By Joe Stein | Interviewing

For some employers, the traditional phone screen and interview process is not enough information for them. They believe that by adding an additional layer to the process, they can better identify who should be the individual hired.

One of the most common add-ons is the creation of a “homework” assignment that is then given to candidates to complete on their own. This additional step can take the form of a number of different “homework” assignments. Let’s examine the most common type of assignments you might see:

• Personality/Behavior Exam – These types of exams are usually designed to be completed at home, but some companies may require you to complete the questionnaire (or even the entire process) while at the work facility. Examples such as the Myers-Briggs or the Birkman require you to answer a number of questions that are designed to gauge your work style/personality. Employers will use these types of exams as a tool to determine whether you will be a good fit for the position or the company.

• Scenario Essays – This type of “homework” assignment is usually relegated to those seeking a Management position or perhaps a job where problem-solving will be a critical element. It requires you to read a scenario and then write out in narrative form (I guess some technologically progressive companies could require video explanation) how you would handle the issue. The potential employer is seeking assurance that your style aligns with the culture and that you have the proper problem-solving skills.

• Technical Aptitude – You could be given an assignment of creating some product in order to prove you have the technical (and perhaps creative) skills to do the job. This could range from creating a PowerPoint deck to producing a mock marketing campaign using social media. In this situation, the employer feels that they must see your actual work rather than just relying on you explaining what you would do in an interview.

• Presentation – In this assignment, you are expected to create a presentation or training on a topic (either selected by you or already given). This assignment is usually done for Management or Learning & Development positions to gauge your public speaking and oral communication skills, as well as your ability to create a presentation.

All of these assignments take work (albeit at a varying range of effort) to prepare or create. This is above and beyond the regular research activities you are already doing in pursuit of the position. When you couple this with the rest of your job search as well as potentially working another job, then this assignment can easily become a real burden to you.

Generally, these “homework” assignments are a non-negotiable requirement (and they have to be in order to be considered valid), so if you want to be considered, you will have to complete. This will be required fairly early in the process to determine whether or not you truly are interested in the role. If you are not interested, then gracefully bow out without making the “homework” assignment a contentious issue (you do not want to burn any bridges).

If you are interested enough in the position to complete the work, then you must commit to giving it your best effort. These assignments are obviously very important to the prospective employer and it should be assumed they will carry great weight (if not…then why do them?) towards the hiring decision.

One area to note is that employers must validate that these assignments actually lead to better hiring decisions and that it does not have a disparate impact (an unexpected consequence) towards a particular race, religion, national origin, etc. Unfortunately, many employers move forward with these “homework” assignments without properly doing a validation study. If you feel that an assigned “homework” project is being used (or will be) improperly, then you have to decide whether to pass on the test and move on, take it and hope for the best, or report it to the appropriate government agency.

Being assigned “homework” by a prospective employer must be viewed with a high level of importance. The first step is to determine whether or not this position is (in your eyes) worthy of making the time commitment needed to complete this project. If you decide to tackle it head on, then be sure to give it your best effort in order to use this exercise to differentiate yourself from the other candidates.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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