Should you agree to a trial assignment for job interviews? – The colorful fool | Region & Cash

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There’s a fine line between proving your skills and giving work away.


Important points

  • Today, many companies require job applicants to do real work to validate their competency.
  • Knowing where to draw the line is important to avoid being taken advantage of.

A friend of mine recently applied for a job as a copywriter. After successfully passing a few interviews, she asked the company she was interviewing with to create a mock marketing questionnaire to assess her skills.

It was a bit of work, but my friend was willing to put in the time because getting a job meant getting a higher salary and better benefits. She ended up getting hired, so she was glad she agreed to do the work.

But some companies assume that job candidates demonstrate their skills to an unfair extent — by asking them to do real work to validate their performance. On the one hand, it’s understandable that companies want to see how well candidates are doing before they make an offer.

But what about the applicants who take on these tasks and end up not getting an offer? At this point, it’s easy to argue that these candidates gave away free labor.

If you’re just applying for a job, it’s important to know how to respond to a request for a trial. Otherwise, you could easily be taken advantage of.

When companies cross borders

It’s one thing to be asked to do a short job or a sham job so a company can decide if you’re a good fit for the job at hand. But it’s another matter when a company asks you to do actual work that you might end up not being paid for. And you should make every effort to avoid this situation.

So what should you do if you are asked for a job as part of an application process? A good way is to assess the situation and try to gauge how reasonable the request is.

Let’s say you’re applying for a copywriting position and are asked to write a single paragraph about a product that your potential employer needs to market. While this may take some time, a single paragraph is a pretty reasonable question. But when you’re asked to develop a full-fledged marketing campaign that takes hours to put together, you might want to push back.

In this case, you may want to explain that while you are interested in the job, you have a busy schedule and only have a limited amount of time to do a trial job. The company you are speaking to might accept this as an appropriate response. If this is not the case and your application is rejected as a result of this rejection, this probably was not the right place to work anyway.

Suppose you apply for a job and are asked to complete a short mock assignment. That’s not such a far-fetched request. But when you’re asked to do actual work that that company is then allowed to keep and use, that effectively crosses the line of unpaid work. This is a situation you might want to retreat from.

Make the right call

It can be difficult to determine which candidate is right for a particular job from a series of interviews. And it’s understandable that employers want to see the skills candidates are said to have demonstrated. But when you’re applying for a new job, it’s important not to be taken advantage of during the interview.

It’s one thing to do a short job or a sham job to prove you’re up to the job at hand. But when you’re asked to put in long hours on an assignment, that’s a whole different story. And unless the company in question is willing to put a modest sum in your bank account as a consolation prize should you not get the job, you may want to pass on any job that takes more than an hour of your time.

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