We understand how valuable it is to get to know candidates, their work, and work product in an interview process. In fact, it’s crucial. However, these types of projects, when they become content that you “own” and can use, or is clearly uncompensated work for your organization, can instill distrust and place an undue burden on your candidates, while perpetuating a power imbalance in the interview process.
If you need to include an assessment, spell it out at the beginning of the process. Explain how long you anticipate the project could take, how the work will be used, and what you hope to learn based on the output. You should have documented a desired outcome of what you hope to learn. Otherwise, consider what purpose this project is serving in your process, and what might be changed to serve you best. And because this is an investment in your candidate’s time, make sure to budget so that you can compensate your candidates for their time commitment to the assessment.
A reasonable and respectful skills assessment may look like asking a candidate to review a past piece of work product and share their thoughts either in writing or conversation on that piece (assuming it’s not a 17-page legal contract). Asking a candidate to spend valuable time on a tight deadline to create several custom pieces of work for your business can be viewed as presumptuous and uncompensated labor. Due to the aforementioned power imbalance, candidates are likely to shy away from pushing back or saying no. Lead with trust by explaining exactly what amount of time you expect a project to take. Ask your candidate what their timeline might look like for completion. Expecting a short turn around can be especially burdensome on people who are quietly searching for their next role while employed or caretaking for loved ones. Assignments and assessments should have reasonable, respectful and responsible lead time, not take a lot of time to complete, and be focused on the candidate’s demonstration of skills rather than doing actual labor.