Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a marked increase in organizations listing the salary range (or just salary number) on their job postings. There are a few who still don’t, but since job postings are usually public, they often get swift feedback. There have also been more laws passed to ensure transparency and to stop the gross and unethical practice of basing candidates’ salary offer on their salary history. Overall, we’re doing much better on this front and should celebrate! Soy vanilla ice cream topped with Luxardo cherries and truffle salt for everyone! (You may have a different way to celebrate).
Now we must turn our attention to a horrible, no-good, very bad hiring practice that many of us, even the ones who disclose salary on job postings, are still perpetuating: Asking job candidates to do unpaid work as part of the hiring process. I’ve mentioned it briefly earlier—it’s the first item on this list of “Crappy hiring practices that need to die, and some awesome ones we need to adopt”—but it’s gotten so bad that it needs to be called out on its own. Here are some ways it manifests:
- Requiring job candidates to create a fundraising, evaluation, or communications plan specifically tailored to your organization.
- Making candidates write you a sample end-of-year appeal letter based on your org’s mission
- Having candidates analyze your organization’s current website and provide suggestions for improvement.
- Demanding candidates create and deliver a presentation about how they would approach some topic relevant to the job.
- Requiring candidates to write and then act out a pitch to a potential major donor
- Asking candidates to create a detailed work plan for how they would do their job if they were hired.
- Having candidates to show up and “volunteer” at your program to see how they do.
There are tons more examples. My friend and colleague Irene Nexica, an equity-minded recruiting and hiring expert, wrote “I received an assignment as the second round for something that they described would take 3 to 4 hours (already too much to ask), and actually took me more like 16. The assignment was basically designing the first 30 days of the job for this new role.” (Irene was also forced to endure SIX rounds of interviews, proving that this organization is completely incompetent and no one should ever work there).
The practice of asking candidates for unpaid labor is awful and anyone who does it needs to stop immediately. Here are several reasons why it’s bad:
It is inequitable. Many of these assignments take hours of researching, planning, thinking, drafting, reviewing, etc. You’re asking job candidates to spend time that they may not have, when they could be doing other things that would actually earn them money. This is not just annoying, it’s also inequitable when you consider that many job candidates aren’t currently employed, and many are people of color, disabled people, women, older adults, neurodivergent, etc. Every unpaid hour you require job candidates to engage in special assignments as part of your hiring process is another hour of your organization furthering inequity.
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