by Matt Alderton | March 26, 2019
If you're looking for new employment, are you willing to perform some work for free? You might well have to when it comes to job interviews, author Alison Green reports in a recent article for Slate.
"Employers are increasingly assigning job candidates take-home work to demonstrate their skills and show how they'd approach the role they're interviewing for," Green says. "This can be anything from writing a press release for a communications job to coding a webpage for a web-development job."

This has obvious advantages for employers, who get the opportunity to see how candidates perform before extending a job offer. For employees, however, it can sometimes feel like exploitation.

"While seeing candidates do actual work is a smart way to hire, employers often really mess up the execution by putting overly burdensome expectations on candidates," continues Green, who objects not to short assignments, but assignments that are "overly lengthy, have unrealistic deadlines or will be used for anything other than evaluation purposes." "It's reasonable to ask candidates to spend an hour or two demonstrating their skills; it's not reasonable to ask them to complete complex projects … without pay."

So, what should you do if a prospective employer asks you to complete such a project and to do it gratis? According to Green, you should make a counteroffer.

"Flatly refusing to meet excessive demands likely means the employer will just move forward with candidates who don't push back," she concludes. "Try offering to do a more reasonable version of the assignment. For example: 'Because of other commitments right now, I can't spend more than an hour or so on an assessment exercise. But I could do [name a much smaller piece of the work] to give you a feel for my work, if that would work on your end.' Or you could simply say, 'I don't usually do spec work, but I'd be glad to send you examples of similar work that I've done in the past that illustrate what I think you're looking for here.'"

The bottom line: Be reasonable, but don't be a doormat.

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