Employers get free work from job candidates

In this competitive job market, employers can ask just about anything of job candidates.  In the last couple of years, however, we are seeing a new trend, especially for job seekers in the writing and editing field. That trend is the rise of the writing test.

The writing and editing test can be a useful tool for employers to weed out candidates in an entry-level position where candidates have not built up much of a portfolio, but it doesn’t serve much purpose for middle management positions or positions requiring experience.  Some employers, though, are now using specific assignments to procure free work from their extensive pool of job candidates.

Here’s a specific example:  Salem Health, a hospital in Salem, Oregon, recently posted a job for a copywriter/editor with experience in health care marketing.  Rather than ask for writing and editing samples or giving a writing test, the marketing director of the hospital sent out an email to “the most qualified candidates” asking them to complete the following assignment from an 18-page information booklet about the Bariatic Surgery Department:

  • Write a brief section for the hospital website encouraging readers to click through the bariatric web pages and motivate them to sign up for a free community information session.
  • Write a longer article for their quarterly newsletter to encourage readers to go online for more information about Baratric Surgery services.
  • Develop a sample print ad, “approximately 3 columns x 8 inches in size, 50-75 words, to compel readers to call or go online to sign up for a free community information session.
  • Write a lengthy article for a trifold brochure.

After completing all these “assignments,” the top candidates would then be contacted for an on-site interview.

Obviously, the marketing director will be able to pick and choose the best writing assignments from this pool and use the samples for the hospital.  Why pay for an advertising copywriter when you can get the work for free from desperate job seekers?

I charge a minimum of $75 an hour to clients to develop these same materials for their websites and brochures, yet an employer wants these services for free.  I’ve been a writer for more than 30 years, and have managed marketing assignments and coordinated work from advertising agencies at two hospitals, but I refuse to do free work for an employer who will not compensate me for material that will end up on the company’s website.


One thought on “Employers get free work from job candidates

  1. In response to your blog post entitled “Employers get free work from job candidates,” as a representative of Salem Health, I take offense to your implication that we submitted our copywriter applicants to a writing test in order “to procure free work.” In my opinion, that’s unethical and is not a practice Salem Health would ever condone.

    Your post also failed to mention that we are looking for a specific writing style that has a unique “personality” and can serve as the voice of Salem Health—something that could not be demonstrated by submitting unrelated writing samples from a wide variety of industries. Thewriting test was intended to assess the writer’s ability to take fairly bland material and craft it into engaging copy that will draw in readers through a variety of mediums. Frankly, many of those who chose to participate have thanked me for the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities.

    As a non-profit organization, we take the hiring process very seriously and strive to find highly qualified, committed candidates for the few creative positions we offer. This test, in my opinion, was no different than any other skills assessment for a role in which a specialized technical capability or innate talent is required to do the job. These are typically not roles to which the average person can be trained.

    Finally, as a steward of my organization’s resources, I believe I have the responsibility to hire individuals that can successfully perform the job and become a valued member of our team. Your blog’s assertion that we are attempting “to get the work for free from desperate job seekers” could not be farther from the truth.

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