Rise of the “Projeclications” or “Applijects”

This week I was sent an interesting blog piece from the Harvard Business Review Network entitled  “Projects Are the New Job Interviews”  by Michael Schrage. In this piece Michael points to a growing trend  among large businesses and corporations to “field test” potential job candidates, before they are awarded/offered the big full-time position.  As we all have experienced first hand, the interview process is flawed. You can give people quizzes & tests, check references, and conduct team meetings, but in the end, it really comes down to how someone performs on the job and works in conjunction with the other employees.

These paid projects allow both sides to better vet each other, and ensure that there is a good fit.  And while many in the comments section went wild over the idea of being “pitted against” other job candidates, as Michael points out “there’s nothing fake or artificial about the value they’re expected to offer. These organizations treat hiring as part of their on-boarding process. Hiring becomes more holistic rather than “over the wall. More importantly, everyone in the enterprise now “gets” that people only get hired if and only if they deliver something above and beyond a decent track record and social graph.” 

While this may be revolutionary among the big firms, this hardly news among small-to-mid sized business who have come to rely on temp-to-permanant staff to grow their businesses, especially in an unsteady economy. For these smaller businesses, the cost of adding incremental (full-time) staff can be crippling, so instead they rely on more flexible staff who they can train, and promote to full-time as their business continues to develop. It is the ultimate hands-on job interview, and where we have seen the greatest movement in the last year here among Hourly members. While some of our members prefer the flexibility that comes from part-time or project work, others have been thrilled to see part-time jobs transition into full-time and many cases, over-time paid positions.

While abuse is rampant among companies using people to get free work , whether they call them internships, externships, or “projects”, we do agree that more and more companies, large and small, will increasingly use projects as a  hiring tool. “College graduates, MBAs and older job candidates will learn how to sniff out which “applijects” are genuine invitations to success and which ones are sleazy bids for cheap labor. In the same way job candidates learn how to interview well, they’ll get the skills to “appliject” well because they understand how to optimize their influence and impact within the constraints of the project design.”

In all cases, going into any short-term project with an employer, make sure to…

  • Have a clearly set project outline, with goals and timetable
  • Limited NDA (non-discolusre agreement)
  • Payment terms, with money paid either weekly or twice a month. NEVER all at the end.
  • Process for review at the end of the project

Have you been asked to perform a project for an employer, in anticipation of getting a job? Tell us your story!

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