Let’s talk about interview tasks, shall we?
As someone who has worked in marketing for the last four years, I’m no stranger to preparing some sort of work – whether that’s a marketing presentation, social media strategy, sample posts, or a written exercise – to bring along to an interview.
I understand that, when it comes to creative roles, this sort of thing is really helpful to employers. It can help them to see that you understand their brand and its mission, and can adapt your techniques and tone of voice accordingly.
I’m all for showcasing my skills in this way. So much so, that I’ve often prepared a marketing plan or sample social media posts without being asked. (I’m not necessarily suggesting you do this. It’s a lot of work, and it’s only actually bagged me the job once.)
What I’m not on board with, however, is employers taking the piss.
I was interviewing for a role with a social media agency, and they asked me to look at one of their client’s social media and share what I thought they were doing well, and what I thought they could improve on. They also asked me for a couple of sample post ideas.
So far, so standard. Piece of cake, really.
I went along to my first interview with the founder of the agency, and we really hit it off. We were bouncing ideas around, and it felt like we were on the same page. Great, I thought.
I was invited back for a second interview, so I could meet the co-founder. They asked me to prepare more work, which I didn’t mind doing. In the second interview (which ended up being with HR, rather than the co-founder), I brought up salary. She countered by asking what my expectations were, then told me that she would need to have a discussion with the co-founder. Kind of fair enough, except that I found it odd that she wasn’t able to at least give me a ballpark figure. All she would say is that it was less than I was asking for.
By this point I was starting to get a bit frustrated by the lack of transparency. She’d met me twice by this point (never in the office, mind you), and had squeezed a fair amount of work out of me. The fact that salary was still a mystery seemed like a bit of a red flag.
(Also, I’m definitely not accusing anyone of anything but I did notice a few changes to that client’s social media that looked…familiar, shall we say.)
So by this point I was starting to feel a bit wary. I was invited back for my third interview to meet the illusive co-founder and informed, beforehand, that the job had changed slightly. I would now be looking after a different client of theirs so, I was told, it would be great if I could start putting together some ideas for them.
I went to that interview with the growing sense that I was being screwed over. I kept my thoughts on the new client suitably vague, and pushed a bit harder for an answer regarding salary. Again, I was simply told that it was lower than I’d asked for. When I asked them, outright, for their ballpark I was told that they “couldn’t remember what they’d decided”. Three interviews in, a shitload of work later, and they were still being cagey? Bollocks to that.
As soon as I got home I sent them an email telling them I wouldn’t be going any further with the recruitment process. I told them I was alarmed by their lack of transparency, and that I felt they’d handled the process poorly.
Their response? To tell me that my ideas were dated and that my attitude showed that this would not be a good fit going forward. An astute observation on their part, given that I’d just told them to shove the job up their arse.
Admittedly, I allowed my frustration to get the better of me. My email to them could have been more professional, and I sometimes regret handling things how I did. But there is no part of me that doubts that they were stringing me along.
Oh and, by the way, that same job has been advertised again recently. Only this time they’re actually being open about the salary.
It’s £7,000 less than I was asking for.