Interviews are already a blip on the screen when assessing a candidate’s future potential. In a few moments frozen in time, recruiters attempt to predict, not only whether a person has the right skills, personality, motivation, etc., but also whether or not they are hard working and dedicated employee that is willing to go the extra mile. In order to improve those odds and weed out a few of the weak and weary, an increasingly popular tip is to give candidates a little homework, whether before or after an interview.
The worst workers, the best manipulators and liars, even these types of people can appear polished during an interview. Business Insider, through a NY Times article by Adam Bryant, provides some insight into the tactic of giving homework to candidates that is used by Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan. Badgeville “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.
Impact Hiring Solutions expands on these ideas, commenting that homework is “an important predictor of how a candidate will adapt to your organization’s environment is to see an example of his or her thought processes, analytical skills, and problem-solving, up close and personal….Most top 5% talent, because of their self-motivated nature, will be intrigued and embrace the challenge. But if they’ve had previous encounters with unscrupulous employers who actually do assign homework and go on to use candidate ideas (even though they did not hire the candidate) you’ll need to reassure them that you aren’t asking them to come up with the “right answer.” Instead, you are looking for a concrete example of their approach to problems, their analytical and presentation skills, and their ability to synthesize information.”
Be sure that homework isn’t too lengthy. Valuable candidates will have valuable time and you shouldn’t expect (or want) them to be willing to devote 5 to 10 hours on a homework assignment in order to have a chance at a job. Requests like that are simply unreasonable. Be clear and concise in what you are asking them to do and how it weighs in to the overall hiring process in order to allow them to make a decision on how to handle the situation. It should be treated as if they were on the job. That is, after all, what you are looking to assess. Candidates that can outperform others, will do just that.