Interview Writing Assignment

Hiring people is perhaps the most difficult job a manager has. A bad fit can be incredibly expensive in terms of salary, lost productivity, and the eventual cost of searching for a new candidate.

Even bad hires can put on a good face during an interview or produce a polished resume. The best leaders find ways to see through that. In an interview with The New York Times' Adam Bryant, Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan describes a great tactic his company uses.

His company gives hires, at every level and in every function, a homework assignment. And it doesn't set a deadline. That's a great idea for a number of reasons:

It overcomes biases

"I've found that there are so many biases that we create or imagine when we're going through the hiring process — this person came from that school or they seem very polished," Duggan says.

When they're asked to put pen to paper and actually do something related to their job, those biases are less important, and people can't hide if they've oversold their skill set. You also get an unmatched view of how they actually think, write, and work.

It shows what kind of worker you are

The open ended nature of the assignment is extremely important, Duggan says:

" ... we'd never say, "You owe us the homework by tomorrow." We would say: "We're very interested in you, and we'd like you to do some homework, and here's the assignment. Do you have any questions about that? And when would you like to submit the homework?" That's one way we can test for their behavior — do they get it done on time, or do they make excuses because it's late?"

If a hire can't get it together enough to quickly and independently get you one piece of work, that's likely to be magnified many times if they're actually hired. Especially for higher level positions, some people might be reluctant to do homework. That tells you something as well.

The best employees don't need constant deadlines or to have their hand held constantly. If you expect that from your workers, it should be part of the hiring process.

They can compare a consistent piece of work between candidates

If you're hiring for a specific higher level position, ask them to provide a plan for what they'd do. They're going to have to enact one anyway, and comparing the same type of work from several different candidates can go a long way towards helping you make a final decision.

This is an email template you can use when you want to send an assignment to your candidates as part of your hiring process. For some positions, especially technical roles, adding a written assignment or test will help you evaluate your candidates’ skills through a real work project and screen people who approach problems the best way.

You should let your candidates know about your assignment process ahead of time. Then, when writing your email, pay extra attention to your subject line and ensure it is clear about its purpose. Since there should be a specific deadline for your candidate to complete the assignment, make that clear upfront. In your email, mention the exact timeframe for the assignment and also provide contact information, in case your candidates need additional clarifications. Before hitting ‘send’, make sure you have included a link, or attachment, to the assignment along with necessary instructions to help your candidates understand what they’ll have to do. It’s also essential to send a confirmation once you’ve received their assignment, to thank them for taking the time to complete it and let them know about next steps.

Email subject line: Assignment for the [Job_title] position

Hi [Candidate_Name] / Dear [Candidate_Name],

Please find attached an assignment as part of our interview process. I’m also attaching some instructions to help you complete the assignment.

Keep in mind that there are no ‘right answers.’ This assignment is designed is to gauge your skills and give us an idea of how you approach tasks relevant to the [Job_Title] role. It would be great if you could send this over to us [within X time frame or by Y date].

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

Best of luck with the assignment,

[Your name]


[When you receive the assignment]

Hi [Candidate_Name] / Dear [Candidate_Name],

Thank you for completing the assignment. Our team will review it and get back to you with feedback as soon as possible.

I hope you enjoy your day,

[Your name]

Download this sample as Word Document

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