This suggested edit by Mihai Nicolae was more appropriate as a meta post, so I am adding the content of the edit here for discussion by the community.

This was regarding the question "Is a complex test which benefits the company an ethical practice?":

Please reopen this question, as it falls in the general category of "Is X ethical?" questions. Of course, discussions about ethics, thus philosophy, will always be surrounded by presumably opinion-based answers, but denying this category of questions would be unfortunate: no question related to workplace ethics would be allowed. And if you can't talk about workplace ethics on a site about workplace, then a lot is lost from the beginning. Moreover, I believe I can provide rigorous arguments in order to support my choice. Of course, even mathematics starts from axioms, but I will state the "axiom" in my answer.)

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    possible duplicate of Are Ethics part of our purview?
    – jmac
    Oct 30, 2013 at 4:12
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    I personally think this is a duplicate but should be answered. Sure the question has been asked before, but times have changed, opinions hange and the user base has changed slightly too. This is an important discussion for the future of the site and I think it should be answered thusly, rather than being ignored because of decisions based on an older version of the site
    – user5305
    Oct 30, 2013 at 8:19
  • @RhysW - Great points, but many of these ethics questions may be editable to focus on a real problem rather than just the theory behind the problem. Not saying the theory isn't bad, just that it's one way to once again circumvent the discussion and still create great content. :) In summary, I feel like we get better questions if we ask the op why he/she is concerned with the ethics and then reword it as the problem the op is really trying to solve behind the scenes.
    – jmort253
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:19
  • @jmort253 oops, i meant this meta question should be answered as important to the site (should ethics be allowed) not that the question on main should be answered
    – user5305
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


Putting aside the discussions of ethics, let's look beneath the surface at what the question is really about and also ask ourselves if this question meets the broad guidelines of a good subjective question.

The answers to this question so far are opinion based, but many contain detailed explanations to help support those viewpoints. What's more, the question meets the following six subjective guidelines from the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog post:

1. Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”.

Most of the answers provide explanations for why interviewers may be administering such practices. At least one of the answers I read offers some input on how to tell if you're being taken advantage of -- how to tell the difference between an employer's evaluation and an employer taking advantage of free labor.

2. Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers.

Most of the answers go into great detail and are quite thorough. There are a few short ones that could probably be improved, but overall most of the answers appear helpful.

3. Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone.

The question presents a real, actual problem the asker faces or has faced. There's no ranting, flamebait, or attempts to create debate or argument. Multiple viewpoints are presented in answers, and again, some of the answers teach the audience how to catch fish and avoids just giving them fish. We see this in Alex N.'s answer.

4. Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions.

No actual references are used in any answers, but experience definitely plays a role in The Workplace. At least two answers include personal experiences that satisfy our site's back it up rule. Most certainly, some good edits could help other answers meet this guideline as well.

5. Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references.

We've agreed that answers can be backed with experiences that happened to us personally. Some of the answers may need to be improved in this area. We can use comments to tease these out of answerers, and then edit them back into the posts.

6. Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun.

This question's topic is of a very serious nature, and it's one that I picture many interviewees worry about. Under the hood, the question is really about fairness and equality. Is the technique of using a real project to evaluate a candidate fair to that candidate? Is it taking unfair advantage of that person? What does this tell us about the company's culture? These are surely expert level questions, yet they flirt heavily with the boundaries of our site's Q&A model, and they're quite subjective.

We know subjectivity isn't always a bad thing, and looking at the six subjective guidelines from the blog post, it seems this question could very well have a home here. We should strongly reconsider reopening the post with the understanding that all of the answers must support these six guidelines. It's not just the question-asker's responsibility to create great Stack Exchange content; that responsibility also belongs to the answerers and editors as well.

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    I think if the question were "We want to have this where the candidate will address an actual production issue. What boundries do we need to watch to maintain the ethical high ground(or something to that effect)?" Then it would be much better. I could also see the question "How should I respond to this type of test to prevent my work from being used for profit with out compensation?" There are probably hundreds of potential questions from this scenerio that would work. But they all address the real problem rather than ask us to pass judgement on the practice. Oct 30, 2013 at 19:10
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    @Chad, 100% agreed. Both of those would be tremendous questions.
    – jmac
    Oct 31, 2013 at 1:45

I voted to close and would argue to keep it closed.

Is this practice ethical, developing your company software using candidate testing? I have recently declined to solve the test, I'm trying to figure out if I exaggerated / overreacted.

I don't see an actual, practical question here.

Instead it is effectively asking, "hey what do you all think about having developers do tests to benefit the company?" - there is no definitive question other than this.

All the answers are naturally "here is what I think on this!" This of course makes sense since there is no real practical question or problem so all you are going to get is people's thoughts on the matter.

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    It may be possible to edit the question to conform and also match the two best answers that included personal experiences. Otherwise, as it stands, being on hold is not necessarily an incorrect state. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:10
  • A better question would be is "Is this practise legal". Nov 4, 2013 at 8:47

I was unable to find a proper duplicate, only marginally related questions.

As the author of the question, here is my (personal, subjective) input regarding ethics and questions arguing ethics. I find all of them subjective since I don't think objective morality exists. The notions of morally right and morally wrong always lead to large and complex battles especially because moral disagreements are rarely rationally resolvable.

While I agree that this is a subjective question implied by the ethics matter, I tried to phrase it as objectively as possible as to cover more general notions (interview - unpaid test - company benefit). If my unrefined English skills have led to misunderstanding the question as a totally subjective question, I would appreciate rephrasing assistance from a native English speaker.

After my thorough search on "workplace", I found no proper answers (or duplicate questions), so I believe that this question adds value to the community since it represents common practice and situations that many people have confronted before. Just rephrase it if you don't like it :D

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    You have just articulated why I voted to close this question...
    – enderland
    Oct 30, 2013 at 13:51
  • So all ethics-related questions should be removed from SE? :D
    – randunel
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:10
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    @randunel - No, but the ones that can be reworded to focus on a more specific question should be reworded. This prevents people from just giving random thoughts on the subject and instead teases out actual answers. I really only count two real answers on your post that meet our guidelines. The other answers arguably may need to be edited to meet our back it up rule. But in general, I do think this question could be edited and reopened.
    – jmort253
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:12
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    Instead of asking if it's ethical, you might be able to ask why employers do this and how you can tell if you're being taken advantage of. Not only does that get at the heart of your problem, but it's also more actionable; it solves a problem. I'd suggest jumping into The Workplace Chat to see if any of our top editors have any more tips on how to edit this. Good luck! :D
    – jmort253
    Oct 30, 2013 at 14:15
  • test was the wrong word its "unpaid work" Oct 30, 2013 at 16:49

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