ASK DN: How normal is it to be given a test assignment during the job candidate process?

over 5 years ago from , Creative Director at Deciduous

Say I'm interviewing for a job, I make it past the first round of interviews and I'm given a project to work on as a test. It's not a big project, just a test of skill and how a person responds to feedback.


  • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, over 5 years ago

    If it's an on-site little project that you can do in an hour or in a collaborative setting, I think that's great and can demonstrate your ability to work with the team.

    If it's something more complex or takes a lot of time (i.e. homework), I would kindly say no thank you and walk the opposite direction. If your previous work can't stand for itself, I'm not giving them free spec work to take and use.

    15 points
    • Lance TurriLance Turri, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

      I completely agree! On-site projects are great to understand a candidate's process, attention to detail, methods, etc. Giving complex homework (especially having to do with that company's project) is essentially asking for free design work / ideas.

      They wanted to talk to you about working for them and farming new ideas off of you with the hope of getting hired is not very good practice. Like Kyle said, "walk the opposite direction".

      2 points
    • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, over 5 years ago

      I've done longer "test" projects as a potential hire that are for real client projects. So, basically contracting for part of the project.

      Each time (3 times) I work on a small part of the project, typically lasting 8-10 hours. If I'm hired then I complete the full project after the start date.

      Either way I am paid for my time as a contractor.

      I think interview tests can be broken down in two ways, and employers and potential employees should follow this rule:

      1. Complete a short test that last 1-2 hours. These can be simple, fictional projects or tests.
      2. Complete real client work, but the potential must be paid for their time as a contractor whether they are hired or not.
      2 points
      • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

        Ah, yeah, if you're getting paid for your time, then that makes sense. I've definitely seen it done more often as a "test" where it's essentially just work - in fact, back in my young design days, I did one or two myself, only to later realize that they had taken my little demo flyer and printed out thousands of them to use.

        0 points
    • Michael AleoMichael Aleo, over 5 years ago

      This. If it's something that happens with the team and is a collaborate exercise, cool. If it's 12 hours of take-home work, you should be getting paid.

      1 point
    • Luca Candela, over 5 years ago

      I think it's short sighted. Most designers have bad portfolios or work they can't show for some reason. It's very hard to judge someone's ability to perform in one hour, you end up hiring a lot of good framers that might be weak on execution.

      Take home projects are a great asset for both the candidate and the company, the trick is to do work that is meaningful without exploiting the interview process to get free work.

      By the way, if you think you can get usable work out of a take home assignment then your design problem is not that interesting. No one can perform optimally without living and breathing the team and the problem.

      0 points
    • Chris ColemanChris Coleman, over 5 years ago

      When hiring front-end developers, I'm able to really get a sense of a candidate's skill if I give them a PSD to turn into a static page over a weekend or so.

      Is anybody seriously asking candidates to do work for them? I use a standard PSD that I give to all candidates. I'm sure it's a very different process for designers, but for front-end, there's really no way to know for sure what a person has done without something like this.

      2 points
      • Dean HaydenDean Hayden, over 5 years ago

        The company I used to work for did this. Rather than a fully layered PSD we gave them a set of assets and a flat visual to use as the guide / goal.

        Good to weed out those that didn't use their eyes or pay attention to detail. It was also good to see perceptions of graceful degridation too (from not bothering to complete overkill).

        1 point
        • Chris ColemanChris Coleman, over 5 years ago

          Exactly! I actually put together a pretty detailed PSD that I would give to candidates, and it included a lot of detail that would help you figure out things you should include. Some of it was like tabs that weren't obviously tabs, but might just be links. If you dug into the PSD you'd see each of the links was associated with a hidden tab layer and could also be highlighted when it was active. It included plenty of challenges like this that I didn't explicitly tell them about. I'm looking for the ability to think and ask the right questions even more than I'm looking for someone who can write clever code.

          0 points
  • Ryan Boye, over 5 years ago

    I think it's very common. Most of the time they don't even care if you finish it, they just want you to spend a little time thinking about it so you can discuss it with the team. They just want to see your thought process.

    I don't really understand why a lot of these comments are all up in arms about putting a few hours of work towards showing your process.

    5 points
  • Shirley MoralesShirley Morales, over 5 years ago

    I would say it's totally normal. I've had to do quite a few at interviews. I believe the best tests are those that a designer can do within an hour or two. Mainly to show critical thinking and their design process.

    5 points
  • Josh KnowlesJosh Knowles, over 5 years ago

    If they're asking you to do work as an exercise to see how you think, that's one thing. But if they're asking you to do work for free that they would otherwise pay someone to do? Probably illegal.

    1 point
  • Chase ThompsonChase Thompson, over 5 years ago

    It's pretty normal. I've even been given design homework that took a substantial amount of time to complete (redesign this web app for us, etc).

    1 point
  • John Jackson, over 5 years ago

    I have come across many companies that require candidates complete a trial project before being hired on. However, in most situations, the candidate is paid for the time spent on the project. I have had companies and individuals request that I design something during the selection process without pay; I politely tell them that my time is valuable and I will not design for free.

    0 points
  • Emily Campbell, over 5 years ago

    It's unfortunate that it is so accepted. If it's a small project, such as one done on site or as a quick burst task with immediate follow up, it's more acceptable. However, if a company asks you to fully redesign a page or contribute half a day or more of your time, you may want to consider some other options. Offer to do an on-site interview where you can walk the person through your process, suggest doing some freelancing work for them if they are concerned about testing your abilities on the job, or just say "NO"

    If you do end up doing work for them, spec or not, be sure to protect yourself legally. You are not obligated to sign over any rights to your work unless you agree to do so contractually. Keep very careful track of anything you produce and make note of the deliverables. That way, if they don't offer you the job but 6 months later you see your lovely design work on their homepage, you can confidently send them a letter (or call a lawyer)

    0 points