Are free design samples during a recruitment process necessary or advantageous?

Imagine you apply for a job, have the first and second interview, everything is going fine but suddenly the company asks you to deliver a detailed design task to test your skills. 😮

This is a real example of a “work sample”

A colleague of mine got this task while going through an interview process:

  • Task 1: Create a landing page for the company. Send it as PDF.
  • Task 2: Create a print ad in DIN A4 and create a text proposal for it. Send the open InDesign File.
  • Task 3: Start an order in Flyeralarm to print a pen with the company’s Logo. Send the open InDesign File.

I myself have experienced this first hand not only by handing in tasks per mail with the raw files, but also have even completed full 8 hour working days at the company’s office, just so they can test my skills as a designer.

From the company’s perspective

I can totally understand that companies:

  • Don’t want to hire the wrong person for the job
  • Want to make sure the person has the skills they need for the job
  • Want to have multiple samples from candidates that they can choose the best from

On the other hand,

From the applicant’s perspective

These expectations could bring  some ethical and professional issues with it:

  • Ideas are hard to protect and our intellectual property is at high risk
  • Our work can be used later without our permission, and it’s practically impossible to do something about it
  • We are working for free for a lucrative company without any remuneration
  • We have an extensive portfolio we invested tons of hours in making as proof of all our years of experience 

Hiring someone or in the case of the applicant accepting a job offer is always a risk, for BOTH parties. But taking the risk and hoping for the best is just a normal part of the process, don’t you think? And to minimize risk, the company still has 3 insurance measures on hand: the portfolio, interview questions, and if thats not enough the company still can get rid of an unqualified employee during the trial period.

Companies shouldn’t abuse their position of power to force applicants to deliver work for free. 👆🏽 There are sufficient and proportionate means for a company to determine wether the applicant is the right fit even without free “work samples”!

This is my proposal to make the creative industry a fairer and equitable world

If you are a company you can consider the next points: 

  •  Pay for the work

    If you didn’t love the work sample but still asked for it, pay a fair amount for the time the applicant invested in doing it. That way if the person is not hired, you still could show respect and appreciation for his/her time.  
  • Offer time compensation if hired

    If you loved the work sample and are sure this is the right person for the job, offer him/her some time compensation once this person starts officially to work at the company. 
  • Ask for a fictional task, nothing company related

    There is just no way to justify why a company would ask for a task related to current company projects nor why a company should need raw/ open files only to test your skills. To respect the intelectual property of applicants at least use ficitional tasks. 
  • Choose one project of the applicants portfolio to discuss together

    You can ask the applicant for more details about one portfolio project of your choice. How it originated, which tools did he/she use, how was the process from beginning to end? You can normally spot a good designer just by asking deeper questions.

These are some good examples of how you can value the time of the applicants and still know you are making the right decision. Creating a more human and equitable working culture is a sustainable strategy to keep employees happy and your inbox full of applications with the best talents out there.😉

If you are a company that has been doing this practice until now but didn’t know why it could be a bit difficult for designers, no problem. It’s not the intention to shame anyone. The intention is to work together for a fairer working culture 💜

Have you gone through similar processes like this? And if so, for which position were you applying for? I would love to read more about your experience in the comments below. 😍

#graphicdesigner #visualdesigner #webdesigner #design #fucsiadesign #recruiting #hr #recruitingprocess #workingculture #fairness

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Alexa Nieto Manzano
Visual & Web Designer
Mannheim, Germany

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