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So employers want to get to know their candidates. This is more than the oral presentation, and more than the give and take in the job interview (s). More often than not, candidates for senior positions are asked to produce or create some kind of work product as a part of their hiring process, something that may indeed help a candidate be known and better understood by a hiring committee, but also often requires creating a particular product that then "belongs" to the organization. We keep hearing about this right now, folks immersed in long processes made even longer by the demand by prospective employers to create portfolios filled with content, write prospectuses and plans, design materials and offer proposals, all of which then somehow becomes the property of the employer.

Do you feel icky yet? Yes. So what does this look like?

A candidate for a marketing position might be asked to create a sample marketing plan. Or a candidate for a development position might be asked to create a fundraising plan or a pitch to a major donor. A candidate for an educational leadership position might be asked to put together a scope and sequence for a curriculum. And even in some instances, candidates are asked to review a job description (not a job posting, but the more detailed description of the "work" of the position) and clarify what might be missing, what needs to be added, edited or revised, in order to have some assistance in refining the position, also constituting work on behalf of the prospective employer.

And at the end of their interview process, those pieces of content then are in the hands of the folks who have conducted the interview, and they end up using them as they wish.

All of this is not good. It may feel like a good chance for candidates to show their stuff, but this kind of uncompensated work benefits the employer, and very rarely benefits the candidate.


How much time is a candidate putting into this? Once it's beyond an hour, think about their hourly rate, and whether or not it's worth the many, many hours you're asking them to prepare. There are those who have put in 15-20 hours on uncompensated work for job interviews. If you make $350 an hour, that's up to $7000 a candidate could be losing, just on this process alone.

What if you didn't have the time? This is the key to the core inequities in this uncompensated work issue. If you did not have the time, would you then be unable to apply, or be thus ineligible for the position? If a candidate is working full time while applying for another job, well, it's then a full time job to apply for another job. What if you actually cannot get the additional work done? This could be about caregiving responsibilities, the demands of your current job, and a million other things, and that doesn't seem fair.

Why don't we pay for work, even in this kind of process? Unpaid, unseen labor is a terrible problem inside our employment system, especially when it comes to the unseen work of women and people of color. We end up exploiting people because we've always exploited them, and we can't continue to traffic in this kind of unethical behavior. This is an issue with contractors and consultants, as well, but in this case, the problem is on the way in for those applying for positions. Asking candidates to perform uncompensated work tests or create content without compensation undervalues their contributions, is a reminder of the double burden on these folks to do twice the work to get half as far, and undervalues what they bring as candidates to the table. Pay them for their work, or don't ask them to work in this process.

Bottom line, don't risk it.

When organizations create hiring processes like these that involve uncompensated work and work tests, they end up making candidates feel resentful and angry, and these folks do talk. This becomes the reputational damage that hurts our very best employers, our non-profits doing excellent work on mission and vision aligned change-making in the world. Let us invite you to have some integrity, and not to treat the folks applying for positions like they're there to serve, but like they are the repositories of potential. They are. So are our employers. Together, we can remove unjust and inequitable parts of hiring processes that disadvantage those without time, resources or capacity, and create a more level playing field for everyone.

Our 2 cents on this in the last few years: see below for more resources on this topic.

In a non-profit setting, it's absolutely crucial to engage constituents and stakeholders to share in the experience of hiring, both to mitigate and challenge biases and to engage them in aligning to vision and values. But where's the line?

Let's bottom line it. Interviewing should not take forever. Really, it shouldn't.

What does a long hiring process mean?

Here are just a few reasons that your hiring process might be taking forever.

  1. The organization engaged in hiring is not clear about their process.

  2. They're indecisive about the candidates they're seeing.

  3. They've written a poor job posting that doesn't explain the position well.

  4. They haven't created a set of criteria to evaluate candidates equitably (which leads back to #2).

  5. They're disorganized.

  6. They don't know who is in charge. This could be that no one is in charge, or that everyone is in charge.

  7. They have FOMO (fear of missing out) on the best candidate or "the right fit."

  8. They don't have anyone serving in an HR function, or they have someone in that position who has no power.

  9. Where there's an HR staff person or team, they don't see their role as cultivating talent. Where there's also a talent team, there may be a conflict with HR.

  10. They bought into all kinds of bells and whistles with a new platform that they can't seem to use (electronic resume submissions, video interviewing, etc.).

  11. They don't know how to give bad news.

  12. They don't realize that they might lose out on excellent candidates.

  13. They can't review any tasks being done by candidates in a timely fashion.

  14. They know it takes time (typically 7-10 weeks) but think only then it happens to other people.

  15. They got burned last time.

Check out this sweet little take on the interview process, and how it might end....thanks to comedian Mike Pena.

Recall that we--and many others--recommend asking for the timeline for the hiring process (see our earlier blogposts). This is a helpful reminder to the person you're speaking with (hiring manager, board representative, HR staff person) that you're serious, thoughtful and organized. It is also an opportunity to find out exactly what they you can understand their process, and succeed.

Yes, we're nearing the end of our series. And yes, we still have some advice for you and helpful tips for your interview preparation from our Gender Equity Advocates. Their collected wisdom this week gets into the thornier stuff, with harder questions and contemplating readiness to talk about issues of diversity, inclusion, belonging and of course, equity.

13. Prepare for some of the tricky questions. Many interviews include tricky questions that are not exactly biased, but that don’t necessarily help to deepen an employer’s knowledge about how you work. They go beyond “tell me more about yourself” into probing your flaws. These questions might include “what is an area of weakness you might bring to your work” (or the better version, “what might be an area in which you want to grow”) all the way to “what would your previous coworkers say about you?” So many interviews include questions like these, even those that are using a standard set of questions and an equitable score cards model to document and evaluate their process. Consider how you might want to respond to these trickier questions. Remember that it is perfectly acceptable to say “this is a great question. Thank you for asking” as you buy yourself some time to take a deep breath and think about a response.

14. Only share or send materials that are requested. Employers will often ask prospective employees to share writing samples or other content throughout a process. Share exactly what they request–and only that. Don’t feel the need to share more, or more than one of what they request. By sending extra, you add to their workload, and invite them to consider that you might not know which one is best to send. Send the single item that you think exemplifies your best work, and let them know. Don't send extra stuff that they might not look at anyway. If you’re asked to do specific work-related assignments, we encourage you to think about how that fits into your–and the organization’s–approach to equity, as well: these tasks should always be compensated, and should appreciate your time and the balance of power that these tasks represent.

15. Be ready to talk about DEIJB. Many, if not most, non profit and mission-driven organizations are engaged in challenging conversations about equity, diversity, inclusion, justice and belonging in the workplace. And if they’re not, they should be–and they are likely aware of the need. Your prospective employer may want to hear you referencing issues linked to DEIJB in your interview, and even in your cover letter or communication, perhaps not overtly, but in ways that are aligned with organizational values and in ways that highlights the core areas of work outlined in the job posting. Your prospective employer will want to know that you are familiar with these core themes, that you take them seriously, and that you both walk the walk and talk the talk in your personal and professional life. Consider how you might make your commitment to these values clear. Do you want to make mention of particular language or ask questions about programs and projects that might align with your personal and professional DEIJB goals? If this organization is part of the Jewish communal orbit, you may want to ask if they are members of the Safety Respect Equity Network, a Jewish network of over 160 organizations that is rooted in a shared commitment to these values for all, both employees and constituents, inspiring meaningful change in workplaces and communal spaces by bringing people together to address gender-based harassment, discrimination, and inequity.

You want to do this with a friend.

We're your network and community of colleagues.

Make sure to tap us for support as you move forward.

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