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Context: I am a junior (~1,5 years experience) credit risk analyst in a big european bank (in which I'm currently employed) wanting to find an entry level position in IT, more specifically in anything that involves a lot of coding in the more popular languages.
I applied to a junior developer role at a Bloomberg-like company on which experience coding isn't required (this fits me since my coding skills stem from a couple of undergraduate courses and what I do in my current position (SAS and SQL)).
As part of the recruitment process, I was given a task in a language I am unfamiliar with. No time limit was given ("get back to us when you've done it"). This happened two weeks ago.

Problem: I am still in the process of familiarizing myself with the language, haven't even began actually tackling the task. Presently (as in the last three days) me and my SO are in the process of breaking up. We have a 1 year old son. I don't have the time, nor is my head in a suitable place to handle the task they gave me.

Questions: Even though no deadline was given, there must be a unspoken, reasonable one. How do I go about dealing with this? Do I ignore that two weeks have passed and continue trying my best even though it will take me some time to actually solve the issue? Do I ask the recruiter if there is a deadline? Do I mention that I'm having some family issues and I'm unable to invest the required time and attention to solve the task at the moment? Any other suggestions?

  • Please let me know if there is any relevant information missing. I would also appreciate if someone would add some relevant tags which I might have missed. – user69223 Apr 26 '17 at 12:00
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    Do you have a job at the moment? During a difficult breakup isn't the best time to change jobs if you have a choice. – thelem Apr 26 '17 at 12:04
  • @thelem I do. I hear you, but I want to switch to IT and I'm having trouble finding opportunities given that I don't have the necessary skills. I will have to ponder whether to switch or not, but at the moment I need to address the issue that a task was given to me two weeks ago and I haven't given any feedback. – user69223 Apr 26 '17 at 12:15
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    Focus on whatever's best for your child. The rest is just noise. – Strawberry Apr 26 '17 at 12:24
  • @Strawberry My thoughts exactly, hence me wanting to switch to a field where there's more earning potential, before I get too committed to banking. – user69223 Apr 26 '17 at 12:25
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Even though no deadline was given, there must be a unspoken, reasonable one. How do I go about dealing with this?

Two weeks is already a long time to complete a test task, even if not explicit limit was given.

Perhaps this company just tries to find a stream of entry-level folks and there is no rush to fill a specific job. Otherwise, companies generally don't want to hear nothing for 2 weeks.

Do I ignore that two weeks have passed and continue trying my best even though it will take me some time to actually solve the issue?

That's probably your best bet at this point. Devote as much attention to this task as you can, get it done as quickly as possible, and hope for the best.

Do I ask the recruiter if there is a deadline? Do I mention that I'm having some family issues and I'm unable to invest the required time and attention to solve the task at the moment?

No. Starting to convey your family issues as reasons why you cannot complete their task is most likely going to drop you from consideration completely.

Any other suggestions?

Consider if this is really the time you should be trying to change careers.

Job hunting requires focus and a lot of hard work. Changing careers requires even more. Your focus may need to be elsewhere for a while.

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I would seriously consider delaying your job search. Finding a new job is a time consuming process that requires your concentration. You are not going to be able to perform your best while you are distracted by a breakup. If you pass this stage of the process, will you be able to prepare for the interview?

In answer to the question you asked: You will need to ask the person who set you the task. Two weeks is a long time to turn around this sort of task, but it is not necessarily long enough that you are not still being considered for the job. That will depend on the company's recruitment process, so only they can answer the question. Don't mention why you haven't been able to complete the task yet, just clarify what their schedule is.

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    I would add that by being unprepared you may destroy potential opportunities, for example if you are unable to interview well at 5 local companies, those 5 companies won't accept another application if in a few months time you've straightened yourself out. – NibblyPig Apr 26 '17 at 12:39
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Sorry to hear about your breakup. Firstly, have you considered whether you still want to move jobs given the situation? For all I know this might be part of why you're moving jobs, but bear in mind that if your head isn't in the right place, it may be more than the coding task that you struggle with (and therefore you may not end up with as good a job as you could do otherwise.) It's also another thing you would have to contend with on a personal level, in addition to managing a separation and deciding on the best interests of a child.

If you decide not to go down the job search route for now, just tell them and then don't worry about the task at all:

Hello x,

Thank you very much for sending me the task to complete. However, I regret that due to a family emergency I'm now no longer in a position where I'm able to look for a new role in the immediate future. I hope that this situation will change in the next x months, and if so then I will be in contact.

If you do decide that you want to, then just state it might take a bit longer to complete:

Hello x,

Thank you very much for sending me the task to complete. I regret that due to a family emergency I've had to halt work on this task for now, and I may not be able to complete the task for another x weeks. Is this acceptable, or is there an implicit deadline before this date?

Bear in mind however that the answer to the above will almost certainly be "sorry, I'm afraid we'll need to move on with that role well before that timeframe".

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