Homework Assignments

Recently, one of my sons interviewed for an internship as a sales development representative with a top IT security company. Unsurprisingly, his initial interviewers asked him to prepare a cold call script to understand how he’d go about it.

He aced this task and in his second interview delivered a presentation about himself, his background, and why he believed he would be a good fit for the position. Part of this presentation required that he research a major insurance company, find two potential leads (stating his rationale for choosing them) and then craft the scripts for a cold email and follow-up call, stating the rationale behind his approach in both of these. He was also told to prepare for objections during his “cold call”.

Helping him consider some of these steps got me thinking about interview ‘homework’ assignments or test activities, and how candidates (especially those with more professional experience) might consider these tasks free labor.

It’s my opinion that the ‘homework assignment’ my son was asked to do was terrific and an efficient method of evaluating potential candidates. By simulating real-world experiences on the job, it showcased both his tenacity and thought process.

However, an article I found describes some rather onerous tasks for prospective candidates. It ponders:

  1. Is the assignment more than what an employer needs to evaluate a candidate’s work?
  2. Will work product be used for purposes other than evaluation of a given candidate’s aptitude for the role?
  3. How many hours of preparatory work are involved?
  4. Are the candidates given enough time to complete the interview assignment?

If a candidate will be asked to do a homework assignment, presentation, or any other task during an interview, they should be informed in the original job brief. This ensures they are aware of interview requirements and able to make an informed decision on whether they are willing to proceed with the interview.

We’d love to hear your thoughts – have you ever had to complete assignments as part of an interview process? Do you think they’re worth the time, or just too much work?