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A couple of months ago, I was asked about my opinion of job auditions for an article by Jasmine Crittenden from HRM Online. My response focused on the concern that job seekers might be taken advantage of during the process and the ability for potential employers to act in an unethical manner. Certainly, there has been evidence that this does occur from time to time when as a result of the audition the candidate does not get the position but the material he or she produced is used by the company.

A week after the interview, my son was asked to do an audition involving a presentation in front of the team and video camera. He put in quite a few hours of work to the presentation, but the company was not going to benefit from the effort apart from seeing what he could do. It seemed like a totally reasonable audition designed to see if he would be able to perform the way they needed.

Compare this to someone who is asked to present a new marketing idea for the company and while the company did not employ the candidate, they did go on and use the marketing strategy presented in the audition. This outcome does not seem reasonable and has taken advantage of the candidate’s knowledge without any offer of compensation.

Clearly there are circumstances where job auditions can be deployed appropriately and designed to genuinely test the candidate for various elements of fit in the company including skills, experience, thinking style and event cultural fit. At the other end of the spectrum though, it can be used in an unethical and almost predatory manner where the company benefits from the best ideas developed and presented by candidates without any form of compensation. This raises an important question: Who owns the IP from the information, strategies or other concepts presented in a job audition?

In a job audition there is usually no compensation paid, it is most likely the candidate that still owns the IP and there are risks on both sides of the relationship:

  1. There is a risk that the candidate might be taken advantage of and the IP is used without the candidate being employed.
  2.  However, it is also possible that in this situation, the unsuccessful candidate whose IP has been used without permission or compensation, might begin an action against the auditioning company on the basis of an implied contract.

If job auditions are to be used, consideration should be given to ensuring that they should:

  1. Be designed to genuinely test the candidate’s skills, presentation or cultural fit;
  2. Involve a reasonable period of time without taking so much of the candidate’s time that compensation should be paid;
  3. Avoid a situation where the candidate is providing IP to the company which prevents any temptation to use it in an unauthorised manner. However, if it can’t be avoided, there should be an agreement that is fair to both parties.
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