HR, HR & Employment, Recruitment

Can I Ask Job Candidates to Carry Out Sample Tasks?

Business Advice | 17 April 2023 | 1 year ago

Regardless of the specific role, business or industry, there is a lot that goes into the job hunting process. From the moment their CV and cover letter is submitted, candidates know that they could have a fair amount of work ahead of them. There could be a screening call with a recruiter, multiple interviews and even time spent with the team. In a lot of industries, a sample task is also a possibility. Many hiring managers like to get a better idea of a candidate’s skills by asking for sample work and this is understandable, but is this fair? In this blog, we have taken a look at the fairness job interview tasks and how you should go about setting one.

Though it’s not uncommon to be asked to carry out a sample task, and it’s something that a lot of candidates will be expecting, you shouldn’t simply set a task that you need to do in the office. You might have a sales pitch that needs finalising or a design that needs editing, but these are unlikely to be a job interview task that someone will be happy to do. Plus, they might not showcase the skills that you are looking for.

When you are setting a task, think about what you want to find out about the candidate. Do you want to see how they follow a brief, or do you want to know if they work well under pressure. You might want to see if they fit in with your existing team, or if they have a creative flair that could give your business a boost. Below, we have detailed some key things to bear in mind before you get started.

Respect the Candidate’s Time

A lot of time and energy goes into looking for a job, and good candidates are likely to be busy with other interviews and tasks. They will also probably have a full time job to juggle at the same time, as well as hobbies and social events. It’s unlikely that they will be able to drop everything to turn around a large task quickly, even if you are offering them their dream job, so be mindful of that when you are asking them to carry out a sample task.

If you ask too much of candidates, it’s likely that those who are busy will have to decline to take their application any further. You could end up only screening for candidates who have no other options, rather than those that are talented and best for the role. This could leave you with options that are inexperienced, under qualified or not suitable for the role. To ensure that you are appealing to top talent, it’s important to be flexible with scope and timeframes. You should be understanding of candidates that have other commitments to work around.

Ask Only the Likely Candidates

There is a high chance that you will have a lot of candidates applying for a position, but you shouldn’t ask all of them to complete job interview tasks. Don’t ask a candidate for free work if you are not willing to give them serious consideration. Only ask candidates who reach a certain point in the process, to avoid wasting their time and yours. A job interview task should be used as a way to narrow down your final candidates and to highlight which one is the best fit for your team, not as a way to see what everyone who applied is capable of. Unless someone is generally in the running for the job, they shouldn’t be asked to carry out an unpaid task.

Don’t Use a Candidate’s Work

Once you have asked a candidate to complete job interview tasks, you might be tempted to use their work in one way or another. You might want to use a logo they have created or post a blog they have written on your website, or you might want to use a storyboard to pitch a new marketing idea for a client. Though the work has been created specifically for you, you should not use it. Of course, this is something that you can discuss with your chosen candidate once their employment has been finalised.

Some unscrupulous employers have candidates work on real work projects – such as a complex client pitch or design brief – and use it without pay or credit. Not only is this likely to send candidates running towards a competitor business, one that appreciates the time and effort that has gone into the task, it reflects badly on you as a business. You should showcase your business as one that wants to pay people fairly for the work they do, not a business that tries to get something for nothing.

Ask for Existing Samples

To avoid having to ask a candidate to complete job interview tasks, consider asking for existing samples of their work. You could ask to see their portfolio or for links to previous work they have done for other people, as these should give you a good idea of their style, skills and experience. For a writer, this could be links to blog posts or website content that they have recently created. For a photographer, this could be an album of past projects, or photographs they have taken in their free time.

For the majority of roles, a candidate will be able to show you samples of what they have achieved throughout their career. Though this will not be tailored to your business in the same way a bespoke job interview task would be, it should still give a good insight into what they are capable of and how their experience could benefit your business. It’s a great way of seeing what someone can do as an employee, without asking too much of their time and commitment to the recruitment process.

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