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In the early stages of interviewing for a web UX/UI developer position, I've been informed there will be a "development exercise" which is to be completed over 48 hours and returned to the company. I don't know what the exercise is but I was told I could spend as little or as much time as I wanted on the project; obviously more effort would be more impressive.

I've taken small tests during interviews in the past, but two days of work seems somewhat substantial and unusual, so I'm curious: Is this a common practice? Are there any concerns I should be aware of? ...for example: who owns what I produce? (First-hand anecdotal answers are OK, but links to any stats would be awesome.)

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    It doesn't sound like the exercise itself will be a full two days, just that you have two days to complete it. I couldn't imagine it taking more than a few hours. It seems reasonable. From what I hear there are a lot of people, even with degrees, who don't show a lot of know-how or ingenuity. Those people get hired and company's waste a lot of time and money investing in someone who's utterly not worth it, then it's back to the drawing board. – zfrisch May 22 '15 at 18:02
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    I have given exercises like this when I'm hiring new candidates, but it was always paid. – Andrew Bartel May 22 '15 at 19:42
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    it's also an opportunity to demonstrate your time management skills. Spend a hour and explain this is what i did - and this is what i would do in the next 4/8/40 hours. – Batavia May 22 '15 at 22:22
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As a developer I've seen (and given) exercises like this. They should take an hour or 2 to complete. Often I've done it to candidates who had a good resume but didn't quite shine during their first interview. It's a great way to take off the pressure of having to answer on the spot.

If you have a portfolio you could also show that. The things I look for are: 1) can you Google for a certain solution and explain it to me? 2) do you have the right insights in the real problem, or do you get hung up on details too soon? You often don't even have to finish as long as it is clear where you are going

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I would not say this is a standard practice, but is not a uncommon one. Whether you participate or not depends on your impression of the company and what you can determine about its reputation.

Unscrupulous companies use these exercises as a way of getting free work. Reputable companies use these exercises to evaluate how you work on a real, extended problem.

Personally I would not be concerned about ownership -- the type of work that can be accomplished in 48 hours is unlikely to have significant value aside from the cost of your time.

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    "aside from the cost of your time" Hopefully most people value their time, and would consider 2 days of work significant enough to be a little wary about the "free work". But I have no reason to believe the company is doing anything unscrupulous. – Luke May 22 '15 at 18:18
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    @Luke, having 48 hours to complete it is not the same as 2 days of work. My experience is these things often take an hour or two of actual work, and are a way for the company to get insight into your coding process. – Kathy May 22 '15 at 18:45
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    @Luke Agreed time is valuable -- only was considering value in terms of the need to establish ownership. Employment is a two-way street in that both employer and employee need to sacrifice time and energy to come to a mutual agreement. – mcknz May 22 '15 at 18:50
  • @Kathy that may be true, but if I really wanted to work at the company, I would probably spend as much time as I was given, in order to provide as good of a work product as I could. – mcknz May 22 '15 at 18:51
  • @mcknz I don't think she's saying that you can't put extra time in, just that the development of a working model should take a relatively short time. Obviously you can put in extra work and try to wow the company and I'm sure it's encouraged, although it might be unnecessary. – zfrisch May 22 '15 at 20:35
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This is a fairly common practice in the start-up world. Several companies use programming test as part of the interview. If the test takes more than a few hours, feel free to politely decline it.

Its difficult if you're searching for a job, but if a company is asking you to spend 2 days on a question, they are not being respectful of your time, and you need to cut ties with them. Its tough, but simply explain you don't have 2 days to do the exercise. Something like

I'm sorry, but I don't have 2 days right now to do this time consuming exercise. Is there some other way we can continue this interview?

While the above will likely end the interview, spending 2 days on a "exercise" is probably not going to be worth the time. If you are going to do 2 days of work, you need to get 2 days of pay.

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