Years ago, prior to his UK government service and the AMP rebel days, Terrence Eden was running a mobile technology consultancy when a London-based startup offered to pay him for interviews with no intention of accepting offers.
His only goal when approaching companies on the pretext of looking for work was to present products for the startup’s customers.
Eden shared the same story in a blog post on Friday after rediscovering the now-expired nondisclosure agreement he signed at the time to learn about this gig.
He referred to this now dissolved company as “Fronk”. The registry asked if he would disclose the company’s real identity in confidence, but he politely declined. Nonetheless, we find the yarn believable enough to repeat here, partly in the hope that a reader will recognize the company.
The internet is teeming with horror stories about recruiting, in which unfortunate applications are confronted with unusual requirements or uncomfortable situations. More recently, the FBI warned of criminals using fake websites and job advertisements to trick job seekers into divulging personal information for the purpose of identity fraud.
Unqualified job applicants with fake credentials, sometimes endorsed by unscrupulous recruitment firms, have also long been a problem among corporate hiring managers.
But job hunting as an advertising opportunity for bait and bills is not commonplace.
In his post, Eden describes the dialogue that took place when the Fronk staff explained why they wanted him to pay him for interviews he would not accept.
The startup representatives stated that he should evangelize customer products in every interview. “Suppose AWS wants to sell more InfiniDash licenses,” recalls Eden, using the now famous fictional AWS service as an example in its loosely reconstructed history. “They pay us to promote big companies and startups.”
Amused, he asked how this could work. They replied that an interviewer could ask how they had dealt with a difficult situation in a previous job. “We want you to talk about how using InfiniDash has made life easier for your team,” he said.
When Eden hit back by realizing that he might not have any experience with these products, the startup’s stewards insisted that they would only send him to interviews with companies that weren’t already using their customers’ products and pay him to to get certified with the products, just in case some specialist knowledge is required.
When Eden asked if the agreement was ethical, the answer was, “Our investors think so!”
But obviously this peculiar business model never found a foothold. Eden says he turned down the job and later met the startup at a few conferences before they disappeared.
We just have to look at the abundance of social media “influencers” and undisclosed marketing relationships, fake reviews and fake accounts, self-gratifying company statements and their distance from actual behavior to see that the inauthenticity of “Fronk” has never left us . ®