How to prepare job interview take home assignments when you don't have a lot of time.

It seems like the job interview process is getting longer and longer. There are initial screenings, panel interviews, all day onsites, and take home assignments. The take home assignments can be very open ended, and it can be a challenge to create presentations that seem comprehensive. Preparing these presentations is also very time consuming when you are still at your old job, or you are talking to multiple companies. There’s some great advice out there on setting the right mindset for these assignments. I’ve developed a framework for creating thoughtful parameters for take home assignments that effectively demonstrate the necessary skillsets.

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Think about the skillsets the hiring manager is trying to evaluate with the assignment

When companies assign take home projects, they want the candidate to demonstrate a certain set of skills that will be directly relevant to the open position. Often, the assignment will be very open ended, and it will be up to you to decide how to position your response. From the job description and your interviews, you will get a sense of the skills they want to evaluate.

As an example, a candidate was interviewing for a product manager position at a large ecommerce retailer that wanted to get into the baby space. The assignment she was given was particularly broad:

“Shopping for baby has never been more overwhelming. Choices have multiplied and new parents often feel bombarded with guidance and information. How would you leverage our on- and offline assets, talent and appetite for investment to “win Mom” to improve the experience of preparing and welcoming a new baby?”

Answering this question could easily take a month. When she reflected on her conversations with the team, she determined that it would be effective to demonstrate her competency in three areas: analytical ability, prioritization, and product sense.

Focus on demonstrating those skillsets in your presentation

For each skillset, think of a way you can demonstrate it in the presentation. In our example above, my client did a deep dive with conclusions on the data the employer had gave her. This demonstrated her analytical ability. She came up with several thoughtful ideas for future products to prove her product sense capability. Finally, she systematically prioritized the various products she had mentioned using factors that members of the team had mentioned were important to the company.

The initial assignment was quite broad, and almost impossible to complete in the week she was given. Once she chose the important parts of the presentation, and focussed on them, the assignment seemed much more doable.

Let them know your approach

When presenting, it’s important to let the team know where you have focussed your energy. I recommend saying something like, “Because this was a very broad assignment, I chose to focus my presentation on these areas [LIST POINTS OF FOCUS] to give you a sense of how I approach and solve problems.” Once you have completed your presentation, remind your audience once again that you were focused on particular areas, and list out the steps you would have addressed if you had unlimited time to work on the assignment. Lastly, offer to take questions on unaddressed areas.

These steps should make take home assignments more manageable, and allow you to always do your best work, even if you limit your scope. I’ve developed a guide for working through take home assignments. Sign up below to access it!