Job interview take home assignments don’t work for the following reasons:
Take home assignments usually have an expected time limit of 30 minutes to 1 hour. But candidates end up spending more time on them. If you’re interviewing at several companies while maintaining a full-time job, where do you have the time to do them? If a company asks you do a take home, you should ask for an alternative like a real-time assessment. It’s unfair to spend your time working on a take home while juggling the rest of your responsibilities. In my opinion, companies that expect you to do a take home are usually companies that don’t value your time. I advise you to protect your time and don’t give away your labor for free. If anything, ask for compensation.
I have seen take home assignments that are as complex as building a full-stack application. That requires tremendous effort. Even building an API is difficult. I find it hypocritical when candidates are asked to timebox their approach, but the hiring manager nitpicks the solution for its incompleteness. As a result, it becomes a catch-22 where candidates have to choose between following the rules or putting more work in it. In either case, it becomes an unproductive waste of time for both the candidate and the recruiter.
It’s always hard to judge the quality of a take home assignment. How do you know that the candidate is the one who did it? I’ve found many take home assignments posted online and it’s very easy to find someone else to do it for you. I think take home assignments are a poor assessment of a candidate’s true ability because there are so many things you cannot verify. If one candidate spends 1 hour on the take home and another spends 1 week, should they be judged the same? Also, because candidates have the luxury to do the take home on their own time, the solutions are judged more critically. Ultimately, there’s no winner here and candidates are inadvertently pressured to spend more time on it.
In the end, it’s a matter of respect. If you’re interviewing at a company and the only way forward is by doing a take home, then you have the following choices: (1) ask for an alternative, (2) ask to be paid, or (3) interview somewhere else. As a candidate, you always have options. As a hiring manager, you shouldn’t rely on the take home assignment as an indicator that the candidate would be a good fit for your company. By the time the candidate completes the assignment, he or she may have received competing offers. Thus, find ways to make the hiring process more efficient so you don’t lose out on top talent.