid?

Dear Career Coach,

I am interviewing for a corporate marketing job, and have been offered a job (I think), but was asked to do “consulting” marketing feasibility study on a property as an “audition.”

The interviewing company has also asked me to give a four-week notice at my current job.

I am not even sure what to charge…what do I do?


I’d take this as a test for the credibility of job offer and let the company know there need to be some understandings in place before you do the consulting study as a test / audition:

They want to see if you are savvy enough to know what a consulting job entails.  This is a test to see if you are mature and experienced enough to know there are business standards, agreements to be put into place, and understandings clearly spelled out.

You want to provide them with the best job possible, but at the same time you don’t want to waste hours of your personal time on this ‘audition’ without any compensation for your time, so you would prefer to put some caveat’s in place before you start working.

If it is for a real task the company needs doing (and would have their staff or another external consultant complete otherwise), if you do NOT get the job you will be compensated for the work completed as if you were a W-2 contractor employee, paid via a 1099.  Agree upon a fee per hour for the study and the number of hours – minimum and maximum – for which you’ll perform the work. Otherwise – as appealing as the job is, you are concerned the company is using this as an non-ethical way of getting work completed for them without having to pay for it, and you would have reservations and concerns about working for any company where this is standard behavior for their workforce recruiting methodologies.  You need to get paid for your personal time regardless of whether the completed work is exactly what they were looking for or not (if a restaurant cooks a meal and serves it – you still have to pay for it – whether you were wild about it or the meal was ‘so-so’).

The acceptable standard for providing job resignation notices is two weeks. Given that your current employer might potentially terminate you for exploring new job opportunities (if they get wind), you respectfully wish to offer your current company a two-week notice, upon receipt, signature, and return of your acknowledgement for a written job offer from the testing company.  Ask them if you were let go from your current company, would there be the opportunity to immediately start work versus waiting out the two weeks.   Otherwise, you cannot comfortably give notice to your current employer until the written job offer is in your hand. The written job offer gives you two safety nets: 1) a job you can start on a set date, or 2) written conformation of the offer if they withdraw it, so you can take them to court for damages incurred if you have given up your current job and can’t find another job for weeks (or months) and have a loss of income or are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

If the ‘testing’ company can understand your dilemma, and agree to those caveats, then I wouldn’t have any issues with the assignment. BUT, get everything in writing. Get them to sign a contract for the ‘audition’ so you can take them to court for the wages if they don’t like the project and decide not to pay for your time.  They may back out of the whole deal – but that’s a chance you have to take if you really want the job and it is an ethical offer.

What to charge for your test ‘consulting’ fees per hour?  That’s not an easy to answer question.  It all depends upon the industry, the type of task, the type of work you have to complete to get the task completed, and how much personal time you must invest to complete the project.  Specialized consultants charge between $100 to $250 an hour, while generalized consultants may only charge $50 to $150 an hour.  You can accept minimum wages if you wish – but do get paid for the work, regardless.

Good luck!

Dawn Boyer, Small Business HR, Career Advisor, and LinkedIn Social Media Coach

D. Boyer Consulting, 5428 Whitehurst Arch, Va. Beach, VA  23464 /

Follow me on Twitter: @Dawn_Boyer / Blog:

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Dawn Boyer is a doctoral student at Old Dominion University in the Darden College of Education, working on her PhD in Occupational Studies and Technology), as well as working as a (Doctoral) Graduate Teaching Assistant teaching computer science and technology to undergraduate students. Ms. Boyer has over 20 years of senior management experience in human resources, of which nine years is in the defense-contracting arena. She also provides HR consulting services via D. Boyer Consulting to small businesses, including dynamically growing 8(a) set-aside defense companies, in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area.

2 Responses

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  2. Good answer — covers the bases, and protects / serves both parties well.

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