Before I go further with this post, I want to publicly apologize to Fan History’s awesome tech guy, emufarmers. Through my own actions, I dragged him into this little drama. I wish I hadn’t as I respect him more than that.
James Mitchell and Juris Informatica is looking to hire a Mediawiki Administrator. I found out about this when Elizabeth Peterson contacted me on LinkedIn about this position, asked me if I might be interested in the position, and if I could e-mail answers to those questions to them. Parts of the section above those questions set off alarm bells, like being paid on commission but this type of job is not a paid on commission one. Because I wanted that sort of professional experience, I applied. I got called back with in about 10 minutes, before I even got an e-mail.
Weird. But whatever. I’ve had that sort of contact for a job interview before.
The guy who called me was not Elizabeth Peterson. It was James Mitchell. He wanted some one who had a bit more tech side. I’d thought, based on my resume, my LinkedIn profile, that it was pretty obvious that I didn’t have that and that from the personal LinkedIn solicitation, they would have known this already. Nope. Not true.
Whatever though. He wanted to know who I worked with at Fan History to do our tech stuff. I told him who. It was indicated to me that he would only work with me if my tech guy was on board to do work, so I gave him that information so he could contact my most awesome tech guy. (Rude on my part. Sorry emufarmers.)
I then got in touch with my awesome tech guy and a few professional acquaintances. One of them pointed out that WOW! Mr. James Mitchell, the guy who runs a legal website, asked an illegal hiring question: Am I married? Do I have children?
Another pointed out that the guy talked about working on commission based on getting leads for lawyers where they win a settlement. (Read: Work for free for a long time on some one’s site, where the pay out might not be for two years if the case goes quickly. Get zilch in the mean time because your time isn’t realy worth anything.) And he wants you to be independent finacially… while he’s busy not paying you:
Entrepreneurial Mindset. Obviously anyone who joins us has to be somewhat entrepreneurial, in that they receive a cut of revenues. We look for people that realize that even when you sell your time for $75 or $150 an hour, you are still a slave to the clock and you are never going to make serious money. We want people who are financially ambitious, who are looking to retire five years from now, and realize that by obtaining equity in highly profitable Web sites, one can reasonably soon end the tyranny of working for clients.
Financial Resources. They can afford an entrepreneurial work situation, both financially and psychologically — i.e. they can afford to work without a salary and instead receive a percentage of the profits of the Web sites they participate in. Our partners need to have some level of financial stability in their lives. Our approach involves some level of delayed gratification in exchange of extraordinary wealth down the road. (Note — Our partners do not invest any money, as the Firm pays all expenses. They do invest their time.)
If this was a sales job, cool! But the indication was that this was for content development. (Which is in itself a form of sales, but a different type of sales. And most sites I know that sell based on traffic you generate for them don’t pay off 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years down the road.)
All flags but I talked with Fan History’s tech guy and the working professionals I knew. I figured I could stomach the illegal hiring question issue, the reads like an arrogant ass… if he would be flexible enough to pay me a base salary based on time instead of that. If he is so sure that this is going to make millions, if he really needs my expertise, then it would be doable.
Except when he called me back, the first thing he did was insult my team member. Sorry. No. “I want you to do business with me. I want you to work for me. So you know what? I’m going to insult the people you do business with, and put them down.” Because that is how professionals work and how they get business.
He went through his spiel while I patiently listened. He’s going to scrape Wikipedia. He can do this legally he informed me. No one is really going to notice that he did that. They’ll just go ga ga over his content and because they are non-college educated people (because they are the ones with the biggest legal problems who are going to use the Internet and too stupid to realize that his content is Wikipedia duplicate content), they will be more likely to go with one of his lawyer leads as a result.
Which ignores the fact that Google doesn’t like duplicate content, punishes some scrapes like that, etc. It also engenders ill will from the wider wiki community. It slaps at your own credibility because you can’t create that type of content.
The conversation went on about how easy it was to automatically create content like that. Awesomeness. Then he told me how he happened to contact me: He or some one he hired built a bot to scrape all the members of the groups that mentioned Mediawiki on LinkedIn. Then an account was set up to automatically contact all those people to let them know about the job, using personalization to make it seem as if a person contacted them. It sounded like he was saying thatElizabeth Peterson didn’t actually exist. Special. That sort of usage of LinkedIn activity sounds kind of unethical and black hat. I like my SEO and other online activities to be white hat.
Did I mention that somewhere along the line he asked me about my personal life? My living situation? If I was married or if I was involved with some one? He repeatedly the illegal question that appeared on the application. He wants to make sure that you don’t have them so that when you’re taking a shower, his example, you will be thinking about your work and how you are going to make him and yourself a lot of money.
James Mitchell really wanted me to do content creation for him to generate leads. I’m passionate about many things but making money and generating content with that as the soul focus is not my passion. (And most of the books about start ups I’ve read talk about how successful ones are where people are passionate about what they do, not passionate about making money for the sake of making money.) I expressed to him that I was concerned that he would, you know, rip me off with payments. I would only work for salary. He assured me that he wouldn’t rip me off. I could trust him. Why? Because he needs me to make him money so he has no incentive to rip me off. (If I’m going to make you millions, why can’t you salary me? It is a sure thing for you and you can underpay me the value of those leads.)
Wrong answer dude. So let’s review the lessons on how to not hire a Mediawiki Administrator:
- Ask hiring questions that are illegal;
- Insult team members of the person you are hiring, persons that the person you are hiring thinks highly of;
- Ask the person to do work for you with the promise they will be paid for the leads they generate that could be, by your own admission, years down the line because of how the legal system works;
- Admit to ethically dubious behavior as part of your business plan;
- Tell some one that you have no incentive to rip you off because you need them to make you money.
The take away? Do not interview with James Mitchell.