During the course of a job interview, you may be asked to complete a sample assignment. Most candidates applying to hospitality roles such as front desk agent, or housekeeper won’t be asked to do this, but those who apply for a corporate office role, or a management role may.
It’s not unheard of for candidates, particularly those seeking a sales or marketing role, to be tasked with creating a presentation or sales or marketing plan. Similarly, those on the market for a finance role might be asked to draft a mock budget while candidates for communications jobs could be charged with crafting a blog post or social media calendar.
The Purpose & The Pros
The purpose of these projects is to help employers gauge your skillset as well as your communication abilities and the quality of work that you produce.
These tasks can offer job seekers some benefits, too. They give candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and also to gain a better understanding of the role and the job expectations that will come along with it. Additionally, if the assignment generates any positive feedback from the potential employer, candidates may consider using that during salary negotiations, if a job offer is made.
However, these “homework” assignments can also have drawbacks for candidates. They represent an investment of candidates’ time. If you’re lukewarm about the actual job, your work may reflect this. So you may want to simply turn it down before putting any more time into an interview process that doesn’t entirely interest you.
Another issue is that these assignments are typically unpaid. But ask before agreeing to take it on. If no compensation is being offered and/or the work will require a lot of time or comes with a tight deadline, this is often a reflection of the employer’s management style. If the situation does raise red flags for you, the assignment may signal the moment when you rethink proceeding with the interview process.
These projects also come with risk for job candidates. You may spend the time drafting a document that will wow the potential employer only to have your ideas mined and no job to show for it. So weigh the worth of your time and efforts against your desire for the position before accepting an interview assignment.
Read the Directions
Before starting any actual work, read the instructions carefully. Then follow them to the letter. Even if you have a great idea, but it doesn’t fit the parameters of the assignment, scrap it. Your efforts to impress the potential employer by presenting a project that doesn’t fit the scope of work could be interpreted as an inability to take direction from supervisors.
If there’s any aspect of the project that you need clarification on, be sure to ask immediately. A failed assumption could result in a failed deliverable and consequently, no job offer.
But also keep in mind that you should limit your questions to a few that are directly related to the assignment. If you put too many questions to the hiring manager, it could signal early on that you aren’t qualified for the role. Questions that stray too far from the topic of the assignment could be viewed as a lack of interest in the work.
Do Some Research
Before diving headfirst into the work, take the time to research the company’s existing written material.
That is, you’ll want to try to incorporate facets of the brand’s logo, colors, taglines, and even preferred font if possible into your work.
Additionally, you should try to mimic their style when possible. So if you’ve been tasked with writing a sample blog post, find any existing blog posts that the company may have in the public domain and use it as a guide.
Do they use subheads? Are their blog posts usually short or long-form? Do they always end them with a call-to-action? Take note of those details and do likewise. These details will show the potential employer that you value their brand and the work that they do.
Proofread Your Work
Once you finish crafting the assignment, you might be so proud of your work or so relieved to be done with it that it can be difficult to resist the temptation to turn it in right away.
Avoid the urge and instead, take the time to read your work over. Read it once over for context to ensure everything you’re presenting makes sense. Then read it a second time for spelling and typos, grammar, and formatting.
An employer may think your work is excellent conceptually but may deem consistent typos or formatting errors as indicators that your future work won’t be up to par for presenting to clients or company executives.