Ever have a potential employer give you a TEST

Ditto, nothing to do with wanting free work, at least at our place. Maybe a smaller consultancy with a tight deadline would want more ideas for free, but you get what you pay for, right?

There have been one or two occasions where a short ‘test’ or project would have illuminated serious shortcomings into a person’s work. People can rehearse a presentation, dial in a portfolio, and worst of all take total credit for stuff they only participated in.

We have a test - more like a survey, really - but its sort of a psychological profile which gives us insights into qualities not expressed in portfolios. Helps with interviews because you can ask better questions.

It really depends on the job and situation though. If its a small firm in a pinch, maybe not. Larger firm or Co. with established business, maybe its good.

Its all part of the evaluation period along side ‘background check’ done by 3rd party. I had consultancies/corporations asking me to do ‘contract work’ or come in to work for a week to gauge fit/skill. In the end you’ll get a paycheck (or case of beer). IMO it’s worth spending a few hrs to couple of days doing this contract work, esp if you’re in need of a job. If they pay you and hire you that’s great; if not at least you have added some work to your existing portfolio. The alternative is you do nothing and never know whether it’s a good job or not.

Agreed. If you did a test and got the job it would be well worth a few hours of work right? If you don’t get the job, it’s worth getting real world feed back. Feel free to ask them specifics about what they didn’t like. We don’t just say thanks but no thanks, we give them a little bit of feedback on why they were not a good fit.
I just don’t see how a company would steal work because it’s so good and then not want to hire them.

I have the same problem right now. I have a second interview with a potential employer next week. They are asking me to create an entire campaign (website, e-news, direct mail, cover & layout interior brochure). I think this is asking way too much, and this is for a senior level design/management job. They’ve seen my portfolio and I have 10+ years experience in the field they specialize in. They are also asking for the native files and high-res PDFs. Does this seem shady? They are a company of about 100 and have a decent reputation. I am just wondering why they are asking for so much for free. BTW, I am out of a job, so I kinda need this. What would you do?

Since you are or of a job, you don’t have much to loose. I’d let them know you intend to make all of the work public, an I would not give them the high res or native files. Let them cruise around them in your personal computer if they must, and they can have them if you get hired.

Personally, with that much experience in the field, they should know from your folio and the interview.

See, for all the nice happy stories of honest tests, there are ones like this that inform my initial reaction of “no, don’t do it”. “Tests” that involve this much work for someone with that much experience doesn’t make any sense to me. Esp. for a Sr. level/management job.

This does seem shady to me. I’d either (one or more)-

A) Point to similar work in your portfolio to demonstrate your experience.
B) Offer them a reference that can vouch for your experience in this area.
C) Ask for compensation for the work (create a formal budget and proposal and perhaps even offer a discount “trial” fee)
D) Do it but don’t provide source files.
E) Do it and make it public like Yo Suggests


Thanks for the advice. I am bringing in my laptop so they can view my files there. I also told them I could only two of the items before the interview, and they were fine with that. It is really ridiculous asking a senior level person to do this. I don’t like doing spec work, but times are tough. Can’t be too demanding when you need a job, right? If I DID have a job, I would never agree to this.

If they’re willing to fly you out, put you in a hotel, car rental, take you out for meal and set aside some of their own time to interview you, chances are they’re not using you for ideas and shows that they have somewhat of an interest. Having the 2nd interview means you’ve been shortlisted. Depending on how you handle things from hereon it could make or break a job. Like others suggested just tell them you’ll be all the work you did for them to your portfolio and use that for subsequent interviews.

I’ve had several job test experiences to share…

I’ve done a design test for a West Coast USA consultancy before… it was a 24 hour thing, to come up with several concepts around a pocket camera product brief. It was also unpaid. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, and I took it seriously working very late into the night do the best job I could. Frankly it’s the kind of thing I would have enjoyed doing anyway, and the extra urgency made the whole thing more exciting. I got the job and it paid off well in the long run - I would do it again.

If I hadn’t gotten the job, I’d have been upset at the work done even though I had planned to use it for my portfolio if something nice came out of it. I had also spent quite a bit on several trips out to visit and for the initial interviews, but they were partially job-hunting visits that combined several meetings so nothing to really gripe about.

Recently in England however, I had a different test experience. I was following up a first interview with a large manufacturing company and was asked to prepare a 15 min presentation plus complete 3 hour online assessment test. That experience was terrible. The on-line questionnaire was a usability mess, the results were suspect, and the outfit gave a very poor interview - They insisted on a suit/tie for the all day interview, then power went out on a hot sunny day, and on top of that - everyone involved was deathly sick with a cold leaving the interview often to blow their noses!! They didn’t even provide a projector though they confirmed one available twice beforehand. * note: always bring a hard copy, luckily I had. Needless to say I didn’t land that one and I’m calling it a ‘bad fit.’

My final experience was with my current employers… they brought me in as an outside consultant for a project to try me out and help with bandwidth - and it was a paid gig. We all got along great, the project turned out great, and they made me an offer when I finished the project. I couldn’t be happier to have done the project with them.

Additionally, I was recently in touch with a good friend in the Bay Area, formerly a top dog at one of the consultancies, was telling me he is doing a test project for a new job out there. The guy is one of the best designers I know, so apparently it happens to the best.

Overall, if it’s a day or so of work and you can afford the time, I think you should go for it if you want the job. Seeing someone’s performance in real time is revealing of what you would produce for them and how you could work together. It might not be enough time to show how you could be developed as in the case of a jr or mid-weight designer, but telling nevertheless and they could still get a sense of your work habits. A day of work is not going to cost you more than a flight out to visit a possible employer and if the potential job is worth it. The best of all cases is the paid trial project, but that might not be an option. I’ve never had the feeling that I was being conned into doing free work for someone, but I’m sure it does happen. If I had a bad feeling about the company I might not do it.

I just got a email from a popular jewelery design company who needs rhino jockey. I had this application for months now. I had sent them a portfolio and they liked it. Now, they are giving a " candidate capability" test along with a project property document that says anything done for this purpose is their property. The test is a full fledged project from sketch to rhino model for 3 designs " price point" . I am concerned if i should sign this and give them 3 designs for free and I dont know if I can use it for my portfolio.

shyamsun, WOW. sounds very nervy to me. sounds fishy, they want the rights, sounds like these design competitions.

some ideas…

If it was me and I needed the work, I’d have a friendly discussion with them. Find out what their doubts are about your work.

  1. Then I’d try to talk my way in based on the great work you already submitted that showed you can do the job.
    if that did not work…
  2. Try having them hire you on a paid freelance basis to try me out for 1 or 2wks.
    if that did not work…
  3. I Then try to negotiate it down to one model, they get the rights but you get the rights to show it 6months down the road in your portfolio.

Ask how many people are in the running (to see what your chances are) and how greedy they are.
Respectfully negotiate, negotiate.



My company might not ask for you to come up with a concept but we are now starting to ask people to come in and take a test in the program they say they are proficient in. We have been burned many times by people lying on their resumes and a lot of the time myself or someone else has to clean up or redo everything they worked on.

I think its fair to test on specific program, like giving an example and recreate the same, then judge on the skills. But I think its too much to ask for a design that will be the next big thing for the company. Agree?

They offered me the job, so my free hard work paid off. This is highly unusual for me to do work for free like that, and luckily they liked it enough to hire me. Thanks for the advice. It really helped.

They offered me the job, so my free hard work paid off. This is highly unusual for me to do work for free like that, and luckily they liked it enough to hire me. Thanks for the advice. It really helped.[/quote]

great! Hope they give you a good bonus, to cover your pre-work test at holiday time, especially if they use it for real.

Best of luck in your new gig.