I’ve been stunned, throughout my career, how little effort some people put into finding work.
On the bright side it means that it doesn’t take very much extra effort to make yourself stand out above the bumbling masses.
I’m a fan, when I’m looking for talent, of assigning some little task as a “test.” I picked this up in publishing. It’s basically impossible to get a job in publishing (both online and off) without taking some kind of writing or editing test.
These tests can tell you a lot about candidates, even before you read a word. A colleague and I are currently searching for an intern for the summer. We got lots of resumes. LOTS. Some were good, some just okay. We sent them a test and asked for some pre-written samples. The test was ridiculously easy: write a blog post about email and a Tweet to go with it.
So far we’ve gotten completed test from just three candidates. THREE.
My feeling on this is simple: If you aren’t willing to expend just a little bit of effort to get the job, how can I believe you’ll work hard when you have the job?
Of course there is a flip side, too. In my time I’ve been asked to do some crazy things. Looking back on one particularly arduous test — it had six parts, required me to write an editorial letter, come up with ideas for new quizzes and interactive tools, write part of a new quiz AND do a competitive analysis — I should have charged the company a consulting fee! I would now look at that kind of “test” as a red flag. Because the flip side of my question is this: If you are going to make me work this hard to get this job, are you going to expect me to have no life outside work when I get the job?
But the bottom line there is only so much you can learn from resumes and interviews. Some kind of reasonable “try out” just makes sense. If you want to work with me, expect it.