The (dreaded) take-home assignment
It is Friday afternoon – the long week of toiling away at work is almost over. However, just as you finish reviewing the plethora of job applications sent in for the week, the portal loads up with thirty more. Your job is not getting any easier – how do you even judge and differentiate the candidates? Should there be a GPA cutoff? Should you wait to interview them to test technical skills on the spot? Should hiring be on a rolling basis?
With an inefficient recruiting process, hiring managers lose hours, drain company resources, and develop a less-than-thorough understanding of a candidate’s competence. The solution to this problem: take-home assignments.
Take-home assignments serve as an effective filter in the hiring process. Companies would be significantly more efficient if time were not spent on interviewing hundreds of candidates – those that would potentially not be a good fit for the role. Many companies utilize a minimum GPA requirement as their first filter. However, this eliminates the large number of applicants that may have below-average grades but possess important skills, talents, and innovative thought processes. Take-home assignments allow candidates to be tested on specific skills – skills that will be directly brought to the job. These tests will accurately filter out fewer people that should be further interviewed for behavioral qualities.
Not only do take-home assignments save the company time and allow employees to focus on other pressing tasks, but they also foster a sense of comfort in candidates. When people are working in an environment that they are comfortable or familiar with, they frequently deliver better results. Many capable individuals often lose their chance at an opportunity because they become nervous at an in-person meeting. In an office interview, there is an overwhelming silence as your interviewer watches a candidate solve a problem, a time-constraint, and other characteristics of an unfamiliar setting. Furthermore, candidates are able to use their techniques to do an assignment, allowing them to produce better work. For example, while developing a Python code, individuals may prefer to use one IDE over another. Having the flexibility to work independently allows individuals to produce the same end-product in a way that is simpler and more comfortable for them.
Another advantage of take-home assignments is their ability to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. By creating well-fashioned tests that evaluate one’s skills, hiring managers are only focusing on how well candidates are employing their technical knowledge - there is no room for inherent biases to play a role in the decision. Interviews are very subjective – interviewers can have varying expectations of what is considered a “good fit” and what is considered a “small mistake”. Technical skills objectively prove that a candidate is able to bring something necessary to the table.
Everything has its cons – after all nothing is perfect. One of the major shortcomings of take-home assignments is that they can take a long time. Candidates may feel the need to do extra research to tackle something they do not know how to do. Otherwise, they may just be a slow worker and their efficiency may not be taken into account if their end-product is stellar. If the test is designed in a way where it has to take a long time, candidates may feel that they are not being tested well on specific skills and believe the test to be a waste of time. Furthermore, another drawback of take-home assignments is the fact that candidates may not step out of their comfort zone when doing an assignment – while using the methods they are most comfortable with can be beneficial, small adjustments or improvements specific to various projects may not be intuitive. Because take-home assignments foster much independence, there is an elimination of feedback or guidance – something that is more readily available from an interview.
While a few challenges exist with the implementation of take-home assignments, they are relatively simple to tackle. To address the length of the assignment, hiring managers should design these tests to be concise. In addition, there should be a deadline for when the task should be completed by. In addition, there should be an option for candidates to receive feedback. Automated feedback is efficient as it saves a recruiter time in manually addressing individualized mistakes. For a coding test in which code is written out, for instance, there are platforms that read the code and highlight all the errors and correct answers that should have been submitted.
Undoubtedly, take-home assignments are a great way for companies to hire employees efficiently and effectively and should definitely be taken into consideration.