I had a phone interview a couple weeks ago with an HR recruiter for a graphic design position. A week later had a face to face interview with the senior designer. After the interview, she said they were asking candidates to complete two design projects to test for skill and design style. She told me to take the weekend to complete the projects and return by Tuesday. I worked on both projects all weekend, putting in a huge amount of effort.

Woke up to an email Monday morning from the HR recruiter saying they chose a final candidate for the position. I sent an email back to both of them stating my disappointment and letting them know how much time I spent on the project to have it wasted in such a manner. It wasn't a mean email, just forthright and very expressive of disappointment about my time.

The HR recruiter wrote me back and said they made a mistake and there was miscommunication, and that they would review my work. Now I feel so ashamed that I wrote that email. It's confusing because they said they had a final candidate. Should I have handled it differently?

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    What if it wasn't a miscommunication, but that they felt bad for having cut you out and not telling you, and are using this to back-pedal because of your email? – msanford Mar 26 '18 at 20:56
  • Nope, I think your reading the tea leaves correctly. – Neo Mar 26 '18 at 21:32
  • @msanford that's possible of course, but given the OP has already done the work what do they have to lose by taking them at their word for now and seeing how it plays out? If he chooses instead to assume deception and withdraw from the process then he gains nothing – motosubatsu Mar 26 '18 at 22:15
  • @motosubatsu I didn't suggest anywhere that OP should assume deception and withdraw their candidacy... It was merely a slightly tongue-in-cheek way to say "don't worry too much about it." – msanford Mar 26 '18 at 22:49
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    @msanford apologies..that's me getting the wrong of the stick! – motosubatsu Mar 27 '18 at 5:56

I think if your e-mail was as described then you handled it fine - it's okay to express annoyance when someone, even a potential employer treats you badly and it doesn't sound like you have any reason to be ashamed.

In this case it sounds like there as a genuine miscommunication and that they shouldn't have sent that e-mail in the first place - the HR recruiter could easily be working to fill multiple positions across the company and there was a simple mix up. In which case you actually responding back rather that simply taking it as read and moving on likely brought such an error to light. If they really had a final candidate sorted then I would have expected you to get either no response or a "sorry for wasting your time but we've got our guy and that's that" type response.

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    Not only that but if you do go to work there, they already know that you expect your time and effort to be respected. – A. I. Breveleri Mar 26 '18 at 21:11
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    Thank you for your response. I just have a feeling the email I sent back might've deterred them from me completely. I can't help but think maybe I should've sent the email to the HR recruiter only and not the Senior Designer. Either way, I suppose if the position is meant for me, then I'll get it. Again, thanks! – bdwArtist Mar 26 '18 at 23:49
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    It's a complicated situation, not least of all because having you "complete a test design-project" is code for having you 'perform free work' in an alarmingly large number of cases. Assuming you have a portfolio, I don't really see the legitimate value in having you do another project. – Cronax Mar 27 '18 at 8:55

Without knowing anything about this situation other than what's typed in this question, my knee-jerk reaction is that you were the victim of 'unpaid consulting', where people are asked to perform work for free that would otherwise be paid for.

Just out of curiosity, how old are you and how many years have you been in the workforce? Reason I ask is because it can be difficult to interview for the job right out of college, as it's hard for companies to see what you've done, so an easy way out would be some kind of test or project like this. If you're further in your career then normally you'd have samples of your word to bring during the interview such that project work like this is not necessary.

Aside from that, I think you handled it fine in that you were asked to put in some work and did, and would like to see some kind of feedback for that work.

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    OP didn't say whether the work was submitted. There's no proof that the design test was for free work. It is becoming common to ask creative professionals to do some sort of work as part of the recruiting process. – Kent A. Mar 26 '18 at 22:42
  • The HR recruiter wrote me back ... that they would review my work. I made the assumption based on the above that the work was submitted, which seemed reasonable. Also the OP asked for an opinion, which I gave without requiring the OP to prove everything in this thread. Just a thought ... How about letting the OP respond to my answer, and not other experts with assumptions that may or may not be correct? Thanks in advance. – Jim Horn Mar 26 '18 at 22:59
  • I am 29 with 7 years in the workforce. I have a substantial portfolio, which the HR recruiter had the link to as well brought in a printed portfolio of my best fork for the Senior Designer. This is the 2nd interview I've had this year, where the company has asked me to complete a "project" to further assess my skills and design styles. On the strongly worded email I sent, I actually did attach the completed projects to support my words. I was just thinking maybe I shouldn't have expressed as much disappointment as I did, and maybe should've asked first, was there a mistake on their end. – bdwArtist Mar 26 '18 at 23:40
  • Or maybe I should've just reached out to the HR Recruiter and not the Senior Designer, since the recruiter was the one who sent the email. I could also be overthinking this completely. Thank you for responding I appreciate the feedback. – bdwArtist Mar 26 '18 at 23:44
  • Generally the HR recruiter is the gatekeeper slash administrator, and the hiring manager (Senior Designer?) is the real decision maker. So based on their reaction I'm guessing that your project is now in the hands of the decision maker, which is good, and maybe it was just some kind of messup with the HR person. Also when I was a hiring manager I would look for some passion in candidates previous work. Not sure if your 'strongly worded email' goes over that line, but some would consider it a good thing. Either way - Good luck.. – Jim Horn Mar 27 '18 at 4:36

Yes, what you did, if you did it in the way you did, sounds reasonable. You wasted time and effort on the assumption you had until Tuesday but they told you Monday, a day before, they went with someone else. That's unfair and reasonable to voice your frustration especially if you said or did nothing to cause them to think otherwise.

If your email is something to the effect of:

HR, I was under the impression that I had until Tuesday to complete the assignment. This morning I received an email stating you chose another candidate. I have spent X hours of my time to complete this assignment and it is a disappointment that it would not be considered. Thank you.

Then you're fine.

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