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Pros and Cons of Take-Home Interview Assignments and How to Use Them

When conducting interviews, it can help to incorporate several ways to evaluate the candidates. One option is a take-home interview assignment. Learn what a take-home assignment is and the pros and cons.

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What are take-home interview assignments?

A take-home interview assignment is a real-world project that a job candidate completes outside of the interview. You might ask the candidate to create a sample or mock-up, solve a problem or review a case study. The goal is to assess each candidate’s skills to help choose someone for the job.

Pros of an interview assignment

When conducted well, an interview assignment can give you accurate insight into a candidate’s qualifications and skills. You often get a better idea of what they can do than with standard interview questions. Some benefitsinclude:

1. See work-related skills in action

In an interview setting, job seekers can say they have lots of skills, but it’s not always possible to verify those skills. Asking them to complete a project gives you a real-world way to assess their skills and understanding of the workload.

2. Evaluate soft skills like time management and problem-solving

A take-home assignment can also give you insight into transferable skills like time management. If they’re scrambling to finish, ask for an extension or submit poor-quality work because they ran out of time, you might have concerns about how well they manage their time and responsibilities.These skills can be just as important as hard skills related to the position.

3. Candidates get a taste of the job

More than ever, job seekers are also interviewing organizations and deciding if they want to work there. Working through a project assigned by the company lets them see what working for you might be like. If they’re changing careers, they might use it as a chance to see if they might like the new role. They can also get a sense of whether or not they like your project management and general operational style by how you run the assignment.

4. Lower-pressure opportunity for candidates to shine

Interviews can be a stressful experience for some people.They may feel anxious when asked several questions, especially if it’s a panel interview with several interviewers. A take-home assignment is a hands-on task they can do on their own time in the comfort of their home. This can take some of the pressure off and let the candidate showcase their skills well.

Cons of a take-home assignment

Before you decide to implement take-home assignments, consider the following challenges:

1. Time-consuming

Remember that not all candidates can be hired, so you must be respectful of their time. Assignments can vary in length, but some candidates might spend longer than you expect in an attempt to make it perfect.

2. Unbalanced effort

Candidates might perceive an interview assignment as an unbalanced interaction. They’re potentially putting lots of time and effort into something they might not expect to get any feedback on.

3. Candidate resistance

Some interviewees may be hesitant to complete unpaid work. You could lose promising candidates who decide to withdraw themselves from consideration after they find out about the assignment. It can negatively impact the candidate’s experience even if they decide to do the task. This reinforces the importance of transparent hiring practices to ensure applicants have a clear understanding of your process and what will be expected of them.

4. Other companies might not do them

You’re often competing with several other companies for new employees. If other employers in your area aren’t including take-home assignments in their interview process, you could be at a disadvantage. Job seekers might drop out of the process if you expect them to complete extra work when they don’t have to do that with other organizations.

Job interview assignment examples

The take-home assignment you create should assess the skills required for the job. That means each assignment might be a little different depending on the role. Here are some job interview assignment examples to spark your creativity:

  • Writing sample: If you’re hiring a writer or editor for your team, have them complete a mock assignment. Ask writers to compose a short sample that fits your style and editorial guidelines. For an editor role, you might provide a sample and have them edit it.
  • Lesson plan or teaching demonstration: Asking teaching candidates to write lesson plans or teach a mock lesson can help you see their teaching style and skills in action.
  • Sales presentation: Assign a product to each candidate and have them create a sales pitch around it.
  • Coding fix: A software engineer assignment might be to find a coding issue and fix it.
  • Case studies: You can use case studies for a wide range of fields as long as they relate to the position.
  • Graphic design project: If you’re hiring a graphic designer, ask them to create a simple design project.

Best practices for creating a take-home assignment

If you decide to try a take-home interview assignment, planning and executing it carefully can get you better results. Following these best practices can help you overcome some of the challenges of assigning interviewees an at-home assignment:

  • Keep it simple: Be respectful of candidates’ time. The assignment shouldn’t be overly complex, especially since the candidate isn’t guaranteed the job after doing the work.
  • Explain it clearly: Provide explicit instructions on what the candidate is expected to do. Include any resources or additional information the candidates might need to finish the assignment.
  • Encourage questions: Some candidates might want clarification on the assignment or your expectations. Make it easy for them to contact you with questions.
  • Relate it to the role: Choose a task that relates to the position and allows the participants to show their skills.
  • Separate it from your company’s current problems: While the problem should relate to the role, it shouldn’t relate too closely to your current work. Avoid using the assignments as free work that you end up using on real projects.
  • Have clear evaluation criteria: Specific evaluation areas, criteria and score sheets can help you evaluate the assignment more objectively.
  • Assign a reasonable due date: Give interviewees ample time to complete the task, keeping in mind they have other things going on in their life. If you assign a task with a quick turnaround time, you may give candidates the impression your company doesn’t value work/life balance.
  • Follow up with feedback: The participants put in their personal time to complete the assignment. Spending your time evaluating it and providing feedback gives them something in return.

FAQs about interview assignments

Should you require a take-home assignment?

Every company’s interview process looks slightly different based on their needs and preferences. Evaluate your current process and the success you have in selecting candidates based on performance, how long they stay and other metrics. Also, consider the skills necessary for the job and the best way to evaluate them to decide if a take-home assignment would work well.

How much time should a take-home assignment require?

Consider creating a simple project that won’t take hours to complete. If you’re asking multiple candidates to complete the assignment, all but one of them are doing it and not ending up with the job. Choosing something that might only take an hour or less can make it moreappealing.

How can you make an interview assignment more enjoyable for candidates?

You canget buy-in from candidates by making the task interesting and relevant. It could help to give the candidates some choice and flexibility in what they do or how they complete the assignment. You might let them pick their own topic, for instance.

Who should complete take-home assignments?

Since this type of interview assignment usually takes more thought and time than other pre-employment testing methods, save it for candidates who make it to the end of the interview process. It’s typically something you ask of your final few candidates. Avoid using it to narrow down a larger pool of candidates before interviews.

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