Interview Projects and Assignments

interview assignment

Interviewing in today’s job market can sometimes feel like a never-ending process. You’ll likely be called for a virtual interview first. Then you’ll go through at least three in-person interviews, if not more. Then, you must wait for references to be verified, and a background check to be completed.

The latest statistics say it can take 43 days for the average candidate to go from first interview to job offer. In 2017, it was just 24 days according to research conducted by Glassdoor.

The time from first interview to hire is likely to increase because employers are requiring candidates to take on a sample assignments or projects as part of the interview process.

What is a Job Interview Assignment? 

A job interview assignment is a task that’s similar to the type of work you’d be doing if hired for the job. The hiring manager will use the assignment to further assess your skills and abilities. It gives them tangible evidence of your ability to perform the job at a satisfactory level if hired.

If you knock the assignment out the park, it may help you land the job. However, if you fail to impress your potential employer, then you might not get the offer, no matter how well you did on your interviews.

How Do You Handle a Job Interview Assignment?

interview assignment

No matter how you might feel about interview assignments, it looks like they are here to stay so you have to know how to succeed.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Do understand the expectations of your industry

There are some roles where interview assignments have always been the rule rather than the exception. If you’re applying for a position as a graphic designer, copywriter, proofreader, then you should expect an assignment.

Beyond that, it’s becoming increasingly popular for employers to ask candidates to create a marketing plan for a certain product. If you’re going for a process management role, employers may want to see your take on a process-improvement plan. If you’re into data analysis, then you may be asked to give a report on a set of numbers they provide.

It’s hard to predict what type of assignment you’ll get from each employer. The point is to have a general expectation that you’ll be asked to complete a project, so you’re not surprised when it comes.

2. Do follow the instructions

Read the instructions of the assignment carefully. Avoid the temptation to go “above and beyond” to try and wow the hiring manager. That approach may backfire. Turning in a solid product that demonstrates your understanding of the assignment should be your priority.

3. Do ask questions

interview assignment

It’s perfectly okay for you to ask questions. In fact, it shows that you’re engaged and really want to do a quality job. You don’t want to fail the assignment just because you didn’t ask a simple question.

Remember to ask about the deadline. Are they expecting you to hand in a report or present your work to the hiring manager? What criteria will they use to assess your work?

4. Do protect your intellectual property

You want to do your best, but at the same time you don’t want the company to just take your work and use it. It sounds unethical, but it does happen.

Ask how your work will be used once you provide it. Is the work for evaluation purposes only? Or will any work you do become property of the company? Knowing the answer may influence whether you want to do the assignment.

Some jobseekers may ask employers to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure they don’t use the work without consent. That could be a turnoff for some employers, but don’t hesitate to request that one be signed if you’re truly concerned.

5. Do research the company

interview assignment

You want your final product to reflect the tone, style, and values of the firm you’re interviewing for. Ask for a copy of the company’s style guide to use while completing the assignment. They may not want to give you that proprietary information, but it’s worth asking.

Whether or not you get the style guide, reading the company’s website, looking up press releases, and reviewing marketing materials can give you a sense of the company’s culture. Showing that you did a bit of “homework” before you completed the assignment will surely impress the hiring manager.

6. Do set aside time for the assignment

 Give yourself plenty of time. You don’t want to wait until the night before the assignment is due to start the assignment. Put time on your calendar well before the due date to start. You may need to complete the assignment over two or more sessions.

7. Do complete the work yourself

If you’re not too sure about the assignment you may be tempted to ask a friend or colleague to do it for you. While it’s okay to ask for a bit of advice or an opinion on your work, make sure you do it yourself. Handing in someone else’s work is not only dishonest, but if you get the job and can’t do similar tasks, you might not hang onto the job for very long.

8. Do proofread your work

Make sure you have time to thoroughly proofread your work before handing it in. You may also want to have a friend or colleague review your work as well. You don’t want a careless typo or mistake to sink your chances of landing the job.

9. Do show enthusiasm about the project

interview assignment

When submitting the assignment, take a moment to include a note. Thank the hiring manager for the opportunity to complete the project. Remind them why you’d be a good fit for the role. And, put in at least one thing you learned while doing the assignment to entice the hiring manager to look further.

Here’s an example of a note you could include:

Thank you for the opportunity to complete this assignment. I really enjoyed the challenge. You’ll see that I’ve made three low-cost recommendations that I believe would increase paid subscribers by 10% over the next quarter. 

Completing the assignment confirmed to me that I have the passion and skill set to be successful in this role.

10. Do be prepared to walk away

Interview assignments shouldn’t take more than four hours to complete. You may review the assignment and decide that it would take up too much of your time and energy. You may have second thoughts about even doing it. That’s perfectly okay.

You can decline the assignment by writing an email to the hiring manager that says something like this:

Thank you for offering me the opportunity to interview with your company. I’ve enjoyed the experience, but I’ve decided to pursue other job opportunities at this time and won’t be completing the assignment given to me at the end of the last interview.

It may be hard to walk away from a job opportunity when you’ve come so close. But think of it like this: if a company is asking you to do a lot of work and you haven’t even been hired yet, then just imagine what they ask their paid employees to do.

What are Examples of Job Interview Assignments?

interview assignment

Here are three examples of job interview assignments that you might receive from a potential employer. 

1. You’re interviewing with Scheer & Douglass Marketing Group. They’re looking for a new Director of Content Management who understands SEO best practices and long-form blog writing.

For your assignment, you’ll receive a topic, keywords, the audience you’re writing for, and a company style guide. You’ll also receive several samples of the company’s best-performing blogs. Your assignment is to provide a 1,500-word blog that includes at least five mentions of each keyword and a strong call to action.

2. Save the Date, Inc. is a software company that develops and sells scheduling and dispatch software for pest control companies, cable installation companies, and more.

You’ve applied for a sales position with the company. For your assignment, your potential manager gives you information about their latest software, a spec sheet, and a price list. Your assignment is to create a 10-minute presentation to help sell the company’s latest software to a flower delivery franchise that’s reluctant to upgrade.

3. Cumulous Software, LLC needs a software engineer who can oversee ongoing updates and improvements to their brand-new mobile app.

The hiring manager is interested in testing your coding skills. You receive several pages of sample code that’s not working properly. You’re given limited instructions and access to the company’s source code library. Your assignment is to find the problems within the code provided and write the simplest, most practical code possible to solve the issues.

Interview Projects and Assignments are Here to Stay 

Like it or not, interview assignments are the new normal, and it’s best to assume that you’ll be asked to do one sooner or later. Use the tips above to make sure you turn in the best work possible.

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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