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Can I Decline Projects That Are Part of the Interview Process?

Ask Savvy: Can I Decline Projects That Are Part of the Interview Process?

Dear Savvy,

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



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.

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Join The Conversation
mkls6044 mkls6044 7 years
I definitely agree with #3- thats the first thing that came to my mind. If you have to do a project/presentation I would put 100% into it, but make sure you take all your materials etc with you when you leave the interview! A project is different from something like a writing sample, in that it can be duplicated and used later. Unfortunately, there likely isnt a copyright claim unless the original artist actually copyrighted the material- which is very unlikely. There may be some sort of conversion of property claim (essentially stealing your property) but that would be hard to prove- and expensive! I would just tell an employer you would be happy and eager to complete the project, then ask when you can come in and present your work. Then take it with you! I dont think it is whiny at all either. Good luck with the job hunt, and remember- if these places are "stealing" your work (with or without an actual position open) then you dont want to work for them anyway!
Happsmjc Happsmjc 7 years
"Also you sound kind of whiny"...tha's a little harsh to me!! I completely understand how frustrating it can be. I think the major complaint here is not only spending the time doing the projects and not getting the jobs but THEN not even getting feedback. To me that is a totally valid complaint, not whiny at all, and posting a question is your time to VENT, so go ahead! I agree if you want the job, you have to do it though. But, I would make sure they are not then using the work you spent so much time on!
Meike Meike 7 years
It depends on what company you're applying to. Post #3 is correct in saying there exist shady companies that will abuse your efforts. It has happened to me once in my greener days. Also, #3, if your friend has the original artwork, she should already be able to have a copyright case.
syako syako 7 years
I agree with anon on #3. Be careful what companies you are sending "freebies" to. There could be some scam job postings trying to get some talented people to do work for them for free. I would definitely investigate the company, the position, etc. before starting the work.
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
Remember, you are also interviewing them! I had to do a project for an interview once and realized that if the entire job duties consisted of that, I did not want to do it. Also, you sound kind of whiny. Just because it takes a lot of effort to come up with a resume, do you think you shouldn't have to do it?
skigurl skigurl 7 years
i can understand your frustration from the first two experiences but if you say no, you will be disqualified from the that's a personal choice i guess
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
I don't know what type of job you're looking for, but the job market is SO competitive right now! You have to realize that companies can ask a lot from candidates and "declining" doing a project they ask you to do is essentially passing on the job opportunity. If you're already employed and truly don't have enough time for these interview projects, that's understandable, but if you're unemployed, not wanting to put time into it just seems lazy to me.
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