If there’s one thing for which freelancers and remote workers can be grateful, it’s that the pandemic has broadened the scope of jobs which are now being done from home. Having been forced into a position where it was “allow home working or close your business”, many companies have realised the benefits of a remote staff, rather than sticking resolutely to the traditional set up of having everyone in an office.
While most of my work is still done on a freelance basis, I have found that there are now more jobs being advertised which offer a full-time or almost full-time work schedule but on a remote basis and it’s led me to apply for a few of them. While I still want to work from home, I’ve never been adamant that I must remain freelance, and the added stability of a contracted position definitely appeals.
The good news is, not only have I had a few interviews for positions I’ve applied to, I’ve been successful at the first stage and been asked to move on through the recruitment process.
The bad news is, more often than not, the next phase of the recruitment process is being asked to create content for the company on an unpaid basis, and this is an area where I’ve been stung before.
Back in 2012, I applied for a job at my local council and thought I’d done really well in the interview, where I’d been asked to do a presentation and come up with an idea for a newspaper campaign (you can read about it on my blog if you want the full story).
Unfortunately, I was passed over despite being told I was pretty much a shoo-in, and then a few weeks later, I opened my local newspaper only to see my exact campaign printed verbatim, with absolutely no credit for the idea. Naturally, I was annoyed, but friends told me that this is just something that happens and I should get over it.
My most recent interview was with a company that I really felt I could be passionate about. They were an up-and-coming manufacturer of unique items in a field about which I have a lot of personal interest and I really felt like I connected with the person who interviewed me.
Again, I was told that my initial interview had been successful and that I was being invited to the next stage. The email came through with instructions on what I needed to do and immediately, alarm bells started ringing. There were five tasks in total:
1. Write a strong SEO blog article for our website with the topic of ‘The Importance of XXX’ including the keyword XXX, with a paragraph describing your SEO processes.
2. Write a social media caption for a post advertising a product launch
3. Re -write the below product description for SEO
4. Rewrite part of our website homepage – you can choose which segment
5. A paragraph on your thoughts and suggestions on what should be our tone of voice.
(I’ve removed an information which is specific to the company to avoid breaching any data protection, etc)
Now, let me make it clear; I know that taking on a full-time employee is a big thing for most businesses and they want to make sure that they find someone who is the right fit for them, especially when there is a creative aspect to the role. I’m not slating companies for wanting to make the right choice and I also understand that it would be very expensive to pay for the time of every interviewee to create content.
However, as someone who has been copywriting for over a decade, I have a LOT of examples of my work that I can show to prospective employers. I have a website with this very blog you’re reading attached to it, as well as a portfolio page. I have a personal blog dating back 12 years. I have DOZENS of links to websites where I have provided blog posts, columns, product descriptions, SEO-rich copy, page titles and a whole bunch of other optimised words, all of which have a different tone of voice for each individual company. There is plenty of stuff available to show my range.
After much thought, I decided not to complete the tasks, but I was really disappointed. I wanted that job and I thought I could be really good at it, but if I give away that much time and work product to every job I apply for, I’m going to have no time left to complete the work for which I’m actually paid.
I’m at a point where I feel like if companies can’t work out if an employee is right for them based on this volume of examples, maybe they need to refine their recruitment process? In my former life, I was a payroll manager and never did I have to run a month’s worth of payroll for a company to prove to them that I could do it, before they gave me the job.
Asking applicants to provide you with a small paragraph or to edit a few sentences might be acceptable, but giving them tasks like this just makes me wary. What’s to stop a company advertising a role and asking every applicant to provide them with a different piece of work? Suddenly, the role has been taken down and the company has enough content to rework their whole website. That feels shady to me, and as I said, I’ve been burnt before, but I’m definitely I’m not the only person to experience this.
Companies need to either temper their expectations in terms of making applicants jump through so many hoops (and providing them with so much free content…) or start vetting their candidates using existing examples of their work. Anything else just makes it feel like we’re being conned.
What’s your opinion on this? Have you ever had your work
stolen “used” post-interview, without being given the job? Do you think it’s just something that companies do and we should all get used to it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.