Don’t ask for free work during the hiring process

Feb 16, 2021

I’ve had a number of folks share with me recently that they are being asked to do free work or “submit projects” when applying for posted opportunities.

I define free work as something done specifically for that business that takes a measurable amount of time (1-2 hours or more).

Things like “create a plan for my upcoming promo” or “write a piece of sample copy for X”… and they are being asked to do this before they’ve even been interviewed.

Yes, I get that we are looking to test someone’s skills and abilities during the hiring process… that we want to see what they are capable of and that it matches what we need.

But if we ask for too much upfront not only is it unreasonable, you are also going to miss out on some great candidates.

So how do we find out someone’s skills/abilities during the hiring process?

There are 3 ways:

1) Ask them about their skills, experience and training/certifications as part of the application. In traditional hiring this is asking for a resume. When hiring freelancers/contractors you don’t want to ask for a resume (as they don’t have one being business owners themselves) but you can ask for a link to their website or LinkedIn profile with relevant information.

You can also ask specific questions about what you are looking for “Tell me about your experience with _____” or “How would you rate your skills in this software?”

2) During the interview you can dig in even further re: what they shared during the application process. Talk about examples of past work they’ve done, types of projects / clients they’ve worked with, etc. This is the stage where you can really see/feel what they do (and don’t) know.

3) And last but not least, if you want to get an experience of what they bring to the table before hiring them you can have them do a PAID project or bit of work.

Let’s imagine you’ve talked to a number of candidates and narrowed it down to 2 that you are really interested in – pay them for a few hours of their time to do X. This is a great way to see what someone is capable of before making it official while also honoring the value of their time.

The more purposeful we are throughout the hiring process the more likely we are to find the right fit.


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