It’s ok to say no to a job interview assignment?

Examine the potential concerns of unpaid hiring assignments tasks during the job application process. Discover insights from junior and senior developers on whether to accept or decline these assignments.

Unlocking tech talent stories

May 7, 2024

When it comes to evaluating a candidate’s potential work, recruiters often resort to ‘unpaid hiring assignments,’ a practice that involves candidates completing tasks without compensation. This practice, such as assigning take-home assignments, can be met with strong disapproval from about half of job seekers. Some of whom may drop out of the application process altogether. However, there is a perspective that these assignments can provide candidates with an opportunity to showcase their skills, potentially leading to less biased hiring decisions.

One of the more contentious practices in hiring presently revolves around the allocation of ‘unpaid hiring assignments’ to job applicants. These assignments, akin to “tests,” usually mark one of the final stages in the hiring procedure, and their complexity can vary. We’re not discussing personality evaluations here. Instead, companies task candidates with projects closely mirroring the responsibilities of the desired position.

From the company’s perspective, assessing a candidate’s suitability for a role becomes more straightforward when they can observe their performance in relevant tasks. Consequently, it mitigates the risk associated with hiring.

Conversely, candidates are growing increasingly frustrated with investing hours into these projects when:

  • The number of competing candidates remains unclear.
  • They receive no compensation for their time.
  • The company retains rights to the work, even if the candidate isn’t hired.
  • They are uncertain about the repercussions of declining or challenging the request.

Despite potential benefits, many candidates find themselves questioning the value of such assignments. They may wonder if it’s acceptable to decline them or if they can request clearer instructions or extensions without facing repercussions.

With this in mind, we decided to gather some feedback on how the community feels about this issue.

Junior vs. Senior Developer perspectives

Personal perspectives on the matter vary among professionals, with junior and senior developers offering distinct viewpoints.

Junior developers, contrary to expectations, may also express reluctance to complete job exercises without compensation. For instance, Eugénio Frostwood [fictional name] , asserts:

“I’m a C++ Software Developer with one year of experience, and I’m not willing to do an exercise unless I get paid.”

On the other hand, senior developers like Lopez Starling [fictional name] advocate for a more cautious approach, suggesting:

“Candidates carefully consider whether to accept assignments, as they can be time-consuming and may not always lead to positive outcomes. Prioritising interactive coding sessions over take-home assignments, as they provide a more direct assessment of a candidate’s skills and knowledge.”

What can do you

Ultimately, candidates faced with the decision to decline an assignment should evaluate their reasons for doing so. Whether it’s due to time constraints, unclear expectations, or concerns about exploitation, it’s essential to initiate a dialogue with the employer to gain a better understanding of the role and the company’s expectations.

As ‘unpaid hiring assignments’ continue to spark debate, it’s essential for candidates to consider how they approach these tasks during the job application process. Job interview projects likely won’t go away anytime soon, so candidates must ask themselves how badly they want a job before deciding to complete a test or project. It’s fair to ask a company to compensate you for your time, but don’t expect them to say yes, especially if the job is in high-demand and many other candidates are willing to do the work for free.

Ultimately, it’s best to have alternatives so that you don’t feel pressured to complete the project because your options are limited.


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