How Much Is Too Much? Jumping Hoops to Get Hired

For an important role or one with many applicants, employers might struggle with knowing who is the best fit. Some use testing and “test assignments” to cull the candidate pool. Many times, candidates hear nothing back — no feedback on scores, or information on how their work was evaluated. It leaves a bad taste for those who have carved out time and invested their energy with hopes of landing a role. Let’s consider the impact and the importance of being judicial with the job screening, interview, and candidate-evaluation process. 

How Much Is Too Much?

As the job market is shifting from being candidate-driven, an applicant may find the process of getting hired is becoming more cumbersome and lengthier. Job seekers may be asked to go through a rigorous hiring process that can include multiple rounds of interviews, assessments, and even work samples. While some level of testing is reasonable and necessary to evaluate a candidate’s skills and suitability for a job, there is a growing concern that some employers are taking it too far and exploiting job seekers by asking them to complete extensive and time-consuming tasks without offering any compensation or feedback. 

Many candidates have reported feeling exploited by hiring managers who provide challenges that require significant effort and expertise, such as multi-part marketing or sales strategies and sample work based on their business scenarios. For example, a marketing candidate might be asked to develop a full-fledged marketing campaign for a hypothetical product, including market research, branding, and advertising materials. Similarly, a software developer might be asked to build a complex application or solve a difficult coding challenge. 

While these challenges can help employers identify top talent and evaluate candidates’ skills, they can also be a significant investment of time and effort for job seekers, especially if they are already working full time or have other commitments. Furthermore, many candidates never receive feedback on their work or even a response from the employer, leading to frustration and disappointment. 

Feeling Burned 

One job seeker who felt exploited by an extensive hiring process is Sarah, a recent college graduate who applied for a marketing job at a startup. After submitting her application and going through several rounds of interviews, Sarah was asked to develop a marketing strategy for a new product launch, including market research, brand positioning, and a detailed marketing plan. 

Sarah spent over 30 hours working on the project, staying up late and sacrificing her weekends to meet the deadline. However, after submitting her work, she never heard back from the company. When she followed up, she was told that they had decided to go with another candidate. 

“I felt like I had been taken advantage of,” Sarah said. “I put in so much time and effort, and they didn’t even have the decency to give me feedback or let me know that I wasn’t selected. It was a huge waste of my time.” 

Unfortunately, stories like Sarah’s are all too common in today’s job market. Many employers are using increasingly sophisticated tests and assessments to evaluate candidates, but they are not always transparent about how the results are being used or shared. In some cases, candidates may be asked to complete personality tests, cognitive assessments, or even full-blown simulations of job tasks but never receive feedback or explanation of how they performed. 

What’s the Impact? 

There are also concerns about the fairness and legality of some of these hiring practices. While it is generally accepted that employers have the right to assess candidates’ skills and suitability for a job, there are laws and regulations that prohibit employers from requiring candidates to complete unpaid work or assessments that go beyond what is necessary to evaluate their qualifications. 

In some cases, job candidates may be entitled to compensation for their time and effort if the hiring process involves extensive testing or work samples. For example, in California, employers are required to pay candidates for “tryouts” or other assessments that are more than four hours in length unless the assessment is required by law or is necessary to evaluate the candidate’s ability to perform a specific job task. 

Similarly, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises employers to be mindful of the time and effort required of candidates during the hiring process and to provide clear communication and feedback throughout. Employers should also ensure that any assessments or work samples directly relate to the job requirements and are not exploitative or unnecessary. 

Ultimately, the question of how much is too much to ask of job candidates in the competitive process is a complex one that depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of the job, the level of competition, and the specific skills and qualifications being evaluated. While some level of testing and evaluation is necessary to ensure that employers are making informed hiring decisions, it is important to strike a balance between thorough evaluation and respecting the time and effort of job seekers. 

Boundaries and Transparency 

As job seekers, it is important to be mindful of our own limits and to set clear boundaries around what we are willing to do during the hiring process. We should also be proactive in seeking information about the hiring process, including what assessments or work samples will be required and how the results will be used. If we feel that an employer is asking for too much or is engaging in exploitative practices, we have the right to speak up and advocate for ourselves. 

Ultimately, the hiring process should be a two-way street, with employers and job seekers working together to identify the best fit for the job. By setting clear expectations and communicating openly and honestly, both parties can ensure a fair and respectful hiring process that leads to successful employment relationships. 


About Equiliem

Equiliem (www.equiliem.com) believes in empowering success. It’s our job to cultivate relationships that connect people and employers in a way that is inclusive, intelligent, and allows both to thrive. 

Across the U.S., leading companies in healthcare, government, light industrial manufacturing, professional services, and energy rely on us for their workforce solutions. Our recruiting and HR services include contract and direct hire staffing, Payrolling/EOR, Independent Contractor Compliance, and Managed Services.

Since 1995, we’ve helped shape our industry. Today, we continue to research, ask questions, and continuously enhance the candidate journey and client experience.