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How not to scare off candidates with interview assignments

When an assignment is appropriate in the selection process and what should companies better avoid Giving candidates an assignment as a part of the selection process…

When an assignment is appropriate in the selection process and what should companies better avoid

Giving candidates an assignment as a part of the selection process has become a very common practice. While it is understandable that companies are looking for ways to best assess candidates’ abilities, requiring an assignment also has its risks. There are things that employers should avoid if they don’t want to put off top candidates, or even appear unethical and damage their reputation. Therefore, there are several factors to take into consideration when assigning a task or tasks, to be worked on.

At what stage of the interview to request the assignment

Companies should not burden a candidate with an assignment if they do not know yet, whether the candidate meets other requirements ascertained in an interview. At the same time, the firm should make sure before the assignment, that it can meet the candidate’s expectations in terms of the job description, promotion opportunities, salary requirements or flexibility of working hours, etc. Transparency and openness can save both parties a lot of time. It is far more appropriate to let the candidate know in advance, what the company can offer and what it can’t, rather than letting them work on an assignment out of curiosity, even though they know that the company can’t even come close to meeting candidate´s expectations.

Similarly, before a company proceeds with the assignment, it should first take advantage of all the opportunities to see examples of the candidate’s work for previous employers and clients or to check their references.

Adequacy of the assignment

One of the most important decisions of any assignment is its scope and adequacy. There are a number of factors to consider when doing this. Many people look for work while working elsewhere, often full-time. They will therefore consider whether and how much of their precious spare time they are willing to give up to unpaid work. The assignment should therefore not be extensive. It should aim to find out how the candidate thinks, not to get ready-made solutions. While brief assignments are readily delivered by most candidates, complex assignments usually raise suspicions of the company abusing the selection process to gain valuable know-how, for free.

Consider offering a compensation

Some firms offer candidates financial rewards, for completing an assignment. That is a good way for companies to increase their credibility in the eyes of potential employees. It shows that it values their experience and time and can appreciate them. If the company insists on a larger or time costly assignment, it should consider this option. Chances are high then, that it will retain the interest of quality candidates.

Timely evaluation

Elaborated assignment undoubtedly helps employer to test qualities of the candidate in several aspects. Apart from the content, timeline of preparation and, for many positions, visual form can also play an important role. However, the same is true in reverse. Company should state at the outset, by when it will evaluate the elaboration and give feedback to the candidate, keeping deadline. Lasting selection process and failure to meet deadlines on the side of the employer is, unfortunately, a common problem and gives candidates an unflattering picture of their potential employers.


So, should you give an assignment to candidates? If it’s necessary, then yes. But remember, showing, that the company values the time and expertise of the job candidates, will certainly help the successful selection process.