What is with All the Homework? Is Job Applicant or Kindergarten Homework Effective?

What is with All the Homework?  Is Job Applicant or Kindergarten Homework Effective?

My daughter started Kindergarten this year. Real school, now, right? If you have been out of the Kindergarten loop for some time, you might not have realized how much it has changed. Play time is relatively over; kindergarteners read, they write, they speak Spanish and yes get homework. The homework debate among student’s rages in and out of school. Is it effective? Kids need to play? Kids are too scheduled? Well, what about candidates? Many employers are jumping on a trend to give homework to applicants to learn more about a potential hire. Hiring is an expensive endeavor and making the wrong hire is even more costly. Tools and techniques to identify the right talent for companies is imperative. Is homework effective? Are there legal implications of work being done? Is it just plain annoying and a turn off to top talent?

Upside to Homework? 

  • Using homework as an interview tactic can provide employers a preview of an applicant’s approach to problem solving, quality of work product, creativity, and overall approach.
  • When narrowing down a candidate pool, homework assignments can help separate a candidate who is a strong interviewer and someone who has a stronger skill set.
  • Can overcome biases? Kris Duggan, CEO of Badgeville, says that people have many preconceived notions when it comes to the background of candidates; for example, schools that they graduated from or how polished they are. He feels that homework, and “putting pen to paper” eliminates candidates the ability to oversell themselves.
  • The interview process is often a mix of objective and subjective evaluations; homework allows the hiring manager to compare a consistent piece of work making it more objective.

Downside to Homework?

  • It can create unintended bias against people who have after work responsibilities or work two jobs and do not have the same amount of down time to dedicate to homework assignments as others.
  • It can turn off candidates, especially those who have proven themselves in a field, leaving companies with a lower candidate pool.
  • It can lead to a bad reputation in the marketplace. Candidates required to work on homework assignments, who do not ultimately get the position, may feel taken advantage of or worse that they have performed work for the company without pay?
  • Potential legal implications; certain states require that job training is paid, and certain homework assignments can be construed as job training. See California.

As a manager, I have worked for companies who required homework of applicants. My personal view is that it really did not provide that much more insight then an effective interview that not only asked questions about background but skill based and knowledge based questions. I also felt like homework does not provide insight into a cultural fit. I can certainly see the counter argument. The same way I can see the advantages of requiring homework for kids and the advantage of letting them run like wild animals after sitting in a desk for 6 hours.

What side of the fence are on in the homework debate? Email me with your thoughts. We would love to hear from you. Erica@mchenryconsulting.net

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