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About Uncompensated Work in the Hiring Process, Part 2

In July 2022, we wrote about avoiding uncompensated work during the hiring process. We feel very strongly that it's crucial to get to know candidates and their work, and most especially the quality of their work, during an interview process. At the same time, this must be balanced with an awareness that demanding work product can become onerous for a candidate, and an opportunity to score "work for free" that an organization then can essentially own. Additionally, it creates an unnatural and unhealthy power imbalance in the interview process.

However, in the last 8 months, we have noticed a healthy trend toward compensated tasks in the hiring process, toward equity, most especially in the Jewish non-profit community, where organizations are compensating candidates for their time, or reducing the burden on them by reducing the time commitment required for these performance tasks. Both of these shifts are worthwhile, both are important, and both honor a commitment to equity in the hiring process: compensation for time, and an acknowledgment of time and effort allocated. If this does not yet represent your organization, we invite you to consider making this change, and we encourage it (and are happy to help you consider how to do so).

This trend toward paying candidates for their work, of course, does not apply to all candidates, nor does it apply to all tasks. If a candidate is spending more than about an hour or an hour and a half on any given task, consider compensating that person. Imagine it this way: if this person is valuable to you, this is an investment in this relationship. If this person is not necessarily valuable to you, this is still an investment in your organization's reputation that serves you in the long term.

Consider as well the intellectual property issues at stake. The content produced by the work you are requiring in the hiring process belongs to someone. Please define this from the beginning. If you as the hiring manager need to make this clear, please do so, so that there is no confusion moving into the future. Candidates should retain the rights to their assets, so in fact, any intellectual property should belong to them. However, if you are asking them to write a donor letter, or create advertising copy, an article, or a lesson plan, this may be less clear. Please make sure that it is clear--and know that your choice may send a particular message to the candidate about whether or not they choose to move forward in a professional relationship with you.

Candidates, use this as a test, and not just with your employers, but for yourself as well. When you are asked to do work as part of an interview process, and you're feeling excited about it, that sends a particular message. If you are feeling unsure or unhappy about this work, that will send another message entirely. If the work is uncompensated and you ask, and are told that there is no compensation available, this may make your choice clear. We invite you to consider using this as a test to clarify whether or not you truly want the position, or as one part of that larger process.

Performance tests as a part of the hiring process are one of many chances for a candidate to show off their skills and impress their potential employers with their writing, organization, creativity and design. But this is done on the candidate's time, and in that way, the candidate needs to be careful to hew to a set of parameters about how they are comfortable working--compensated, equitable, and in line with their needs and expectations for their future work. Whether or not you're hiring, or seeking a position, consider whether or not you're prepared for these kinds of tasks, and what it might mean to say yes--or no--to them. Bottom line, we don't support unpaid work for anyone, and we recognize the unjust nature of unpaid work and its effect on women and other marginalized folks. We want to make sure that our employers and our candidates for jobs all know that time is precious, our people are precious, and we believe that sharing the burden by sharing compensation is the most equitable approach.


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