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Do You Need to Complete the Interview Work Assignment?

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

From the employer’s point of view, the hiring process is increasingly remote. Asking for an interview work assignment is a safe way for them to validate your skills and qualifications. It also lets them preview the type of work you’d do for them.

From the job seeker’s perspective, the request can seem overwhelming. This is especially true if the assignment is involved or you have multiple interview projects in a short period.

Here are some guidelines for determining when to do an interview work assignment.

If You’re Sure You Want the Job, Do the Assignment

The general rule is that if you feel good about the company and would like the job, do the assignment. It’s a chance to show off your skills to your prospective employer. They’re giving you a chance to shine. However, you can politely decline if you are not interested in the job or the company.

To Accept or Not To Accept?

Interviewing is a two-way conversation. The employer is getting to know you, and you are learning about them. Work assignments should be a win-win for you and your prospective employer. Here are some factors to consider before you accept.

Does It Respect Your Time?

The purpose of an interview work assignment is to demonstrate your abilities. The task they ask you to do should illustrate your skills without consuming too much time–a few hours at the maximum.

If the request is more like a freelance project and they are not offering compensation, they are not demonstrating respect for your time.

Are They Offering Compensation?

Most companies do not offer compensation for interview work assignments that will take a couple of hours and are designed to demonstrate your capabilities. However, if the task is more involved or time-consuming, or if you are producing something they can use and keep, it’s appropriate to get paid.

A work sample is one thing, but taking on unpaid work is different. Sometimes, a company will ask for an involved work assignment but guarantee to pay you whether or not you are hired. If you have the time and capacity to take it on and are interested in the job, at least you know they respect your time and effort.

Who Has the Rights to Your Work?

If you are doing a task like writing code, creating unique graphics, brainstorming solutions to a problem, or writing an article, who walks away with the rights to your work?

If they are compensating you for your time, it’s reasonable to give them the work. If they are not paying you, then the work should remain yours. You can ask your interviewer to clarify their expectations.

Was the Assignment Requested Before or After the First Interview?

If you are a creative professional with a portfolio, there are a few situations where a prospective employer would ask for a sample before the first interview. For example, freelancers applying to join a writing agency are sometimes asked to submit a short assignment with their applications.

If they are interviewing you for a job and are interested in you as a potential candidate, they won’t ask for the assignment until after your first or second interview. In rare cases, if a company is filling an urgent need, they may ask for a project upfront. You can ask the hiring manager about their interview process to understand why they may ask for work earlier.

Guidelines for Acing Your Interview Tasks

Some interview work assignments test your knowledge, while others measure how your creative skills align with the company’s objectives. Here are a few guidelines for delivering your best work.

Don’t Assume, Ask

Hiring managers are busy. If the instructions seem confusing or incomplete, ask for clarification. They may have left something out or forgotten to tell you something. It’s better to have all of the information before you start than to turn in your assignment only to discover you misunderstood.

Communication is an essential soft skill in most jobs. By clarifying your thoughts and confirming their expectations, you show them you can communicate and want to do well.

Pay Attention to the Details

Read the directions carefully, more than once, and follow them. You may have done something similar in the past, but it’s vital to notice the details of what they are asking.

They Don’t Expect You to Be an Expert on the Company

You want to demonstrate your skills and abilities, but it’s okay if you don’t know the specifications or details. The hiring manager knows you haven’t started working for them yet and wouldn’t be aware of certain procedures.

Follow their instructions and do your best with what you know. If you’re asked to design something or come up with ideas for the company, review their website and public materials so you understand their style and voice.

Show Off Your Skills

Let yourself shine where you can. While following the assignment’s directions, take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate what you can do.

What enhances the project? What might make your work stand out?


Double-check your work before sending it. If you have time, step away for a few hours or a day and return to proofread with fresh eyes.

Part of the Interviewing Process

The interviewing process can be time-consuming and frustrating, but finding the right job is worth the effort. Interview work assignments are an opportunity to show a potential employer what you can do while getting to know them better.

You don’t have to do them all, but give the ones you take on your best shot.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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