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Context

I recently started to look for a job, after several years in my current company, for personnal and work reason. I hadn't had a proper recruitment process for at least 3-4 years now and am faced with someting I find rather new, at least here in Central Europe that is: take home assignments. This had started in some startups around here a few years ago but now it seems to be pretty commonplace even in some larger international firms.

After a first failed take home assignment, I am now faced with a new take home assignement with another company. For the first one, I sinked in a good 20 hours of work, a fairly good research and data modelling (my search is linked to data science jobs), and now again the assignemnt also has a scope that seems rather large and I am unsure on how to deal with the situation this time.

Overall the assignment is based on the position work and consists of:

  • Analysis, data cleansing, data loading on a test database

  • A few statitsical modelling

  • Financial strategy analysis

While the team manager told me a qualified person could do the task in 7 hours, from my experience I estimated that here, it would take at least twice that time if not more.

Questions

  1. How are usually reviewed these assignments? i.e. the fully answered question or the thought process is more important. This impacts greatly on how to approach the tasks

  2. With take home assignment, should the solution be only "get the work done" and nothing more, no fluff ?

  3. Why are there "Bonus questions" ? Is it a standard for this sort of tests and basically an expected work to be done ?

I see how to solve the assignment but the amount of work is baffling even for somebody with experience, given a home setup is different than a work one* and the fact that the time given to complete it is 10 days. This is just a step in the process, and does not guarantee any following interviews for this position.

*For those familiar, this basically requires you to build/setup an ETL, Python connections to the DB and build visualisation for the project, which adds in terms of hours of work and hardware to do the work properly.

Edit: This question is more based on how to approach a heavy workload take home assignemnt and the underlying expectations rather than taking a decision on declining the offer.

marked as duplicate by Jenny D, gnat, Solar Mike, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Malisbad Aug 9 at 16:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    @NimeshNeema thank you, I had seen similar questions, but I am looking for different answers, please refer to my edit note. – Non-formatted Date User Aug 9 at 7:37
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    I'm still confused with the difference between your situation and the one from the potential duplicate. Is the take-home assignment for your interview process? If that is the case, it is very similar to the potential duplicate and the answer is: DO NOT TAKE IT. It smells like a trap from a mile away. – Juliana Karasawa Souza Aug 9 at 7:41
  • @JulianaKarasawaSouza Yes that seems fishy indeed, but I wondered if this sort of assingment was commonplace and if people could give insight on it. – Non-formatted Date User Aug 9 at 8:12
  • @eballes Indeed, that seems a very likely probability since one of the questions is regarding a potential SQL to "fix" some data loaded in the test system. Regarding my ability to do the job, this is I believe another topic. – Non-formatted Date User Aug 9 at 8:13
  • If you have to even consider a "heavy workload" just don't do the assignment and find a company that isn't trying to get free work out of you. – sf02 Aug 9 at 13:20
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  1. How are usually reviewed these assignments?

It depends on the organization. Typically, if its some kind of coding assignment that can be self run, expectation is to have a readme or some such documentation to run it in self-service model. If its something that needs specialized knowledge to evaluate, a 1 hour interview based on the assignment is a practise, though I've heard of some places asking for a 5-10 minute video instead to help with flow.

i.e. the fully answered question or the thought process is more important.

Assignments usually test for both completion and thought process. However, weightage is company and role specific.

  1. With take home assignment, should the solution be only "get the work done" and nothing more, no fluff ?

Yes, try to minimise the extra unasked work you do in such assignments. But do try to keep things extensible and readable (i.e., using design patterns, standard structuring of modules, proper naming conventions etc) as you want your work to speak in your absence.

  1. Why are there "Bonus questions" ? Is it a standard for this sort of tests and basically an expected work to be done ?

You can always skip Bonus questions - those are exactly what the name implies. Usually, I've observed in interviews that candidates only propose solutions for the bonus questions, but do not solve the problem completely. So effectively, it is like an abstract submission for problem rather than completely solving the problem.


Concerns in your situations

For the first one, I sinked in a good 20 hours of work

This is too much work - it is half a work week spent for an interview and job that may not even materialize.

the team manager told me a qualified person could do the task in 7 hours

That is still a lot of hours to ask a prospect to spend before the interview materialises, almost a day's worth of effort. Compare these with in person interview, where a person is supposed to spend 4-5 rounds of 45 minutes-1 hour in general (total 3-5 hours), and you will realize that the task is not an interview problem, but proper work that company is making you do.

As a rule of thumb, say no to assignments that are going to take over 3 hours of your time, and make sure that when a company asks for such assignments, there are only 1-2 more rounds after that.

If companies still want you to do long assignments, ask them for paid ones where you get compensated for your time irrespective of the outcome of the interview.

from my experience I estimated that here, it would take at least twice that time if not more.

Say this upfront, tell them that you estimate this to take double the time of their estimate. Either you are right, or they are, or both are partially right. But you will only discover this once you voice your concerns. If both are adamant it takes the time they believe it will, then know that this is what is going to happen in future as well if you join, and walking away would be a good option.

In such a scenario, one point to keep in mind now would be that maybe you really are taking too long a time to do things, which could be because of skill gaps. In which case it would make sense to upskill and apply.

  • Ok thank you this is along the lines of what I was looking for. the manager told me right off the bat that it would take this time, and he knows the system and has all the tools at his disposal, plus the business acumen, so my estimate is closer to reality. In the future, it seems best to select the length of work required and continue with the process or not as I see – Non-formatted Date User Aug 9 at 9:36

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