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Interviewing at a startup that has asked me to create 3-6 slides for a real problem they are facing using real data they have had. They are asking for the excel model and framework behind the slides as well. Is this legitimate or is it an exercise to source free work? How should I proceed?

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I’ve pushed back on this twice. Ask to review an actual analysis or problem that they faced historically. Claim that you can’t provide consulting support due to the nature of your current employment.

likesmart

Free work

like

Free work

This kind of test is common in my experience to vet candidates. I’ve done slides, analysis, presentations etc for job interviews. The truth is, anything you provide to them - only knowing their business from a few interviews and website research - is likely not going to be a perfect solution based on their business realities. Think of how accurate new hires work is usually. In my experience, it can be helpful but still always a little bit off because they don’t know the full context yet. My point is that nothing you provide them at this level is going to be so helpful that they would bother to go this route just for free work. Startups ARE busy and there is too much work to go around but that’s actually why they wouldn’t waste precious time and energy interviewing people in bad faith just for free work or spending their to me packaging a problem for someone external to half ass if it weren’t a legitimate screening mechanism. Again, I’ve done full DCFs, PE models, and all kinds of sample decks and presentations. Hell, in fact last month I interviewed someone and asked her to come up w a deck for a sample problem in a sector/industry from a list. So I’ve actually used a similar exercise to interview a candidate last month as well as respond to these. I think they are common for smaller organizations (disclosure: at a nonprofit fund now, not big box consulting). Have seen this for startups too, boutique and lots of finance field

likefunny

Tell them to hire you first

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It is free work, but it is not being asked in bad faith. If they are already solving the problem themselves right now, and they don't yet have faith in your capabilities (or those of other candidates), then they will do it themselves, and your work will not save them much or any effort. However, they would benefit from any novel ideas or analyses you have. Most likely, they grabbed the data they had readily available and asked you to work on a current problem so they can more readily compare their thinking to yours.

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Charge them a day rate

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I don’t think it’s free work. I think it’s people peddling bs with a lot of time on their hands. I’d tell them to f off (been through this nonsense before)

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Tough to say to be honest. I know someone who was interviewing at a smaller Alts shop and they made them create a full DCF model. The point was that there isn’t too much junior support so they would have to get their hands dirty. My feedback would be to check if what you are doing would tie back to what your role would be at the startup. If they can’t validate that then I would pass on the opportunity.

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Gotcha...sounds like they have skin in the game as well (they are probably not worried that you or anyone would take the idea and replicate). If you are interested in the role, you should just get it done.

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