Why Are Employers Asking Interviewees To Do "Pre-Work?"

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
People frequently compare dating to looking for a job. (Perhaps a little too often — after all, there's still a line that far too many people in positions of power feel comfortable crossing.) Even so, there is a definite sense of overlap, at least in the process, if not the outcome.
You spend a lot of time looking for the right one. You dress up and try to present your very best self during the interview process. If everything pans out, you're in: You've landed your next gig and the real work begins in managing and maintaining the relationship.
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Unfortunately, as Ashley Milne-Tyte reported in a recent Marketplace story, many people are going through increasingly extensive "prove yourself" process without ever getting hired or hearing why.
"Before her interview, organizations asked [Kristen Shattuck, an education consultant] to write a personal statement, submit strategic plans, proposals, and watch videos, which she then had to give written feedback on. 'The amount of pre-work I was doing for most of these jobs was six to 10 hours of pre-work,'" Shattuck told Marketplace. "And these were for interviews I didn’t even go sit for."
Allison Hemming, the founder of The Hired Guns, a New York City recruiting firm, told Marketplace that part of the problem is companies are looking for employees who can do "more and more." As a result, asking potential hires for hours' — if not days' — worth of "pre-work" is one way to ensure they can deliver later. Recent grads, who often don't have real world experience, can be especially susceptible to these demands — both during the interview process and after they get hired.
In 2014, Cleveland.com reported on a survey from Robert Half, an international company that runs staffing agencies and does workplace research. In the survey, more than 40% of workers said they were "fooled" by employers during the interview process about the job's responsibilities and were later asked to do more and/or different tasks. "More than half of workers 18 to 34 years old said they've had a job that was billed as one thing, but ended up being another," the article noted. "The figure dropped to 27% for those 55 to 64 years old."
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Sure, there's a certain amount of "proving yourself" that might be expected of younger workers, but potential employees should also look out for red flags during the interview process.
On Marketplace, Hemmings says that hiring managers who pile on the homework only to hold out on a job offer without ever giving any feedback aren't intentionally manipulative. She argues they're often under pressure themselves to develop ways to hire the best candidates, not to mention, they might not be thoroughly experienced at their own jobs.
So, if an overwhelmed hiring manager who's still working out the kinks of their position decides to just ghost you instead of giving it to you straight (kind of like that crappy Tinder date), there's not a whole lot you can do. Take a deep breath, try to find some perspective, and remember there's a reason it wasn't meant to be.
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