What to Do When a Client Gives a Candidate Homework

QUESTION: A new client has an interview process that basically translates into a consulting project.  They give a homework assignment that requires about 8 hours of research and effort to put together, director level position, around $120,000 to $140,000.  It seems excessive to me at this level if they are going to attract talent.  They are great in every other aspect.  Is it time for me to push back on this as we already had one candidate withdraw?  Best way to do something? Vin, Glastonbury, CT

ANSWER: I agree with you 100%, you want to attract great talent and you want them to do 8 hours of homework can be a challenge.  I do not know if the research that they are going to do benefits the client, meaning even if I do not hire you we are going to take your research and be able to use the data to improve our business.  If that is the case you might want to be assertive say, “You know what, this would be a consulting project and we want to bill it out at about $100 or $150 an hour.  What I would recommend is that any candidate that you accept the research of, let us say it is a flat $1,000 project fee or even a $500 project fee, something, and that if you hire them you do not pay them and that will be part of the compensation package”.  But that is one thing that just came up for me just having read the question.

Another approach would be saying to the hiring manager, “Is it more important that the candidate do 8 hours of research or that you get the best available person on the market? I have already had 3 candidates that I know, based on their backgrounds, (you can tease them with their backgrounds without revealing who they are), that are told me that they are interested, but do not have time to do this type of research.”

This is probably not a great analogy, but just like David Price of the Red Sox in 2015, did not have a great season, there is a limit a potential free agent is going to do. They will submit to a physical, but he is not going to pitch a free season of winter ball and hope that you attract him.  He is the best guy on the market, and he is going to go for top dollar.

I always like that free agent analogy.  For the best athlete, they are sending their corporate jet.  They are picking him or her up.  They are flying them to team headquarters.  They are wining and dining them.  They are showing them the exercise facilities, in addition to a great contract and why they want to work there.

Your client’s response is going to be that if he or she really wants to work here they will do the work.  They do not have to.  You need to advise them that are a great company with a great opportunity.  Ask them if they are willing sacrifice outstanding talent by making them do the work.

So hopefully that gives you a couple ideas.