The process of finding a new job can be incredibly frustrating. Updating your CV, writing up endless cover letters (yuck!), and sending out tons of applications are all just the start. Next, you have to deal with test tasks that check your hard skills and go to interviews where your soft skills are probed, which can be utterly exhausting. But some companies take it to the next level—in the worst way possible.
Digital creator Talia Landman, @its_just_talia_, recently went viral on TikTok after sharing a video where she revealed just how involved the test assignments are. They’re so elaborate, in fact, that it’s legitimately akin to unpaid work. Scroll down for the full story. Bored Panda reached out to Landman and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on unpaid assignments, the job market, and her passion for storytelling. Read on for the full interview with the digital communications and marketing leader.
Some companies have hiring processes that are extremely unfair and unethical
Image credits: Burst (not the actual photo)
Digital creator Talia Landman called out a practice where businesses expect candidates to do unpaid work for them
Image credits: its_just_talia_
“I am looking right now at a three part assignment that a company sent to me, before even interviewing me.
Three part assignment – that will take hours to do. I am at a loss for words.
It’s literally something that they could take, copy and paste and put it onto their website, this is not just a hypothetical assignment. This is like, legit work, okay, they’re asking you to do work for them.
And after you’re done doing free work for them, then you have to do a five minute video introduction explaining who you are and why you’re a fit for the role. And this is before they even interview you.
This, along with the assignment that they’re asking for, as well as that video introduction, would take probably all day, if not longer. Companies are wild with what they’re asking for.”
Image credits: its_just_talia_
“So I responded back because I’m not doing this. I’ve done this before already. So don’t tell me that like, “oh, we’ll just do it, it’s the norm these days.” I’ve gone through interviews with companies where they did this with me, and I was either ghosted afterwards, or they use my work and didn’t pay me. No, thank you.
Also, they mentioned that this is a freelance role that pays $20/hour. That’s insulting.
Granted, they did have some of this on the website about their interview process, that there’s a challenge involved, but they didn’t say that the challenge was literally an unpaid assignment and unpaid work assignment.”
Image credits: its_just_talia_
“So here’s what I wrote back. “Thank you for the opportunity to potentially interview for this role. I was truly excited about it until realizing there are multiple unpaid assignments included before getting to the interview. I am a professional with over a decade of marketing, communications, content creation and copywriting experience. I do not partake in assignments in the interview process unless paid my hourly rate.”
This is what they’re doing now. Like, this is bonkers.”
You can watch the woman’s viral video in full right over here
More and more Americans are staying at their old jobs instead of quitting
CNN reports that the number of available jobs in the United States rose to 10.1 million this April, far more than economists had predicted. They had expected 9.375 million openings. Meanwhile, hiring activity grew from 6.07 million to 6.12 million workers, and layoffs went down, from 1.85 million to 1.58 million.
What’s more, the number of people who quit their jobs also dropped, from 3.84 million to 3.79 million. This indicates that more and more people are deciding to stay at their current jobs instead of trying their luck in the job market.
Landman’s video went viral and got 93.1k views and over 9k likes on the video-sharing platform. The clip also started a fiery discussion about company practices when it comes to assignments (aka test tasks, aka ‘challenges’) that are supposed to see whether a candidate is qualified for the position.
According to Landman, the company where she was applying to at the time gave her a three-part assignment, and then demanded a 5-minute video introduction. “And this is before they even interview you, okay?” she says in her TikTok.
The digital creator explains that she refused to do all of this based on her previous experience where other businesses have either outright ignored her after she completed what they asked her to, or ended up using the assignments she did without paying her. These sorts of practices are very clear red flags that these businesses aren’t places you should aim to work for.
Ideally, the hiring process would involve a face-to-face interview and a small assignment just to check whether everything’s above board. Writers and artists also tend to have portfolios that they can refer to as evidence of their skills. If the position is higher up in the corporate food chain, the process might be more involved: multiple rounds of interviews and aptitude as well as psychological tests to determine who the best candidate is.
There are two main problems with this. The first is that some untrustworthy businesses might actually claim the candidates’ assignments as work that they ‘own’ and can then do whatever they want. Obviously, this raises a lot of ethical questions, and it’s a practice that serious employers should avoid.
Image credits: Israel Andrade (not the actual photo)
Job candidates who take on lots of unpaid work are normalizing this approach which is anything but good
The second issue is that some companies are actively wasting their applicants’ time. Look, we get it—everyone wants the ‘perfect’ person for the open position. But recruiters and management have to be realistic that ‘good enough’ is often better than that mythical ‘perfect’ candidate who might not even exist. What’s worrying is that some recruiters have incredibly elaborate hiring processes in place for even basic positions.
Anecdotally, we personally know people who have spent literal months going to countless interviews and doing assignments for a single position, only to get rejected at the end. Others have had to suffer through half-a-dozen rounds of tests and interviews. As we’ve covered on Bored Panda before, some of the biggest mistakes that people can do during the hiring process is being too modest about themselves and their achievements: you have to find a way to give yourself credit for your skills while exuding confidence. However, it might be difficult to stay confident if the hiring process is unclear and seemingly endless. At some point, you might end up asking yourself whether you’re doing something very wrong.
In the end, is it worth it? Only the candidate can answer this because everyone’s situations are very different. Some might be desperate enough to grit their teeth and go along with whatever nonsense these recruiters throw at them. Others might feel too scared to speak up about it because it might ‘damage’ their reputation or make them lose an otherwise great opportunity.
But the fact is that hiring processes should not be this exhausting and time-consuming when we’re talking about entry to mid-level positions. Recruiters sometimes forget that candidates are living, breathing human beings with dozens of responsibilities (and probably day jobs, as well as side hustles) just like them.
Cait Mello, one of the Creative Talent Partners working with ‘We Are Rosie,’ noted that companies assigning unpaid work is unfair, as well as unethical. Candidates should not be asked to do unpaid work, nor should they be badgered to provide creative ideas without compensation.
“It is unethical and usually takes advantage of hungry young creatives that just want an opportunity and are willing to compromise themselves because they haven’t built up their confidence yet,” Mello says. “Who has the resources to do unpaid work? I’ll answer that for you: only people that already have money, or support from someone else. And if they don’t, you are preventing them from taking proactive steps towards economic stability.” In short, it’s everyone’s responsibility to say ‘no’ to unpaid work, otherwise, the industry won’t change.
Image credits: Burst (not the actual photo)
“Candidates hope that the risk is worth the reward… but it never is”
Landman believes that her video resonated with so many people because of how relatable the situation is. “5.3 million people are looking for work. We’re all having the same shared experience of applying to hundreds of jobs, maybe getting contacted for an interview by 2-3 of those, then being dragged through the interview process just to be told the position was put on hold,” she told Bored Panda via email.
“Going this long without work has a lot of people feeling desperate and vulnerable. Companies are taking advantage of this by having job seekers perform unpaid labor during the interview process because candidates hope that the risk is worth the reward… but it never is.”
This isn’t the first time that Landman has tackled the topic of unsavory recruitment practices. Back in February 2023, she filmed a video about how she spent nearly a month interviewing with a company, only for it to ghost her and repost the job to LinkedIn. That clip got 121k views on TikTok.
“I participated in 4 rounds of interviews including an UNPAID 3-PART PROJECT WITH A 24-HOUR TURN AROUND that took me an entire day to complete. That was the beginning of realizing there is a serious issue with companies taking advantage of job seekers, especially with unpaid assignments,” Landman said.
We were curious to get the digital creator’s thoughts on why some companies require candidates to perform unpaid assignments and go through seemingly endless rounds of interviews. She was open that she doesn’t know the exact reason why. However, she has some theories.
“While this concept isn’t new to me, I have found in past job searches that the companies requiring me to jump through hoops and the companies that quickly moved me along was like 1:10. Only one of my past positions required an assignment in the interview stage. Like the swift hiring process, it was very short and the offer came right after,” Landman shared. “That job was full-time at a competitive salary with great benefits and the ability to work remotely. It’s wild to me that part-time roles with no benefits at very low rates of pay are putting candidates through 3 times as much work.”
Image credits: Andrea Piacquadio (not the actual photo)
“If a company is especially greedy, they will use it as an opportunity to get free work out of a candidate”
According to her, what makes the most sense is that, for some reason, these companies need to show that they’re considering candidates, even though they don’t in fact want to “waste their time interviewing them for roles they do not have a budget for.” Landman noted that this also allows the organizations to collect resumes and insights on the roles they might want to hire for in the future.
“If a company is especially greedy, they will use it as an opportunity to get free work out of a candidate,” she told us. “Hiring a freelancer on Upwork to create 20 social media assets might cost your business $5,000. However, having 10 candidates create 2 social media assets as part of the interview process costs $0.00.”
Landman opened up to Bored Panda about herself as a digital creator. She went to college for broadcast journalism and spent three years as a multimedia journalist covering the space program. “Storytelling is in my nature. It’s who I am. I love connecting with others through shared experience and social media has allowed me to really grow that passion,” she revealed. “I’ve been storytelling through digital media for as long as I’ve been able to hold a digital camera.”
For her, creating content is a vehicle for self-expression and connecting communities. “It allows me to be heard and to connect with others that share the same thoughts, passions, ideas, and interests,” she said.
The creator also shared some advice for anyone who’s losing motivation during their job search. “Opt out and do your own thing. For some people, it might sound scary, but freelancing and consulting might just be the future. We cannot trust employers to have our best interests at heart. They do not care if you are at the end of your financial rope, so start exploring the idea of offering your expertise in the form of freelance and contract services,” Landman said.
“I started doing it in January as supplemental income while on the job search. I didn’t intend on going all in with it but I like having multiple clients and streams of income. That way if a client needs to end services for budgeting reasons, I get a 30-day heads up (per our contract) and it won’t rip the rug out from underneath me like being laid off from my full time job did. I feel like I have control over my life again.”
Image credits: Yan Krukau (not the actual photo)
Here’s what some TikTok users had to say after watching Landman’s video