Job Interview Assignment Tips
Hey job-hunters! Have you been applying to jobs and have finally been called in for an interview? That’s great news. In some interview processes, it is common to give an assignment to test the candidate’s knowledge about a specific topic. In today’s article, you will learn job interview assignment tips and ways to create a great project.
What is a Job Interview Assignment?
A typical interview job assignment is a great way to gauge a candidate’s knowledge of a specific topic and help filter great candidates from good candidates. This approach is definitely trending and becoming more and more popular at companies, especially in the tech industry. It is not uncommon to be asked to demonstrate your knowledge of coding in a project, show your design profile or create a design for something, or even create business assumptions or strategies for a specific case that you are given. These tasks can be great ways to not only measure your skills, but to also understand your thought process behind it. One major tip: in many cases, your project does not have to be 100% right, but you need to show the thought process behind it and how you arrived at the conclusion or assumption.
What Are Recruiters Looking For In The Assignment?
This is a question you need to think about. Are they looking for answers, suggestions on ways to proceed, business assumptions, or to get a better idea of your own thought process? Read the directions carefully a few times and make sure you understand what is being requested. If you have any doubt, send the recruiter an email to clarify.
Usually you will determine how in-depth you will make it and how much time you want to allocate to this assignment. If you have additional questions, just ask. But know this: often the assignment is framed so that you are showing your thought process and work. In other, more unethical circumstances, companies are hunting for ideas and solutions. This will be addressed later in the article.
When candidates are given a project, there are a series of common mistakes that recruiters and hiring managers normally come across. Here are some of the main ones to watch out for:
- Didn’t follow directions: You need to know what is being asked of you and understand how to approach it. If you don’t read and understand the directions, you are just wasting your own time.
- Didn’t ask questions: A lack of understanding of the directions will lead to a misguided project/assignment. Make sure you clarify what is expected of you if you have any questions or doubts.
- Know the company: Do you know what the company does? What is its core business? What is its mission and vision? Not knowing this will be evident in your assignment.
- You did the bare minimum: There are projects and there are projects. Some look like night and day. If you did the bare minimum and didn’t put forth much effort, it will show.
- Didn’t review your work: Make sure that you focus and deliver quality work. It is expected that you review, spellcheck, re-read, and re-do weak areas. Don’t let these minor things slip through the cracks.
- Lack of excitement: Are you not excited about the project and company? Your work will show this. Get excited about it and produce something great.
Should I Even Bother With The Job Interview Assignment?
You are probably asking yourself this question, “Should I even bother with the job interview assignment?” and yes, it is a valid question. Here are some things to think about to help you come to a conclusion.
How serious is the company: Have you done your homework on the company? Are they reputable? Read about them in the news, visit their site, read their blog posts, Glassdoor reviews and assess this.
What are the company’s intentions: Some projects requested by companies are very interesting whereas others are questionable. If the assignment seems too much like a consulting project (where you are doing consulting work for the company and really just providing them with solutions), this should be a red flag. Try to get a better understanding of what the assignment is, how it will be used, and how your work “could” be leveraged. Some companies give very interesting and well-thought-out projects whereas others are sketchy, and it seems like they are out for a cheap deal. The latter is what I call idea snatching. I have seen this a number of times in the market. The fact is, there is no position. The company is just fishing for ideas.
I’m not getting paid: If a company is looking for a comprehensive plan as an assignment, then this is a red flag and should probably be avoided. Normally assignments are outlines, and are framed at a high-level, so you are presenting assumptions and possible game plans, but once again, nothing too in-depth. Summarizing this point: if a company wants something super-specific, comprehensive, and detailed, this might be idea fishing.
Ask what the general goals and expectations are: Make sure to ask this. Having a second conversation or exchange of emails with the recruiter can help reveal their intentions, good or bad.
Trust your gut: If you feel that the company has been less than open and candid with you and you are still unsure, it might be best to turn down this interview process. Every situation is different, so do your homework, research, and trust your gut.
Structuring Your Project
First things first: read and re-read your instructions. The instructions will give you the best idea of how to start the assignment. As you read the instructions, try to get an idea of what they are looking for. Is it a pitch deck in Powerpoint with some slides, or are they looking for a Word doc a couple pages long? This may not be a hundred percent clear, and you can then choose which one you prefer as per the assignment.
Outline or In-depth: Normally, it is better to aim for something more high-level, so an outline would be fine. However, there is a caveat here. If you only do an outline, you risk being average. Average means all of the other candidates out there did something very similar to what you did. In other words, your assignment will not stick out.
Due Date: Make sure you ask when the due date is. A week is standard. If a company asks for something tomorrow, they are disrespecting your time and probably the position doesn’t even exist.
Easy to read: Nobody wants to read a jumbled Word doc. Spend a little extra time formatting and beautifying it.
Add your style: Feel free to add your own style and flare. Also, check to see what kinds of designs and projects are on their website. This can give you some good information on how to design it.
Get a friend to review it: Ask a friend or colleague to review your work. Get their opinions. It doesn’t hurt to have an extra pair of eyes to review it.
No more than two or three hours: Do not spend days working on the assignment. Try to do it within two or three hours.
No Assignment – Send One Anyway
This subtitle may have raised some eyebrows and that’s the idea. Why would I suggest this? Well, depending on the position you are going for, (say it is for a Jr Digital Marketing Analyst) if you send the company a breakdown of what you would do at the company and how you would approach things, you would probably get some real attention to your profile/ resume and get a call for an interview or subsequent interview.
How could you go about doing this? Once you have read over the job description to get a good idea of what they are looking for and what your possible future job would entail, you create an action plan of what you would do in the role. Obviously, you are going to make many assumptions as you do not know exactly what the day-to-day is like at the company, and that is ok. With this particular approach, if you can explain what you want to do, how you would do it and why, this gives the recruiter a deeper look into your thought process. That is extremely important. It also conveys great interest on your part in the position and company.
Once again, following the previous tips, it doesn’t have to be a long project, but it should go deep enough to show your knowledge and thought process. Why should you do this? Well, although there are a lot of jobs nowadays in the US market, there is also a lot of competition for great jobs. The more you can stick out, the better.
Job interview assignments have become more and more common, and I know you will come across a few as you go through the interview process. Make sure to do your homework, always! See if the company is the real deal and look for things that might seem off about the company and the assignment. Once again, trust your gut. If it seems like they are fishing for new ideas and solutions, they might actually be. Avoid these. Just make sure to do your homework to determine whether you should do the assignment or not. If you deem that the assignment is worth doing, do a good job. Do not do the bare minimum.
If there is no job interview assignment, consider creating a mini project. Whatever you can do to get on the recruiter’s radar and prove why you are the best candidate for the job is time worth investing in a short assignment or self-driven project. One thing to remember, everyone applies for jobs the same way: finds the job on the website or Linkedin; sends resume; hopes to get a response; etc. If you can go beyond the typical approach, and also hit it from another angle, you are increasing your chances of getting noticed and called in for an interview.
Have you been asked to complete a job interview assignment in the past? Tell the community about your experience. What was the activity? How did you approach it? Did you receive feedback? Did you get called in for another interview? What happened. Help the community learn from your experience.
For more job search and interview tips, check out the CareerPrep blog and for how-to videos, check out English Interviews and CareerPrep Youtube channels.