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I'm a full stack developer (whatever that means, I'm a code monkey tbh) and I'm trying to break into frontend dev positions.

One company that nibbled on my resume is asking me to take a "test" to evaluate me pre-interview. Its essentially to create an entirely responsive web page, fully custom css, with a couple js behaviors. Is this a scam? I feel like this would be the equivalent of asking a backend dev to create an entire API or something. I would understand if they were asking me to implement a couple features but this seems excessive.

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    I would recommend that you set a limit for these kinds of things (e.g., one hour). Do the best that you can do in one hour and send it in. If your hour best is not good enough then either (1) you are not a good match for the position; or (2) they wanted to get some free labor out of you. – emory Jan 8 '16 at 23:50
  • If you have experience surely you have samples you can pair down pretty quickly and spend only a couple hours? – Chimera Jan 9 '16 at 0:56
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    Possible duplicate of Is there a professional way to refuse a time-consuming programming task given as a test for a job?. Although not exact duplicate, the issue is on "time consuming" and so the front/back end differences don't seem to matter. – Nelson Jan 9 '16 at 3:23
  • This is probably a localized question. AFAIK it is not over here in The Netherlands. Please include a country or region tag in your question. – Jan Doggen Jan 9 '16 at 15:23
  • I would imagine that the goal is to find candidates who can do exactly whats in their job description independently. IMO in the US people tend to pad their résumé in the skills section, so it's kind of like weeding out the weak applicants immediately, especially when you can't afford to interview tens of people who might be a good fit, but it's 50:50 on paper. – CKM Jan 9 '16 at 16:18
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This is quite common these days, certainly in the UK, and with some of the American Banks I know. If you have code in somewhere like GitHub, you could use that instead. I would timebox the effort to a couple of hours, and make sure when you pass it over you set their expectations accordingly.

Sometimes part of the test is to see what you think would be appropriate to do. I once did code with tests etc in the time (a couple of hours, but the challenge was trivial so I did it to also pad out the time), and got feedback that I must have spent too long on it! So an OTT implementation can count against you.

What you may find is that the face-to-face interview will revolve around your submission (a big code/design review essentially), so make sure you can talk about everything you do in the test (no clipboard inheritance from Google, unless you can explain what you did and why you did it).

  • Please include where you know it is quite common. – Jan Doggen Jan 9 '16 at 15:24
  • It's common in the NYC start community, and with graphic designers (especially) and front end developers. – jimm101 Jan 9 '16 at 15:44
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I'd say, How much work are they asking you to do?

I saw a job ad once that said they wanted applicants to develop a complete system meeting specs to be found on their web site. The system went way beyond a simple quiz, it was like a dozen data entry screens, a bunch of reports, and a non-trivial database. They also said they expected complete documentation. It looked to me that to do a quality job on such a project was a week or two worth of work. I'm not sure if this was literally a scam, that they were trying to get someone to develop a system that they needed for free under the guise of it being a job application, or if they really thought this was a reasonable thing to ask of job applicants.

I passed it up on the reasoning that, if this was, say, 40 hours worth of work, that it would be a more effective use of my time to spend 40 hours looking for other want ads and filling out less time-consuming applications. I could surely find and apply to a dozen or more jobs in 40 hours, rather than devoting that much time to this one, with no idea if this would even get me as far as an interview.

If you look at what they're asking and you figure you could throw this together in an hour or two, than if the job looks interesting it might well be worth the effort. If they're asking you to do weeks worth of development work before they'll even grant you an interview, I'd just pass on it.

(a) It might be a scam to get you to do development work for them without being paid. (b) Even if it's not a scam, is it worth the effort, or would you be better to spend your time pursuing other leads. (c) If they're asking for an unreasonable amount of work when you're applying for the job, what will their demands be if you get the job?

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If it is a scam, it's not a very good one. There are plenty of demos and open-source projects to find similar solutions. Now if this is a company that has no programmers at all, they don't know well enough to even ask you to write code.

This is what you'll have to do on the job isn't it? Do you want to work on a team where nobody had to write code to get their job? If you're going to create the frontend of a website then that is what you should do for the interview.

There are some companies that pay candidates to work part-time before hiring. This could go on for months (wordpress.com)

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It is fairly common, but you should be asking them, not us!

There is a chance they will expect you to find this very easy (how many minutes does it take to get a functioning Ruby on Rails application?) If you do not find it very easy, you may be a poor fit.

Clarify how much existing framework technologies they want you to use or if you can use personal preexisting work. "Negotiate" down the requirements until it takes something like an hour, which is, of course, a business skill you need to demonstrate that you have. They may just want a glorified hello world, which should take about an hour.

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