Employers are more cautious than ever about hiring people. The cost of hiring the wrong person is just too great because budgets are so tight. Managers want to get it right the first time.
We all know that traditional interviews are not a great way to evaluate a job candidate. And I talk myself blue in the face suggesting that “doing the job in the interview” is the best way to convince an employer you’re right for the job.
Some employers go about this a bit differently but with the same intent. They want proof you can produce. Some will ask for work samples. And that’s a thorny issue that one reader just asked me about.
I interviewed with a company 4 times. On the 4th interview the hiring manager asked me to provide any kind of document as an example of the kind of work that I do related to leading development of web-based applications. This put me in a difficult spot because a document like the one he asked for is work that I’ve done for previous employers and is covered by non-disclosure and other agreements. There are public marketing materials and web sites for the products I’ve led development on, and I offered my references, but that wasn’t enough for them.
I was surprised by the request and uncomfortable but really wanted the position. So I took a high level document that I created in the past, blacked out any section that contained non-public information, then pasted images of the pages into a new document to make sure those sections could not be recovered. A few days later they told me that they were not going to move forward with me as a candidate.
What do you think of employers making this kind of request, and how should candidates respond?
Respecting confidentiality is a character trait. Some people just don’t have it. It’s surprising when a corporate manager dismisses confidentiality for the sake of expediency. I think you did the right thing.
Nonetheless, I think companies are smart to request work samples. Some candidates just can’t deliver on the promises that are in their resumes. So the burden is on the candidate.
First, I’d make it clear to the employer that your past work is subject to NDA and you cannot share it. Apologize anyway, and explain that you would respect his company’s confidentiality just as you respect your old employers’.
Second, be armed. Prepare some work samples that you can share without risk. What you prepared for this guy sounds legit. But take some time to think about it. Come up with the best examples you can and have them ready. In fact, I’d offer to share them before an employer even asks. It gives you a edge.
Finally, if an employer is unsatisfied with what you’ve provided but you think they are worthy, offer to do a bit of work to show what you can do. I’m not suggesting working for free. Just do enough to show them what you’re capable of. It might mean a couple of hours on site with a team at the company, or a couple of hours working at home on a problem or simple project. In this case, you could ask the manager about a “live” project he’s working on, and then produce part of a project plan to show him how you would tackle it. A manager is not likely to ask for something like this. But he might be grateful if you offered it.
There are always many ways to skin the proverbial cat. My guess is these guys had other issues with you, or perhaps they have an issue with confidentiality. My advice: Move on to the next, but be better prepared.