Between freelancing as a copywriter and social media manager early last year, Rachel O’Neill was scouring the job market for something full-time.
She applied for a suitable role at a Dublin-based tech company, she says. “Somewhere in this strange circle of associates.”
Not exactly at entry level, she said, but not at a leadership position either.
As part of the application process, which took two months, she went through four rounds of interviews, each lasting about 45 minutes, and was given an assignment to do and return.
The assignment was to write a complete marketing script for a video, landing page and fake email, she said. “I did this in a day, a day and a half.”
Despite positive feedback, O’Neill didn’t get the job and, as she told them, she said, it all seemed pretty unfair. “You expect me to do a lot of work for a job I don’t have yet, all in my spare time.”
More and more employers are requiring job seekers to carry out heavy assignments as part of their job applications, says Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
Even for junior roles, she says, which are much lower stakes hires than higher ones. “I mean, it might be embarrassing if you’re not as good as your resume suggests, but the business is unlikely to come to a screeching halt.”
Multiple rounds of interviews put a lot of pressure on job seekers and can feel like unpaid work. Additionally, applicants may struggle with the demanding schedule which Bambrick says ultimately limits who can apply.
Trial after trial
“Applying for tech jobs is a full-time job,” said Hilary Pidgeon, early last year on Zoom.
Almost every interview Pidgeon took part in for five months, from October 2020 to February 2021, had an in-home assessment stage, she says.
On average, she had five interviews per company, moving up the seniority ladder. With one company in particular, she did eight interviews, each lasting an hour, she says.
Pidgeon was once asked to analyze a data set in Excel with thousands and thousands of numbers, she says.
She was told to break down the sales data and give a slide presentation highlighting the trends, come up with a plan to maximize sales and present it to investigators in the next round, she says.
“You could spend an average workday doing that,” she says. “So you work your evenings, […] and weekends into the night, just so you could do the job you needed for an interview.
She also had to take IQ and personality tests, Pidgeon said. “They give you different patterns in a row and ask you which pattern comes next.”
She says she doesn’t understand what an IQ test can tell employers about her experience, that her resume can’t. “I will never receive a call and […] ask a customer to go here is a circle, a triangle and a square, what do you think comes next? »
These were junior to mid-level positions, she said. “You get this kind of interview for jobs ranging from €30,000 to €80,000 a year.”
For businesses, giving out assignments helps them see a bit more of what the person can do on their own outside of their wallet, says Joe Roche, marketing manager at an information and communications technology company ( TIC) in Dublin and Head of Junior Recruitment. .
He’s been on both sides of the assignment-based interview process, he says, having administered and completed them during his time in the tech industry.
It’s the lighter side, he says. “It helps you make a decision with confidence and helps you justify the salary this person wants.”
But the darker side is multi-day projects, Roche says. “When the idea belongs to the company and cannot be used by the candidate for himself in case he does not get the job.”
“I think if you say, ‘Build a full website for me, I’m going to use it and you have no choice. It is not fair. No job is worth doing so much work for free,” says Roche.
On the rise?
Assignment-based interviews are becoming more common in hiring practices, says Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at ICTU.
Preparing for an interview, or even multiple interviews, is not uncommon, she says. But she sees candidates being asked to do full PR campaigns, or marketing campaigns, where potential employees are given a brief similar to what you might expect on the job, Bambrick says.
Labor lawyer Richard Grogan says employers can fall under labor law in these situations.
“If it has anything to do with existing clients or the existing work they have, the potential employer has very serious problems,” he says.
Grogan says employers could violate GDPR regulations if they gave potential employees access to real projects with customer information.
Also, if it’s a project the employer is working on and they’re pooling ideas from the candidate, it works, Grogan says. Getting job applicants to do so, without pay, could violate national minimum wage law, he says.
Grogan says it’s like you can’t set up unpaid trial shifts at restaurants, ask a candidate to put plates on the table, then turn around at the end of the night and say, “I I’m sorry you don’t agree and we “I’m not going to pay you for this”.
“I remember when I was in college, I interviewed for a job for Bunsen as a waitress and they paid me for the four hours I was there,” O’ said. Neill, the editor. “I was completely bowled over by that.”
But O’Neill says she couldn’t imagine proposing that she be paid for her hours worked in these situations because it might make it seem like she doesn’t want the job enough.
Grogan says employers should be looking for your approach in an interview process, not solutions to problems.
Historically, says ICTU’s Bambrick, these types of interviews were conducted for senior positions such as CEO or CFO because the risk of hiring the wrong candidate could have a greater impact on the business.
But now they’re cut out for more junior roles, she says.
O’Neill says the lengthy hiring process she went through was too much for a job advertised at $35,000 a year.
Bambrick says unions are asking employers to be both “reasonable and proportionate” during the interview process.
“And what we mean by that is that the time required should be commensurate with the risk involved in the work,” she says.
“It should really be a red flag for you if someone is not respecting your time,” she says.