Recently, while involved in the interview process, two different potential employers have asked me to submit a plan as part of their evaluation process. In both situations I have submitted the plans only to be disappointed to not be extended a job offer. I spent a great deal of time on these plans and asked the employers for feedback about where they felt my plans/experience fell short but never received a response.
This is leaving an incredibly sour taste in my mouth about doing this again in the future. Can I decline to do these types of exercises, am I obligated to submit a project as part of the interview process? I put a lot of energy in to these plans and am irked that the employer doesn't show me a bit of respect by providing me with any feedback.
Savvy says: I understand why you're embittered by your job search process that has involved work that goes beyond writing a cover letter — it involves a lot of time and energy, and you're emotionally attached to the projects you submit. See my answers to your questions when you read more.
If an employer requires that you submit a project as an applicant, you should only decline to do so if you don't want the job. Employers use the interview process to find someone who's the best fit for the job — someone who is qualified for the tasks involved and truly wants to work for the company. If you don't do what's asked of you, you're telling the employer that you're not willing to put in the extra work now, and in their eyes, later.
Keep in mind that you're not the only person who has completed these projects and wasn't extended a job offer. The other candidates who applied for the same positions are in the same boat as you. I commend you on reaching out to the hiring managers for post-interview feedback, but it's not unusual for them not to respond. Because you haven't had luck getting external feedback, it's your responsibility to look within.
Examine every part of the package you offer as a candidate and consider reasons why you might have fallen short in receiving job offers. Additionally, it might be beneficial to reach out to your network and ask them questions that would be answered anonymously, like, "What three words come to mind when you think about areas where I could improve?" Try to move past your negative job hunting experiences because your attitude will come through on future interviews — just take what you've learned from those situations and move on to the next opportunity.