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 The Dreaded “Homework Assignment”

By Joe Stein

With school back in session across Western New York, most students are spending weeknights with their head down completing any homework assigned to them. Many of us don’t escape doing “homework” once employed either, often taking it with us at the end of the “workday”. Doing a job search was traditionally different, however, as the assignments you completed were driven by you either searching/applying for positions or doing your research. Your extra work was all done in the name of being prepared for your interview.
This is, however, increasingly changing for job seekers. More companies are now assigning work to applicants to be done at home prior to the next step in the staffing process. Hiring Managers are doing this with the idea that it will provide them additional information regarding the candidate in a format that they control, rather than just accepting whatever is given to them. It can also be used as an indicator of the level of interest from the candidate. All of this with the idea of selecting the best person for the role.
There are a variety of homework assignments that may be assigned to you. If you work in certain industries or fields, you may not only be accustomed to receiving job search homework, but have come to expect it. For example, if you are in Information Technology (IT), you may be required to show that you know how to use a certain program or can write code.
As a job seeker, you will have to decide how much time you want to commit to doing the assigned homework, or even if you want to do it, at all. This decision is really determined by what the assignment entails, how badly you want this position, and how much time you have available to commit. It can be really tough to complete what is required if you are currently working a full-time position. If you do decide that you can’t meet the requirements of the assignment, then make sure to communicate this information so they can either move on to other candidates or, perhaps, seek an alternate way to assess your ability or skill level.
I am assuming, however, that most people will decide to complete the assignment, so let’s examine the type of homework that may be given to you. • Functional Assignment: As mentioned earlier, for some positions you may be given an assignment where you have to complete the type of work you will be doing in the job. This may be an IT related project or, if you are in Graphic Design, perhaps designing an advertisement. The idea is to make sure you are not exaggerating your skill set and you can actually do the work. • Leadership “What If”: This is perhaps the most common type of job search homework assignment. If you are being recruited for a leadership position, you may be given some “What If” questions that would require you to write out “essay style” how you would handle these scenarios. A variation of this type of assignment is where you are asked to write out your philosophy or leadership style. This is less of a “What If” to a specific instance, but rather an overall summary of your leadership approach. This allows the Hiring Manager to obtain a deeper understanding of you as a leader than perhaps an interview will allow. • Give a Presentation – If you are seeking a more senior leadership type of position or a training related role then you may be asked to give a presentation. Typically, this a short (15-20 minute) presentation for a group of people and usually is a last step in the process prior to an offer. It is done to not only evaluate your ability to create a presentation deck, but also your presence in delivering the message to an audience.
It can be hard to be a Job Seeker, and the use of homework assignments can create an even greater demand for your time. Unless you have other job search options or you are just not that interested in the position, there probably is not a way to avoid completing the work. One final note, it may be very tempting to have someone help you do the work assigned to you, but, most likely, you will be expected to go over your work with the Hiring Manager. If you happen to get past that test, you still need to do the job, so make sure it is your work and you can explain it.