Interview Sample Requests: How To Make It Work For You
Let’s face it! In today’s economy landing that perfect job can be challenging regardless of how “valuable” you believe your skill-sets are in comparison to the competition. As E-Learning professionals it’s almost imperative to have an online portfolio or CV that highlights your skills and experience with relevant visual samples of your e-learning projects. A resume with bullet points just doesn’t seem to cut it these days. Get started by researching a.k.a goggling ‘E-Learning Portfolios’ to gather general ideas. Then, start thinking about which e-learning design samples, that you have created, best demonstrate your skill sets at different levels. Some ideas include: a converted PowerPoint, a custom course sample, a few pages of an instructor manual, course development outline, static course, video course– you get the picture. And if you prefer not to load interactive working samples consider displaying before and after screenshots.
Now, before you buy that domain name and purchase website hosting, its best to request in writing permission(s) from employers and/or clients to display samples of e-learning projects that you've created for them on your website, first. Some employers will agree and ask that you include their company’s name or brand beside it, some may flat out say no. For those on the fence you may be able to persuade them by stating that you’ll display a modified version of e-learning projects that omits confidential or specific information from the sample. And if all else fails, remember you’re the developer, recreate a generic e-learning project sample that requires only your approval to post (get it, got it, great). Alright, so now you’re ready. You have an online portfolio that highlights’ the best of each type of e-learning projects that you’ve created and successfully received permission(s) from employers and/or clients. Checking it several times over, second guessing yourself, dedicating time away from your family and social life to create "THE"most awesome portfolio that has ever graced the internet. Screaming “it’s ALIVE”! And off to the interview you go!
The interview is going great, you’re impressing them with your background, wooing them with your character, and now you hit them with the “wow” factor - your online portfolio! The interviewer smiles, the crowd in your mind cheers (thoughts of Ralphie’s teacher in ‘A Christmas Story’ writing A+ across the board), they are getting ready to respond and you know it’s going to be good. Then, they hit you with, “oh nice looking portfolio…but” and proceed to tell you that in order to get a full understanding of how your skill-sets best align with their scope of work they’d like for you review and revise a current e-Learning development/design project of theirs and provide a custom design document to address specific needs, etc… You are stunned – mind blown, and with this still blank smile on your face. You mindlessly shake your head in agreement with the task of creating customized “usable” samples for free.
This scenario may seem to be a bit of an exaggeration, but believe it or not, I know colleagues that have similar experiences. So, I ask the question when it comes to interviewing and the request to develop custom e-learning samples of a company’s actual work product, “How far should it go”? One colleague in specific has received requests like this in several interviews and told that their samples where spot on yet was never hired by any of the companies that requested custom interview samples. As a matter of fact, over half of the companies sent emails back to some of my colleagues either stating that the position was canceled or that a decision was made to hire from within.
Wow! So of course e-learning professionals are people too and so I asked, be honest, "how did that make you feel?"In the spirit of full disclosure I will not post the names of colleagues nor the companies, but I will state that thoughts and feelings were similar. Some felt that their online portfolios were more than sufficient to demonstrate the skills requested via custom interview samples, others felt it was time consuming, others felt that requests for interview samples is ok - but felt that it went a bit over-the-line to request custom interview samples using the company’s actual developments for works in progress. While the majority felt a bit duped into providing free work.
On the flip, one perspective became evident that almost all of them labeled companies that always used the method of requesting custom interview samples of their actual projects and later canceling the position as "those companies"; not a good reputation to have for any company of any size. In the era of social media I believe this could begin to work against companies as the word begins to spread by mouth (if not online) qualified candidates may opt out of submitting their resumes – even in our current job economy. So, it may be best if all parties exercise caution (just a personal thought).
Nevertheless, whatever your take on this may be, you may be asked at some point (if not already) to submit interview samples for a generic topic or via a company’s actual development project. Here are some simple and completely rational ways to make it work for you:
- Ask if the custom request be generic in nature (to offset seeing or using actual company information prior to hire)
- Accept the custom request and share up-front that you will be omitting branding and/or any identifiable information from the sample
- State that sample works will be posted to your online portfolio to demonstrate your skills for others to view
I’m sure there are many other ways to make it a positive experience and ultimately make it work out for you, so please share thoughts of what you’ve done!