Susan Hoffman


By Susan Hoffman

When you apply for a job, some testing is normal. An organization naturally wants to see if you have the abilities that you claim, because errors in hiring are expensive. According to Brett McIntyre of CareerBuilder, a hiring mistake can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $40,000 per employee.

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These tests may involve a writing test to check your communication and comprehension skills or an editing test to determine your ability to catch errors. Other tests could be in the form of developing code or a large-scale marketing plan that takes an entire weekend to develop.

About one to two hours of a candidate’s free work is normal. Unfortunately, some companies have been known to take advantage of candidates’ hard work, using it for their own benefit.

The candidate is not offered any form of compensation, either in the form of a job or payment for the hard work. Consequently, a candidate often feels resentful that a considerable amount of good work was a wasted effort and took valuable time away from the job search.

There Are Some Benefits to Job Auditions

For a company, having its candidates go through job auditions that include some form of testing helps to more quickly determine if a candidate should move forward in the interview process. Similarly, some job auditions typically come with a deadline to see if someone can produce work within a reasonable timeframe.

For candidates, going through job auditions that include some sort of assignment helps them to get a better feel for the company’s expectations – realistic or unrealistic. The candidate can also get some sense of company culture by how he or she is treated in a job audition.

How to Avoid Allowing Potential Employers to Take Advantage of You

Since copyright laws vary by state, what you say in or produce for a job interview may not be subject to copyright protection. But Monster’s Jon Simmons offers three ways to avoid having a potential employer take advantage of free work that requires a lengthy creative process:

1) Research the company thoroughly, and ask your network for information. If a company practices unethical behavior, that information is often available online or you can ask your network to tell you what they know about that company. Check around before you submit any work.

Leia O’Connell, MSW, GCDF, and a corporate recruiter in the Department of Career Services, further emphasizes the need for research before you even step into the interview. She observes, “In the digital age, online reviews of almost every company are available via Glassdoor, Indeed or social media. It’s all out there – jump on LinkedIn or Twitter and search by the company’s hashtag. Don’t just look at what the company says about itself; look at what other people are saying about the company.”

2) Pay attention to whether the interviewer seems more interested in you or the free work you’re doing. Simmons says, “If hiring managers or recruiters care more about extracting free assignments and are silent on the application process, steer clear.”

3) Control what you disclose. You also have the option of doing some of the work and explaining the rest verbally. Workplace expert Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim notes, “Do not lay it out so clearly that you are no longer needed. Highlight how your strengths and experience will help you to execute a clearly defined plan….Share that, if hired for the role, you will meet with key players to customize a project or work product to suit the specifics of the organization.”

O’Connell adds, “It’s important to remember you’re the owner of your own ideas. You get to choose how much to say about what made a particular project successful or the details of a future proposal. Decide what you are and aren’t going to share ahead of time.”

Job auditions are a good way to prove to an employer you have the knowledge, skills and abilities for a job. But if you’re asked to work on a project that consumes an overly large amount of your time, be wary and do your best to make sure that the company isn’t taking advantage of you.