Job candidate sparks debate on providing ‘free labour’ during interview process

Employers are increasingly assigning job candidates take-home work to demonstrate their skills

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 04 February 2022 19:57 GMT
(TikTok @daffodilmktg / Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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A viral TikTok is prompting creators to share their experiences with unfair job applications, many of whom were not compensated for their work during the interview process.

The conversation began when Jenna Libman, a 22-year-old freelancer and founder of Daffodil Marketing, posted a TikTok about her recent interview, which gained over 38,000 views.

“When you apply for a social media job and they want you to provide ‘an assignment’ of a 30 second reel, a text post, and a third creative post to them for free just for them to possibly not hire you,” she said in the video.

“And they were baffled that I asked to clarify if it was all for no compensation,” she captioned the TikTok.

Libman’s story struck a chord with many TikTokers, who shared similar experiences of demanding interview assignments.

“One company had me do a ‘mini project’ that included 15 Insta captions, 20 product descriptions, three website & email banners and then they ghosted me,” said @megrow11.

“Imagine they get 25 applicants in a month,” said user @stopdropandglare. “This is why they do it.” Libman agreed, calling the practice shady. “That’s a whole month’s worth of content for FREE,” Libman said.

One TikToker shared that they regularly provide work samples to their potential employer, which is a valid request during an interview. However, asking candidates to create new content for the company is an issue, said user @windykellems.

According to Slate, employers are increasingly assigning job candidates take-home work to demonstrate their skills. This allows employers to make much stronger hiring decisions by seeing how candidates approach the role they’re interviewing for.

While many applicants claim they are met with excessive demands and should be compensated for their work during the interview process, the US Department of Labor says that whether trainees should be considered paid employees depends upon the premises of the employer.

Speaking to The Independent, Libman believes that her video touches on an important topic, especially in the freelancing industry.

“Some comments are assuming I am asking to be hired without a resume or any proof of knowledge and experience, but that is not the case,” she told us.

“Imagine a company posting a job asking for free work for a social media job. Let's say they get 30 responses, 30 graphics. That is an entire month of free work, free ideas, free strategy, an entire content calendar,” Libman says.

A Zippia survey found that social media managers make an average starting salary of $35,000. Still, more millennial households are in poverty than any other generation, according to Pew Research.

In 2017, the cost of job hunting was preventing poorer students and recent graduates from interviewing. According to a study, the top jobs in all fields continue to be taken by graduates from wealthier backgrounds, despite higher numbers of students from poorer families going to university.

“I want those starting out in the industry to know it’s okay to set boundaries and know your worth,” Libman says.

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