need advise re unemployment

Hello everyone. I am a recently unemployed Industrial Designer who has been working professionally for 4 years. I ws laid off a few months back because of “cost cuts” and the poor economy.

It hase to my attention that employers seeking designers seem to be making prospective candidates work on a “test” project before making any kind ofmitment. I havee across this a couple times so far on my job hunt.

I find this new trend disturbingly unethical. For one, if someone is applying for a job, but currently holds a design job elsewhere, they could possibly be in legal trouble for breaking their contract with their current employer. It also bothers me to see the scope of some of these projects as well. It pretty much amounts to 20-40 unpaid hours of work and sometimes this is even before they ask you toe in for or are guaranteed an interview. I also do not think it is an accurate portrail of someone’s deisgn skills because you are not privy to proprietary information the employer giving you the assignment has (costs for materials, vendor relationships).

Am I just being old fashioned here or does this trend worry anybody else?

I came across this a couple of years ago when I applied for a senior ID’er role with a very prestigious brand.

Although I was short listed down to the last few they wanted me to undertake a mini project before getting to the interview stage.

I estimated it would take me at least 40hrs (to do it justice) and I had about 2.5 weeks to do it in. At the time I had some major project deadlines at work (late nights + travel) and busy pre-arranged schedule at weekends to contend with, so I had no choice but to tell them I simply didn’t have the time to do it.

I can see why employers would do this at a junior level but at a senior level?? I personally don’t think it is a fair system but I guess it is a reflection of the over saturated market.

that is a little odd for a senior designer. i’ve had impromptu sketching/design exercises at interviews, which i understand. on the flip side of the interview, i have been witness to someone plagerizing their portfolio and ‘talking a good game’. that liltte exercise during the interview ferreted that person out.

I agree with doing something at interview to weed out the ‘ringers’, at least that way all if fair for all.

It sucks but what are you going to do? That same thing has happened to me a bunch of times. I sent a ceiling fan design, complete with sketches and a nice rendering, to a company in CA and I never once heard back from them.

Since the company is offering the job and you want it, there’s not a lot you can do apart from just decline the position. It would be better if they took someone on as a contractor first and then hired fulltime later.

Asking for professional work is shady I know but that’s what happens when the market is totally flooded with designers looking for work.

Maybe you could watermark your renderings and sketches, so they couldn’t be used except for skills assessment…

I did it for a job I interviewed with but it was for a junior position.

I think that a company should give a small project (if any!) after the interview process is over. That way both parties aren’t wasting each others time.

What would be the point of doing “free” work, in the form of sketches, renderings and the like, when the designer already has a portfolio/work samples available to show at the interview? The purpose of putting together a portfolio is to provide examples of how a designer thinks through and illustrates a project…?

Sounds to me like they just want you to provide them with design work free of charge. This is unethical. I would explain to them in a polite way that design work is not free and you must be compensated properly.

My two pennies anyway.

I could agree with the on-the-spot sketching exercise, but doing a project in order to try to get hired is completely unethical. They should use your resume, portfolio and references.

I find it highly unethical.

#1 it devalues our work as a whole when someone agrees to provide design work “on spec”

#2 it is not a fair playing field when you are asked to do something like that. I ran into a situation where I was asked to provide 3D renderings - what if I did not personally own the software??? So now instead of being judged on my design abilities, I was instead judged by my ability to buy expensive design tools like Rhino for my personal use…

#3 We have portfolios for a reason. If someone cannot make a judgement call based on my portfolio, resume and a one on one interview, chances are I don’t want to work for them.

Stick your ground - you’ll be better off in the long run. I was in your position 4 years ago.

I think this new practice is unethical. In any other profession, if someone asked you to perform tasks or demonstrate your abilities during an interview, they would be breaking the law.

I can understand the risk involved in taking on a new designer in an oversaturated market, but c’mon. Any other company in any other field takes a risk every time they hire someone. Why do ID companies think they’re so much more important that they need their new employees to be cranking out free work for them?

It’s a lose-lose situation for designers lately. Companies don’t want to hire, and if they do, they’ll run you through the wringer to get in the door. You will most likely be asked to not only do a test project to get hired, but you may also be asked to do a “trial run” or “contract period” where you’ll basically be a freelancer for anywhere from 2-6 months. I feel this whole practice is highly insulting.

“Oh you want to work for us? We’d like to see how you handle this little mini-project. If we like what we see, we can offer a 3-month trial period with the chance to become a staff designer. Sound good?”

No. The chance to work for you? This is not a game show, this is my professional career. Any company not willing to hire a staff designer based on a good portfolio and a good interview is not a company that anyone should want to work for.

(Just to put something in for the other side)

I’ve never been in a tender situation but do companys get paid for putting a tender forward? I imagine it normally involves doing some work behind it.

You could then see it your putting a tender to get a job.

It is unethical if they want you to do a full project before committing to hiring you, it’s just common sense.

On the spot sketching, conceptualization, these I can understand. These are needed to weed out the guys who rip off other peoples portfolios.

But to ask a designer to do a full project , thats just taking advantage of someone who is unemployed and needing a job.

Unfortunately, this trend is the norm in China, and it breaks my heart knowing that it will get worse for designers as China and its practices are now dictating how the products ( whatever they may be) look like and how they are designed.

If you agree to do any kind of spec work only goes to show how desperate you are. By firmly saying no you are not only showing that you have integrity, you also show that you do not agree with this practice. Not only is it a matter of ethics, it is a matter of how you value yourself, your talent and your work. I know that it can be hard not to be desperate if you’re unemployed but consider it a psychological game (we are after all dealing with interactions of human beings here). Without being dishonest or arrogant, avoid showing your weaknesses or the fact that you are at a disadvantage. How you present yourself is how you sell yourself for your next job. I would under no circumstances do any spec work, not even sketches in an interview.

If your laid off your contract may be void unless you accepted a severence check. If not go to your past employer and tell em you got this job and work the guilt factor on the past employer.

i think that is a cavalier attitude. having been laid off twice in my career, i have more tahn maintained my professional integrity.

try handling a mortgage payment and daily expenses of a family on your savings (sans severance) and then tell me again about showing your weaknesses.

It is certainly a catch 22. I was presented with the situation myself recently. I met my potential employer at a trade show and we discussed a future project he would like to hire someone to work on. He asked me to do some research on potential technologies, and sketch up some ideas to demonstrate that I knew what he is looking for. After about 2 weeks of work I presented that to him, and it looked as if I might be getting strung along for another phase of presentations.

I was planning on being upfront with him during our next conversation and politely saying that I thought the general direction he wished to go in had plenty of merit and possibility, but that I felt it would take much more development then I could brainstorm in a short time period.

But, I didn’t have to get into that because our next conversation began with him saying that he talked it over with his staff and is willing to proceed with hiring me. Problem solved. I think I would have soon pressured him to get a definitive feeling for where I stood though, because I’d hate to devote a month of my free time to conceptualization, only to find out that the offer wasn’t good enough, or things just wouldn’t work out.

I have heard that Oakley uses projects in their hiring process, but pays all prospective designers for their time. This way both parties benefit and designers dont waste their time. Much respect to Oakley.

In that case I would of course have no objection to doing the work. Props to Oakley for being responsible.

alot of comments on how unfair to the poor designer…

Hiring full time is a major committment for a company. On average it costs 2.75X - 3.5X your salary to maintain each full time employee. Of course, project disruption when an employee doesn’t work out is a big problem too. So, companies trying to ‘cover their ass’ is fair. How they do it, of course, is up for debate.

Earlier comment on basing decision on portfolio, resume, communication and personality is really the fairest. Some companies, ‘Human Resources’, managers, etc., of course have to try other not so fair techniques.

Any company that asks you to do a mini-project as part of a selection process must also state either successful hiring as reward, in which case they’ve bought and own the design, or in lieu of hiring payment if they use any of your submitted design work.

If the company does not state either of the above your chances of being ‘ripped off’ are rising, and is also an indicator that any term of employment at such a company may not be enjoyable.

Not really. I was fired from my corporate job in January and my family relied solely on my income since my wife is in school getting her masters. We have student loans and morgages, etc so I have experienced the exact situation your’re describing. I’m now doing much better than ever before, that is, happier, doing more of what I really want to do and making more than I ever was at my corporate job. I suppose it is a balancing act, you’ve got to have the talent and work to back up your confident attitude, or it won’t work. I think it also depends on your priorities. If you are content being a “shape maker” with less control over your work that is fine but if you want to be truly successful, with more of your identity influencing your work then I believe this is the way to go. People don’t want to hear your problems (unless they are your friends) and people don’t want to see weakness in the person they are going to hire. Success is attracted to success, money is attracted to money etc. I’m not saying I agree with all of this, I’m just saying that’s how human psychology works.