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I work in the software industry and a lot of companies send take-home tasks to complete as a part of the interview process. Some of these take-home tasks can take a long time to complete, especially if you want to polish your solution.

I was wondering if it's appropriate to ask for an hourly compensation for take-home tasks which exceed a certain time limit (let's say, 2 hours)? So any take-home task that takes more than 2 hours to solve should be compensated with some hourly rate. That hourly rate can be symbolic (well below the market value of a software engineer's hourly rate), but the point is is that all the time spent on the take-home task which exceeds the time limit is paid by the company to the person completing the take-home task.

In my opinion, I think this is more than appropriate. In general, take-homes consume much more time compared to technical interviews, so if the company isn't willing to revise its hiring processes so that they don't include a take-home, they should at least compensate candidates for any time over a certain time limit they spend on the take-home task. Especially if it's a symbolic rate well below market software engineer hourly rates.

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    – Kilisi
    Jun 29, 2023 at 10:09
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    The day companies start paying for take home interview tasks is the day I make my full time job doing take home interview tasks. Because I'll be paid a flat rate no matter what my skill level is or what the quality of my work is, I can lie about my hours, get paid, and move on to the next one. For what it's worth, in my 20+ year career, the only jobs I applied for that had take home tasks were extremely competitive positions that probably had far more applicants to filter out. There are plenty of other candidates who will do the task.
    – bbyam
    Jul 2, 2023 at 21:11

10 Answers 10

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Is it be appropriate to ask for an hourly compensation for take-home tasks which exceed a certain time limit?

Realistically, no company is going to pay you for a take home task that is part of the interview process. The companies that assign tasks that potentially can take hours to complete either don't have realistic expectations, do not value the time of their potential candidates, or are trying to use potential candidates as free labor. It could also be some combination of these but either way it is a red flag and a glimpse at what working for this company can be like.

I would just thank them for their time and consideration and move on to the next opportunity.

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    Another possibility is that the hiring manager may feel the tasks in the test weed out individuals who do not have the passion for the company or field and are simply mass applying. I've known a couple of companies who accepted that their possibly excessive take-home task made them undesirable to some candidates and they were ok with it because they were looking for "craftspeople" Jun 27, 2023 at 21:57
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    Maybe something to add: at least in europe the job market leans heavily towards employees in the last couple years, meaning a skilled IT professional can often cherry-pick their place of work. Lots of companies have failed to adapt and still use interview methods from 10 years ago when companies could have their pick between a multitude of candidates.
    – user112367
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:30
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    Not in the software engineering field (IT company though), but my wife did get compensated for a full day 'take home task', so "no company is going to pay you for a take home task that is part of the interview process" is overgeneralizing. Jun 28, 2023 at 11:52
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    @Gertsen It might have cost you your current role, but in todays employment climate you'd instead have had time to apply for 5 other roles that didn't have this requirement, and one of them would have been a better job. In short, the only people who ARE doing these tasks are the ones that don't find it much easier to get a job without them; by demanding people do such tasks, you are adding selection pressure for mediocrity.
    – Yakk
    Jun 28, 2023 at 13:42
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    To add to @DavidMulder's comment: I am in the software engineering field and have been paid for take-home projects multiple times. It's always been a flat fee and not an hourly rate, though. I agree with the spirit of this answer as it pertains to entirely open-ended projects & unrealistic requirements, but suggesting a take-home project with clear constraints (even multiple hours) is a red flag feels like a sweeping generalization, and is possibly a career-limiting opinion in a down market.
    – Alex
    Jun 29, 2023 at 13:49
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I'll put in a view from the other side. I hire for roles in my team and my peer group of managers help each other out. Our hiring process involves take home work; maybe around 2-3 hours, and if you asked to be paid your application would be binned. Sounds harsh? Let me explain why.

Hiring is really, really hard. For every position we advertise there are hundreds of applicants. Anything from 50-80 percent are utterly unsuitable. They don't have any of the skills and likely don't even understand the specifics of what we are asking in the job requirements. It is common for us to get people applying for senior developer or business analyst jobs and their entire software industry experience can be boiled down to word processing and spreadsheets. We have a multi-stage process to sift through and try to get to the best person for the job. Hiring someone costs a lot of time, money and effort so we want to do it right; hiring someone unsuitable can cost us tens of thousands of dollars in lost time, fees, etc. Worse still, if we hire someone and they mess up it can cost a lot more. Recruitment agencies charge between 20-40 percent of the candidates salary as a fee. If we hire someone that an agency has introduced on a $100,000 salary then we pay the agency $40,000 when the applicant turns up on their first day. We don't get that back if they fail their probation.

By the time you have been given our take home task, then congratulations! You've probably already passed several stages, including the first round interview. You are on a shortlist of 2 or 3 and so far everything we see is good. If you get this far, it's really worth the effort as you are at the final stage.

We're not trying to get free work. Far from it, we put a lot of hours ourselves into creating a standardised scenario and everyone gets the same task. We prep questions and discussion points to try and understand your thinking. It is designed to probe your knowledge, experience and character. You might spend 2-3 hours doing the task but we've spent hundreds of hours designing and preparing it, and we spend 4-6 hours per candidate reviewing the answers. Our investment is double what yours is, and it's from skilled and experienced people who absolutely know what they are doing. If our goal was to get work from you then the financials simply don't add up. Why would we spend 6 hours getting you to do something that we could do ourselves in 2 hours.

Of course other companies might not use the same process as ours. If the task is given to you without having gone through other steps, like an initial interview or even a phone screen, then maybe they're trying to get you to do work.... but I highly doubt it. It's just too risky. By the time they've documented tasks, sent them over, got them back, reviewed them and checked them... it's almost certain that the company could simply have done the task themselves quicker and cheaper. Don't forget that if they are creating individual tasks for every applicant, then most of the "work" that comes back will be totally wrong and worthless, because most of the applicants aren't able to do it.

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    Exactly this. I'm also not a big fan of giving people tasks but experience has shown, that people who are able to answer technical questions are not necessarily able to write code that's up to company standard and vice-versa, therefore we do both. Give out tasks to people that pass the first interview but by default schedule a technical interview which starts with code-reviewing the task so the applicant, even if rejected, walks away with some kind of learning experience and if the task was completed successfully we dive deeper into technical questions.
    – TheRealOha
    Jun 28, 2023 at 12:41
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    So, you are going to spend a good 1000$-2000$ evaluating the result of the take home test. Is there a reason why paying them 100$ per hour for the 4 hours of assigned work is verboten? You have already selected the 100+ applicants down to 2-3, the cost or risk of exploits is small. And it generates the precedent that "when the company demands you code something, they pay you for it". The disadvantage is that if your earlier screening sucks, you waste money. So it gives you lots of incentive to improve your earlier screening. The advantage is that you are no longer in the "free intern" trap.
    – Yakk
    Jun 28, 2023 at 13:52
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    I upvoted, mostly for the middle paragraph: "You've probably already passed several stages, including the first round interview. You are on a shortlist of 2 or 3 and so far everything we see is good. If you get this far, its really worth the effort as you are at the final stage.". But I see no hint in the OP's question that they might be at this final stage. I got the impression they were at the very beginning of the interview process, the company had committed zero time in their application, and the OP was given a take-home task with no evidence the company was serious about hiring the OP.
    – Stef
    Jun 28, 2023 at 15:22
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    This seems like a fairly reasonable use of take-homes, but more common in my experience are companies that use them as a pre-screen at little or no time cost (to the company), giving these out en masse and skimming the submissions. Even providing feedback is rare. Candidates don't know whether they'd be spending hours on a reasonable assignment that would receive careful review and feedback, or a one-sided screen that someone might not even look at. Asking to be paid for their time at least reduces the chance it's the latter. Conversely, not paying selects for candidates with fewer options.
    – Milo P
    Jun 28, 2023 at 20:53
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    "Hiring someone costs a lot of time, money and effort" - and this answer makes it implicitly clear that you want to ameliorate that by not paying applicants for their time, money and effort. This is in keeping with the general trend for all surviving, and thus profitable, companies which profit by paying each employee less in wages than what they generate in revenue minus expenses, what Marx called "surplus labour value". Now the parasitism has extended outside the actual wage labour relationship, too.
    – iono
    Jun 29, 2023 at 6:07
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I was wondering if it's appropriate to ask for an hourly compensation for take-home tasks which exceed a certain time limit (let's say, 2 hours)?

No, it's not.

Your choice regarding a take-home task is to either do it, or decline. There is no negotiating compensation for the interview process. If you aren't willing to perform the take-home task, someone else will.

You could choose to give the task whatever time you are willing to commit for free (two hours?) and then just stop at that point. Perhaps in some cases, the company would value a partially completed task. Perhaps not.

I never gave take-home tasks during interviewing for any positions I was trying to fill. But some of my peers did. For all of them, asking for compensation would mean you would have no chance to get that compensation, and almost certainly no chance to get the job.

Decide ahead of time what you are willing to do and not do. If you decide the job opportunity isn't worth your time, just politely decline and move on to other job possibilities.

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    I mean, either you aren't getting the job because you refuse to do the task, or you aren't getting the job because you asked for compensation. From the applicants standpoint, can you explain why they shouldn't ask for compensation? What does it cost the applicant to ask? I can guess, but you didn't include it in your answer. (Ie: the kind of people who ask applicants to do a large task without pay are probably also likely to be insulted to be asked to pay for asking people to do work might be an example of a justification you could give.)
    – Yakk
    Jun 28, 2023 at 13:45
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    I mean, they are not going to do unpaid work, that was already a plan. So it isn't costing them the job if not doing it won't also not get them the job. As demonstrated by other answers, there are companies that will pay when they require applicants to do work as part of an application; so the idea that it has zero chance is incorrect.
    – Yakk
    Jun 28, 2023 at 17:05
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    I think it's naive to expect or ask to get paid for a take home task that is part of the interview process. Consider the alternatives... they make it a "live task" and you are allowed 2 hours in a call to complete the work. You'll spend the same two hours, but under the pressure of being watched and timeboxed with the possibly demoralizing result of being cut short due to non-progress. Jun 28, 2023 at 23:53
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    The things businesses get away with. And get defended for getting away with. At least with in-person interviews the business is matching the candidate's time with paid time from their employees. And maybe lunch or at least light refreshments. With the home assignment, they're basically demanding free work and justifying it with things like "we want passion" that are just the slimmest of veneers away from "we want people who will do extra work without us paying them extra". It can't be inappropriate to call them up on this. Counterproductive (to getting the job), sure, but not inappropriate.
    – aroth
    Jun 29, 2023 at 5:06
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    @aroth You seem to assume that a take-home assignment doesn't need to be reviewed and/or scrutinized by someone in the company. That is false, in my experience, you will usually discuss the assignment. Same for the idea that is somehow "free work". Generally companies have one or two assignments they assign all candidates, there is no usable end product. Jun 29, 2023 at 10:18
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This answer is based on a comment from @KateGregory, but I think it's ultimately the correct answer and should be available as such.

If it was easy for the company to pay you, they probably wouldn't mind. Interviewing costs them a fortune anyway, they don't care about $100 either way. On the other hand, you're probably interviewing for a salaried position anyway, so there is no "hourly wage" to be compensated.

But the real issue is that paying you is hard. They have to have tax paperwork for you (they don't have any of the information required to do that). It has to go through their accounting system, which means you would have to be entered into that system. Blah blah blah. It would be a huge problem! Imagine doing that for every candidate!

In a less bureaucratic system, which is not the system we live in in the US, or Europe, or any other jurisdiction I'm even vaguely familiar with, I could absolutely imagine the manager saying "we expect this to take two hours, the low end of our pay scale is $x/hour, so here's a check for $2x dollars." But paying people isn't that simple, and honestly, you should already know that.

On the other hand, if you go in person to the interview, sometimes they'll buy you a nice lunch. That's sort of like compensation.

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    This is a most excellent response! Jun 28, 2023 at 16:04
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    This is an answer that explains in depth why asking for compensation will be either viewed naive or snarky. Either one does not understand corporations and business, or one does, and is stating that one does not work for free, snarkily.
    – paulj
    Jun 30, 2023 at 14:03
  • "They have to have tax paperwork for you" - if they're paying you as an employee, yes, but not if they pay you as a contractor? Then it's just another invoice.
    – Rup
    Jun 30, 2023 at 14:36
  • @Rup: Companies absolutely have tax paperwork for contractors. 1099-MISC. Now, the compensation for a two hour interview task likely falls beneath the reporting threshold... but a ten hour task could well be above it.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jun 30, 2023 at 15:48
  • True true! I have heard of companies that give quite long "homework" tasks, even something that would take 10-20 hours, and for that range I agree it makes sense to have some kind of compensation. For software engineering positions I've personally been on one side or the other of, it's been in the 2-3 hour range; compensation for that would be mostly symbolic. Jun 30, 2023 at 17:56
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You definitely can ask, you are very likely to not even get a reply, and even less so a positive one. Whether it's appropriate or not I don't think it's answerable directly, but let me frame reframe the question a bit.

I imagine your annoyance is that you do the tasks, put the effort in, just to then possibly get zero feedback and just hear "no thank you", if even that. You are not down 2 hours, more than that actually, and that's uneven to the few minutes company had to put in. But at the very same time, that's the point - it's there to weed out the candidates who otherwise would take hours of company times to weed out. And as long as the company gets enough quality candidates through this interview process it will continue doing so, as clearly they offer good enough jobs that enough qualified candidates sees it as worth taking the 2h+ test gamble.

There is something you can ask for which should be much easier to get, and that's time. Instead of asking for the money ask that you will be guaranteed a call after the test, and at the very least some adequate feedback on the solution, ideally in form of even a 20 minutes call, longer if they like what they hear. You will still mostly hear no, companies and people tend to be very unwilling to break a working process for just one person, but that's much more palatable offer than asking for money. And ultimately that's what it is about for you - getting the consideration for putting the time needed to complete the task, not some token amount of coins in your pocket.

Mind that this applies to early interview stages, we are talking first few hours at the very most. The longer the process takes, and the deeper you go, the more you can start requesting money to continue interviewing as it passes the point of a reasonable ask. There's no fixed number though, and it generally is a good check of how invested the company really is in your candidacy, or just dragging you along for whatever reason.

But of course if it's worth doing, that's up to you and how easy it is for you to get offers. Ultimately you can afford to lose possible jobs when you are under no pressure to move, but in the opposite sometimes all you got is time and have to be very careful to not loose potential leads.

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  • " Instead of asking for the money ask that you will be guaranteed a call after the test, and at the very least some adequate feedback on the solution," That is exactly what we do for everyone who passes the first-round interview and decides to complete the task. A technical interview/code-review is scheduled by default and we give feedback, even if based on the code we already decided against them.
    – TheRealOha
    Jun 28, 2023 at 12:31
  • Speaking from experience "the few minutes company had to put in" is grossly understated. It can take as much as an order of magnitude more to set up a half-decent take-home task than to complete it. Jun 28, 2023 at 16:00
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    @MarkRotteveel Most likely a typo of "we are talking first few hours at the very most".
    – KC Wong
    Jun 30, 2023 at 7:32
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In my experience, companies either pay for take home tasks or they don’t. Mostly the latter.

You asking is highly unlikely to change that. And especially unlikely to change it in the couple of days you have before they’ll simply drop you from consideration.

So I’d say either do the tasks or don’t. And if you don’t, feel free to say why. But don’t expect it to change anytime soon.

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    When asked to do take home tasks, I've told companies straight up I don't do that. For some it ended the process. For other, they worked with me. Some even had predesigned choices of a standard interview or a take home task. But the best way to do this is just to refuse. Asking for money can leave a bad impression. Stating that you don't have time on top of your existing job and responsibilities is more likely to go over well. Jun 27, 2023 at 21:16
  • I agree with the majority that you can't usually get paid for these tasks, nor should you ask. I've always found them irritating, however, and never got a job that required one of these. Jun 28, 2023 at 17:46
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I an in the group that says don't do one of these take-home projects. The consensus of this group is that the employers who give applicants homework don't respect their employee's time. The request is all you need to know about how they will treat you in the future.

You are suggesting that candidates should request that they be compensated. A request for compensation is showing that the candidate will always ask to be compensated for everything that involves extra effort. That might be enough to get your application rejected.

Remember the goal is to get a job offer, asking for money is unlikely to get you to that goal.

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    The consensus of which group? That's a commonly expressed opinion, but I'm not sure it's the prevailing one. This isn't an interviewing approach I favor, but I don't see anything inherently evil about it. An interview is already hours of your time including prep and travel, plus hours of theirs including prep and evaluation; a couple more hours doesn't really signify if you actually might want the job. And as your second paragraph implies, if someone sees coding as drudgery rather than a fun puzzle and a chance to show off, they are probably not what I'd be looking for.
    – keshlam
    Jun 28, 2023 at 4:46
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    The "group" is the group of people that say don't do take-home projects. That said, the "consensus" is flat-out wrong, speaking as both an interviewer and an interviewee. More specifically, it's generally easy to tell whether the company respects people's time or not in the initial rounds, or at the very least, in the way the task is presented and talked about. Jun 28, 2023 at 16:03
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    The best interview experience I've ever had was where I had to demo out a take home task, because it allowed me to showcase my skills and expertise in the sort of work that would actually be expected day to day rather than try and be the best improv bullshitter, which is what a standard interview typically gets at.
    – eps
    Jun 28, 2023 at 23:14
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To answer your question directly: you can ask for anything you want. You're welcome to ask for compensation, and this could be a bridge to a discussion about how you estimate projects, appropriate comp, etc. I wouldn't outright reject a candidate who asked about how to value their time. I've also been paid multiple times for travel to/from interviews and for coding time on take-home projects. In my experience it's always been a flat fee and/or mileage reimbursement, not an hourly rate. This isn't as impossible to find as some answers make it seem.

That said, there's a missed opportunity here to both demonstrate your project management skills and help companies improve their interview process: agree on a maximum time investment up front. I have received and completed many take-home projects. Sometimes you receive a "build this thing and let us know when you're done" mandate, and I +1 many other community members who suggest avoiding that sort of assignment entirely. There is no equity in an interview process that compare what one person does in 20 hours with what another person does in 2. However, most of the take-homes I've received have some rough time estimates associated with them. If it's not clear as the project is assigned, ask!. "Sure, I'm excited to show what I can do with this project - would you expect this to be a 2 hour or 2 day investment?"

Setting clear expectations up front lets you align expectations, decide whether the project fits into your schedule, and determine whether you can afford to complete the assignment for free. It also sets the stage for the follow-up when your project is reviewed: "Here's what I was able to complete in the 2 hours we agreed upon, and here's what I would do with an additional 2 hours" (or "what I planned vs. what I accomplished", etc, etc).

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Like other answers say, nobody will pay you for doing a coding exercise.

But if the assignment doesn't fit into the time you have available, you could try pointing that out and offer an alternative. The alternative here would be a public project you made in the past that is relevant to the job. Of course, provided you have one and the code is presentable.

I had said in the past: "Sorry, but I won't have time to complete this in the near future, but I worked on something similar, would that suffice?"

No guarantees but it is not rude to ask this.

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It Depends


The way I see it, there are two types of take-home tests that are like this:

  1. A task that definitely holds no value to the company beyond demonstrating your skills (developing a prototype to-do app or something).
  2. A task that's related to what they do and could either be directly, or with a little tweaking, be used by them in a production capacity.

If it's the former, while I don't think it's inappropriate to ask, I very much doubt that you'll get the answer you're hoping for from the vast majority of companies. That being said, it's not unheard of and it's becoming increasingly common.

If it's the latter, then I absolutely think it's appropriate. More-so, you absolutely should insist on being paid an hourly rate for that work. Unfortunately, the kind of slimy company that pulls this crap almost certainly isn't going to pay you for it. That, however, is probably a good thing because if they won't pay for your time, you probably don't want to work there anyway.

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