Why Candidates Shouldn’t Perform Interview Test Tasks for Free? Remote Work Expert Explains

Interview assignments have hit hot water recently, with candidates frustrated about the time wasted on them and the non-compensation. As far as interview processes go, it is still considered a custom practice. However, HR specialists suggest candidates ask for fair reimbursement for them or otherwise assess skills through curated portfolios or personality tests.

October 10, 2022

The practice of giving extensive test tasks that are part of a candidate screening process has been criticized as redundant and even unethical, wasting candidates’ time and preventing them from purchasing job opportunities elsewhere. While it might seem like an adequate way of testing the candidate’s skill set and fit, the unpaid interview assignment might actually sway the candidates the other way.

Test tasks—chance to get unpaid labor

“The economic recession has prompted many freelancing talents to seek more permanent positions in the labor market. Although the fight for talents is still raging across all sectors, companies might use this opportunity to their advantage to get free labor,” Diana Blažaitienė, remote work expert and founder of Soprana Personnel International, a recruitment and personnel rent solutions agency, said.

According to Ms. Blažaitienė, candidates should not let recruiters get away with it and ask a fair compensation for the time spent doing it.

“If a candidate spends a lot of their personal time completing the task, they should be properly rewarded for their work because they might not even get the job they’re applying for and, ultimately, lose both their time and miss out on other job opportunities,” she commented.

At the same time, the test task could still be regarded as applicants’ intellectual property since they haven’t made any arrangements with the recruiter. “The company cannot use the assignment for its profit if it does not pay what’s due to the candidate as per intellectual property regulations.”

Ms. Blažaitienė advises candidates to create a portfolio as a testament to their professional skills and work experience, and suggest it as an alternative to a test task. Otherwise, if the test task is still required, they have the right to demand compensation—provided the company actually uses the assignment in its operations—and can use emails as written proof of a task completed and submitted.

“Another reason why test tasks are redundant is that the probationary period is designed specifically for testing the new hire’s skills and potential for professional development and adaptation. And it is a much better tool to do that than the interview assignment because it allows monitoring how the person operates and deals with the workload in real time,” Ms. Blažaitienė said.

Personality tests—to check team compatibility

Test tasks might have another disadvantage—recruiters risk losing the candidate because they might get a better offer while they’re waiting for the company to assess the assignment. Remote work experts recommend recruiters consider giving personality tests to check team dynamics instead.

“For certain positions, for instance, like the customer service sector, the recruiters are better off assigning personality, ethics, logical skills tests to see how the candidate fits in with the team and the line of work,” she added. “These tests are not considered intellectual property, do not take a lot of time to complete, and give a way better insight into the candidate’s suitability.”