I am a 15 year veteran in the creative end of advertising. I have won over 50 major awards for my work, and I’ve worked for some of the largest and most well-known companies in the world. I mention this not to toot my own horn, but to tell you the story of how I was contacted by a recruiter on behalf of a client. Since they are located on the other side of the country from me, we started with a Skype meeting that went well and they told me they would contact me in the next week about an in-person interview.
One week later, I get an email asking me if I would work on a project for them to see how we work together before committing to hiring. That’s quite reasonable and a normal practice, so I agreed.
I sent them my estimate for the project that they loosely described as a 1-page mini-site.
Another week later I get a brief in my email with files attached, asking for a completed design of the mini-site, and they gave me access to their network with resources for the job. I write them back, explaining that they need to sign my estimate before we begin, and I’ve updated it to say that I need 1 week to concept 2-3 ideas, get feedback and then a few more days to complete the final design.
5 days later, I receive a response:
Client: We are not offering to pay you for this; we just want to see how you work. This project shouldn’t take you more than 4 hours to complete.
Despite my better judgment, and because they are offering a very high wage, I begrudgingly sit down to commit an act of robbery against myself.
I decide to show them 4 hours of my normal process, which is to pencil sketch a few ideas out, and roughly slap the best concept together in Photoshop. I send them a short write-up of the ideas and the files and ask when we will have our in-person interview.
2 weeks later, I hear back from the recruiter:
Recruiter: They’ve decided not to hire you because you didn’t follow the style guide.
They never sent a style guide, and what did they expect in 4 hours?
I know someone who works in the company, who has confirmed that they handed my idea off to their designers and are currently building my concept exactly. When they launch it, I’ll send them my bill and a nice introductory letter from my lawyer.