interviewer wants me to write a fake performance review for my future self

A reader writes:

I am currently in the running for a position I think could be an excellent fit for my career, and I for the company. As part of the interview process, they have asked me to complete a performance review. Basically, I am supposed to pretend that I have been at the company three months and fill out a review based on what I have achieved, what I want to achieve going forward, my strengths, and areas of opportunity. After speaking with the hiring manager, this is meant to get a grasp on my writing skills and self assessment, but I am really at a loss for where to begin. I have the job description and after the phone interview I have a pretty good idea of the position, but I just don’t know where to start!

You’re not sure where to start because this is ABSURD. It’s one thing to ask you to talk about your plan for your first three months (frankly even that often isn’t rooted in a ton of reality, but it’s at least a more reasonable question), but asking you to assess your future hypothetical self on work that hasn’t happened yet is in the realm of … fan fiction. They’re asking you to write fan fiction about yourself.

Is this someone you really want to work for? At a minimum this is a warning sign that they don’t know how to hire, and it may also be a warning about their critical thinking.

If you really want the job and aren’t deterred by this silliness, you might as well indulge in the rampant speculation that’s being requested and fill it out as if you’ve had an outstanding three months. Take a look at the goals of the position and whatever knowledge you gained in the interview about how your success would be measured, and have at it. Keep it reasonably realistic so that you don’t look comically out of touch, but look at it as a chance to reflect back your understanding of what a successful initial performance would look like and what the challenges of the role are likely to be.

But seriously, this is pretty silly. If they want to see your writing skills and ability to self-assess in action, there are easy, obvious ways to do that: they can have you do a job-related writing exercise, and they can ask you to self-assess work you’ve already done.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I wonder if this is a misapplication of the idea of writing yourself a letter of rec when you first begin a job, or articulating learning/training goals, or other journal-y tasks. It’s not super appropriate at most jobs, and it sounds really silly, here.

      1. irene adler

        It gives a whole new meaning to the term “creative writing”.

        Wondering: what happens if candidate does not live up to the statements made in this”creative writing” assignment?

  1. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Yeah, I’d probably self select out at this point.

    I once interviewed for a job. It seemed perfect. Great benefits. Minimal commute. And then……..they told me if I made it to the next round of interviews, I’d have to mold Playdough into what I felt would best represent my dream job. I’m pretty sure I left a WDP sized hole through the wall.

    I don’t mind fun and whimsy, but I have a limit.

    (I routinely see that job position come up, so I dodged a bullet there.)

            1. Bea

              You dodged like 37 bullets. E.F. packaging supplies. Signed Manufacturing4Lyfe

              Now I know why these companies have killed me slowly just as a vendor all these years. I knew they weren’t right.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              I am so torn, because on the one hand my children are past the play doh stage and I do miss the excuse to squish things and I could say “It’s for WORK.” But the job probably shouldn’t be drastically less creative and out there than the interview for it.

        1. Jennifer

          Who the hell cares about that when you’re an admin?!?!? You’re literally not allowed to mold your dream job! You type and answer the phones and do the money!

          1. AdminX2

            I was once given a logic problem with a lot of math. I am good at logic, but I am not good at quick mental math. If he had given me the problem of “You have to plan an event in 2 weeks for 250 people with mixed ages, abilities, food preferences, in the summer, go!” I’d have been all over that.

            Some abstract logic problem with no real world application? RAWR!

            1. Librarian of the North

              I had the same thing happen to me. It was for a job as a receptionist and they gave me an IQ test involving questions of the “if a train leaves New York going 60 km/hr and another train leaves Philadelphia etc….”. I did the test, handed it in, and then told them I wasn’t interested in the position anymore.

              1. Rainy

                In my previous life as a PhD candidate who thought she’d go on to academia, one of my favourite profs mentioned that she’d once turned up for an interview for a faculty job only to be handed an exam and told that she had an hour and they’d interview her once they’d checked her work (this was apparently fairly standard for a long time in our field). While she was still gaping, the search committee left the room. When she recovered, she walked out of the room and handed their exam back and said “Never mind; I find we won’t suit”, went back to her hotel, packed, and flew home. She, incidentally, has been tenured faculty at top tier institutions in three countries and literally wrote the book on at least two subareas of our field, so losing her from the pool was a real problem.

                I heard that university stopped making its faculty candidates sit exams.

          2. Bea

            I transitioned from an admin to full cycle accounting…but I don’t advise saying “my dream job is your job” to the CEO.

            1. Abe Froman

              Heh, I said that to the president of the org I used to work for. I was a brand new entry level hire. His response was to make me sit in his desk chair so he could take a picture of me to put in his monthly newsletter. He was a good guy.

              1. Eliza

                I think it’s the sort of thing that can actually be safer to say if you’re very junior to the person you’re saying it to, since by the time you get to a point where having their job is feasible they might well be ready to move on anyway. It still probably won’t work in your favour, but coming across as wildly ambitious is a lot different from coming across as a threat.

    1. Hills to Die on

      I would probably self-select out at this point, as I have with other odd requests. They aren’t being creative or insightful, they are just being wierd.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        I think one of the bosses listened to too many overpaid consultants who believe being edgy and weird means you get the best candidates.

        1. Clorinda

          Somebody went to seminar on reflective practice, or mindfulness in the work environment, or metacognition.

      2. Magenta Sky

        I’d definitely have opted out, but probably by writing the review, and congratulating myself for, in the space of 90 days, curing cancer, opening a company office on both the moon and Mars, bringing lasting peace to the Middle East, and writing, producing, directing and starring in the most successful and profitable movie in the history of Hollywood.

        And then found my dream job flipping burgers at Mcdonald’s, because saving the world is *boring.*

    2. Snarkus Aurelius

      I would leave the Play-Doh untouched, and when asked, I’d say my dream job was to be an untouched piece of Play-Doh.

      1. Nye

        Along similar lines, at church camp as a kid we had to mold this weird, hard-to-work-with knock-off Play-Doh into a representation of what God meant to us. I was having a hard time with the stupid dough, and kind of over it anyway, so I just dumped it out in a lump and wrote, “God is potential.” next to it.

        If you are asked a ridiculous question, it can be fun to see how far you can take it with a straight face.

          1. Nye

            I am definitely a contrarian in the face of silly questions fishing for profound answers. Actual college admissions essays I wrote and submitted:

            Person you admire most: Kermit the Frog

            Piece of art that inspired you: Hirshhorn exhibition that I found profoundly stupid (as an inspiration never to do something as completely worthless and self-absorbed)

            Bonus grad school diversity essay: before undergrad the last school I graduated from was elementary. How diverse is [prestigious university] in terms of high school dropouts?

            I got into all three schools, so have not been discouraged from this approach in the least.

    3. Laurelma__01!

      Makes you wonder sometimes. I have applied for a job twice that has opened up that I have exact background they need and never made the interview at the company. Actually my experience would be hard to find, for this geographic area. I also know that in clinical research, that this extremely stressful and I worked in the field for four years before I got laid off. Found out they are hiring from within, since it’s a promotion for them. But they do not have the experience with the paperwork aspect of it. They may be able to keep this last person they hired, but it’s a hard to put a lab person into a document control position.

      Sometimes they need a body to do this and that, and very little thought has gone into what’s needed to be done and the qualifications required. I feel like this manager or HR rep has taken the lazy way of screening applicants. Would be interesting to know if this is a total new position? If not (fresh out of the box new, but less than a year), what the turn over rate is.

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      This is great! I think I would have gone to the next round just to screw with them a little. Based on my response* to a question along the same lines my sculpture would have been a person leaned against a palm tree.

      *I was asked “If you were to get this job on a scale of 1-10 (1 lowest) how would you rate it” My answer: “A solid 7 or 8” Interviewer asked me why not a 10 and I replied “The only job I can think of that would rate a 9 or 10 is being paid to sit on the beach, sipping cocktails, counting the incoming waves”

      The interviewer laughed at my reply and told me he agreed. (I got the job too)

    5. Environmental Compliance

      I’m really curious what the thought process was that led to that requirement. Absurdly curious to what made grown adults decide that having other grown adults model a nonphysical concept into physical PlayDoh.

      I would also like to see what type of creations people made given this question, because I feel that it would be greatly entertaining to try to figure out what the person meant by creating whatever they created.

      1. The New Wanderer

        I’m also guessing that the average adult person, who has probably not played with Play-Doh for quite some time, has the artistic molding skills of the average 5 yr old. So I’d like to imagine they receive a lot of snakes, cookies, and lumpy roundish shapes.

        1. Environmental Compliance

          I’m imagining a whole table of lumpy spiraled snake things. Some represent a job with freedom from a micromanaging boss – you can tell by the wider spiral. Some represent a job that changes a lot – you can tell by the number of lumpy bits.

          1. RoadsGirl

            I would LOVE to be the one doing this on an interview. I would make all sorts of horrible insights and taken slights into the Pay-Doh creations.

            I would go to hell, but the notion gives me such joy.

            1. Carpe Librarium

              I have play-doh in my house right now.
              If I had the know how, I’d link a pic of an attempt at this question in one of the open threads (but which one…?)
              You could all draw your own absurd and outlandish conclusions and offer existential critiques.

              1. Environmental Compliance

                It’d be like charades, except PlayDoh based.

                I would love a thread of “Guess My PlayDoh Creation Meaning!” (reddit would work for this, no?)

      2. Perpetua

        It can actually be quite useful and interesting to shape nonphysical concepts into physical metaphors, which is what the PlayDoh was supposed to achieve, I guess. Creating “something” (NOT a perfect 3D model, the actual skill is almost unimportant) and then talking about it can lead to quite different insights and perspectives than just talking about the concepts.

        However, the vast majority of adults will need some training and practice in order to be able to relax and to use these techniques, since most of us have been conditioned to think of them as childish and silly. A job selection process is definitely NOT the place for that.

        For what it’s worth, I’m an art therapist in training (so I’m probably more comfortable with those approaches than most people), but also a former HR Manager (so I have experience with hiring).

    6. A username for this site

      Play-Doh isn’t gluten free, so the company could have an EEO problem on their hands, if someone is forced to disclose a medical disorder in order to participate in an unnecessary interview task.

      1. Phoenix Programmer

        I thought Gluten is only an issue when ingested so this would be hard to sell as an EEC. I have never heard of any issues with touching gluten it’s too big a molecule to be airborne like peanut and latex. Can you elaborate on what diseases cause topic contact reactions? I work in medicine so am genuinely curious.

        1. A Non E. Mouse

          I work with someone that is Celiac, and he says that most of his ingestion is accidental, from other items (surfaces, his wife’s not seeing Gluten in a new makeup product and he kisses her cheek, etc.).

          Something is contaminated, he touches it, then his hand in some way either touches his mouth or touches something that then touches his mouth – opening a can of Coke, for example, or recently his infant daughter touching something with gluten and then forcefully shoving her hand into his mouth (as infants do!), he even explained a bad week of not knowing his new shampoo had a tiny bit of gluten back in the day.

          So it’s less “touching gets a reaction”, and more “incidental *unknown* touching leads to later reactions”.

          While he wipes down public surfaces before eating, he might not have that opportunity between an interview and getting a glass of water, for example.

          Touching a big ol’ ball of Gluten would definitely be something he’d want to do.

        2. ket

          I have a friend with a celiac kid and she says Play-Doh is a problem, but kids do get things *everywhere*. I think the problem would be not thoroughly thoroughly thoroughly washing hands and then, say, eating french fries or wiping your mouth after getting mayo in the corner of your lips.

      2. Alli525

        Wouldn’t that only be a problem if the candidate ATE the Play-Doh? Or can harmful amounts (to someone w/celiac) of gluten be absorbed through fingertips?

    7. AdAgencyChick

      I mean…I MIGHT have gone back for another interview just to mold a dollar sign and leave.

    8. Blue Anne

      In the interview for one job, they had me play weird word games. Like, the interviewer said a word, I said his word and a new word, he said both words and a new word, to make a sentence, until he was satisfied with my memory and “thinking on my feet”.

      Apparently a lot of my colleagues were asked to draw trees during their interviews.

      I wish I’d listened to my gut about the red flags there.

      1. Aardvark

        “Apparently a lot of my colleagues were asked to draw trees during their interviews.”
        That’s a weird thing to be forested to do

    9. Collingswood

      I would have molded a couch with me laying on it watching tv and chilling with a cat.

    10. Oxford Common Sense

      I recently was handed a blob of play-do and a
      handful of feathers in a diversity training and told to model what diversity looks like to me. Initially stumped, I made some kind of braid thing and made up something. Turned around and everyone else, who had absolutely no idea what to do, had basically copied me. Total and complete waste of time.

    11. SusanIvanova

      Even as a little kid I could not *stand* Playdoh. The smell, the texture, the way it fell apart if you tried to do anything with it…
      There would be two holes in the wall if I’d been there.

  2. Laurelma__01!

    I totally agree with you. I’m wondering if the job description has even been written out and this is the management’s way of having someone do it for them. One suggestion if you are truly interested, or at the point you just want a job, period. Look at the job description at other job sites if can find it, and look at what responsibilities & preferences they have posted. Also look at the mission statement on their website. If you can state goals reached that fall within the mission statement, what your role would be in reaching it; and future goals to meet say within the next six months. Do not use their exact terminology, it’ll look like you copy & pasted it. Look at thesaurus.com. They say “Collect Data” you say “assembly or compile data.”

  3. Snarkus Aurelius

    A 30/60/90 day plan would be a better, more realistic exercise for what they want to know. Why aren’t they asking for that?

    I can immediately think of a dozen people who would gladly give themselves the highest rankings and amazing achievements. Half of those people would also ask for a raise. No joke.

    And if this employer is into that stuff, which it sounds like they are, then good riddance. They’re going to hire the candidate who is the best at self-promotion rather than a qualified person. Even if you got both qualities in one person, that person would still be insufferable.

    1. Antilles

      Frankly, even asking for your 30/60/90 plan can be wildly unrealistic since an outsider probably has very limited information about how you operate, your target markets, your client base, etc. I can know the general industry and have some information about your company, but there’s a reasonable limit. There might even be some specific problems that you’re hoping I solve that you want me to focus on first, but I won’t really know that.
      In my industry, I can tell you from personal experience that what people do in their first 30 days ranges all the way from “preparing budget proposals and report for clients on Day 1, we expect a few Proposal Wins in the first month” to “whoa, slow down there buddy, we put all of our new engineers, even experienced ones, through various training programs because we want everybody on the same page and speaking our lingo”.

      1. M_Lynn_K

        Right! The 30-60-90 question is related to what I ask employers! I want to know what they expect of me in the first few months and what they think is reasonable. I would have no idea how to answer that.

        It’s also an incredibly creative task, which I’m not. I just did a personal workstyle question and I’m all about structure, logic, and reality. I already know this about myself, and thus I seek out jobs where that is the nature of the job. Being asked to do something I’m not talented in for the purposes of being assessed in an interview? NO WAY.

        1. Autumnheart

          I feel like asking a potential new hire to describe what they see their first 3 months as being is incredibly unrealistic. How is the new hire supposed to know? An employer should be telling the candidate what to expect, not asking the candidate.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      That was my thought too – is this a weird twist on a 30 day plan?

      Seriously though, it just sounds like one of the more stupid ideas from a “10 Unique Interview Questions” article.

  4. Kat Em

    This seems a little goofy to me, but not that weird. But then, I’m a writer and enjoy a writing test that isn’t just another “summarize your experience” or “write a paragraph about what about our company appeals to you” yawnfest. I’ll take fanfiction over that any day.

    1. Mrs_Helm

      I’m with you. I think it’s a little hokey, and probably someone was trying to be creative when they didn’t need to be. But I don’t think it’s a red flag in itself. And I would assume that they’re going to expect this “review” to (a) be in line with past history of performance from you/references and (b) speak to your strengths and weaknesses. Those are things they’re be asking about anyway. I’m not seeing why this is a problem, beyond the “pretend” factor.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m with you. If this is meant to be an assessment of writing skills, it can be taken pretty far as long as it’s written well, and I don’t think it’s super strange. For my current job, I was asked to give a presentation about any topic not related to my general industry, and I went with a hobby. I did my best to make it engaging, informative, and, occasionally, funny. It wasn’t supposed to be a test of my knowledge of my industry, it was meant to see if I could make a coherent presentation. So I ran with it.

    3. Turquoisecow

      My concern would be – what’s the metric for a “good grade”, so to speak? If I do as someone else suggested and make myself sound really, unrealistically awesome, will I appear out of touch with norms? If I downplay my achievements (which I’ve done on actual performance reviews – boss had to inform me that I was better than I was making myself seem) will they believe me, or see me as unnecessarily self-deprecating? What exactly are they looking for here? And since it’s not based on reality, how do they justify that grade?

      If they want a writing sample, they can just ask for a writing sample.

    4. smoke tree

      To me the request feels kind of disrespectful. Maybe because it’s so patently goofy, I imagine many people would struggle to come up with something they would be comfortable submitting.

      1. Leela

        I find this pretty disrespectful as well. It doesn’t feel too far off of previous write-ins like having someone cater an event, put on a fake presentation (assuming presenting isn’t part of the job), or faking a fire to see how the person would react. Also just based on previous experience, it raises huge questions for me about whether management is planning on abdicating huge, crucial parts of their responsibility and having me do it without giving me the rights I would need to do that for them effectively.

    5. MCMonkeyBean

      Yeah, this kind of seems like an unusual but not unreasonable combination of the typical “what do you think you would bring to the table if you hired you” type question combined with a test of writing skills. Talk about some tasks you would perform well, and also look on their website for a list of company values and talk about ways you would demonstrate those.

    6. GMN

      Agreed, I’d be fine with this and might even find it useful for hiring. I think it could be useful because it may naturally bring out some ranking of your qualities as compared to others. For example, many people may claim to be quick learners, but if you really know that you tend to be one, and in your last two companies your first performance review has shown that you were unusually quick to bring up to speed, this exercise can show that.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago

    I am so utterly baffled by this. You’re supposed to write a review based on what you are hoping to accomplish in your first 90 days? What is that supposed to show them? If you don’t achieve those goals once you’re hired, will they fire you?

    My second ‘real’ job, I said in my interview that I was persuasive. For the entire THREE years I worked for that manager, every single time I failed to do something she thought I should have been able to do, she reminded me of this and told me to ‘be persuasive’. The problem was that the industry was kind of niche and the customers became savvy and realized they could provide a similar service in house for far less money. No amount of persuasion was going to overcome that.

    1. Antilles

      If you don’t achieve those goals once you’re hired, will they fire you?
      That’d be my thought I guess. They pull it out after three months and compare what you thought your review would be with what it actually is.
      Of course, if you don’t want this job because they’re bonkers, you could just set the most ridiculously simple goals that anybody could ever have. “Among his accomplishments were breathing oxygen, wearing clothes, and showing up on time once.”

      1. Pollygrammer

        “His coworkers frequently commented that, although he was a rockstar at work, he frequently seemed exhausted. This is because they didn’t know he had also secretly become an actual rockstar, Hannah Montana-style.”

    2. Genny

      Also, outside of high-level policy or management rolls, who has a 90 day plan complete with goals? Like what does that even look like in most rolls?

      1. Decima Dewey

        Maybe they want to know which candidate is naive enough to take the job. Who doesn’t realize the built in obstacles to what they want to accomplish. “Candidate Y thinks they can get Other Department to share resources! If they manage that, they should tell us how.”

      2. JustaTech

        Well, for the new manufacturers at my job it would be “complete all training and pass all exams”, because it takes at least 90 days to get through all that stuff and actually start working.
        But it’s not really much of a “goal”.

  6. There is a Life Outside the Library

    Stuff like this is a big no for me, as long as I have other options. If they can’t get their answers through direct questions, imagine trying to complete any assignment.

  7. Annoyed

    Oh noooo. So much nope with this. I would so self select out. I would worry about what other absurdness lurks within.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    How about “If you could be any animal in the zoo, what would you be?”

    “Bonobo”

    “Huh? What’s that?”

    “Go look it up. They have a remarkable set of means they use to resolve conflicts.”

    No, I didn’t get the job. But, uh, did I want to work there? Uh, no.

    1. The New Wanderer

      Good one! (I didn’t have to look it up) Seriously, ask a stupid question… They were probably looking for a different kind of pack animal.

    2. boo bot

      Silliness of the question aside, what the heck is wrong with that answer?

      (Unless they knew their conflict-resolution tactics tend to involve sex, but I feel like you have to know what a bonobo is before you get to that.)

      Follow-up, can I pick being an animal *not* in the zoo? Because that sounds nicer.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Isn’t the answer obvious? The human zookeeper.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        Or the peacock who just gets to strut around all day and doesn’t live in a cage.

    1. nep

      +1
      HUGE fail.
      (I’ve got this kind of employer/hiring manager fail on my mind right now, as I just read a job ad that includes the line below–also a big turn-off to me. I wonder what people here think of this language in a job ad. I suppose it’s good for weeding, because what it says to me–very clearly– is: ‘This place is not for you.’ So I don’t apply–everyone spared.)
      You should friggin’ love writing and re-writing, and have a knack for taking charge, selling your ideas, and executing the crap out of them.

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)

        “Executing the crap out of them” – just no. Nonononono.

        1. nep

          Thank you–right?!
          How can this outfit expect to be taken seriously in any way? My take, anyway. I do wonder whether anyone cool with this kind of language in a job ad.

          1. Magenta Sky

            Sounds like a bunch of middle aged guys trying to be hip so they’ll appeal to millennials. (And failing.)

            1. nep

              Could be. My first thought was it’s some millennials thinking it sounds hip and that’s just how they communicate.

              1. Mustard

                Unlikely. Millennials in a position to be hiring are more likely to be using a template they’ve been recent taught. As a millennial, this also screams “baby boomer trying to be hip” to me. Someone younger writing a casual ad wouldn’t sound like this. They may try to attract customers like this depending on the product, but not employees.

      2. nep

        Just saw another ad (for proofreader) with a couple punctuation faces sprinkled in and one sentence ending in six exclamation points. Come ON, people.

          1. nep

            I guess they think for some things they need a proofreader, since they’re seeking one–but not for punctuation faces and incorrect punctuation. They seem just tickled to be including such ridiculousness in their ad.

      3. Artemesia

        It means they are childish bros — expect their to be nerf guns and holocracy in which there is no leadership, lots of conflicting duplications of effort and the most important tasks undone. Expect people who think they can vamp what they imagine a big shot does — and fail the business.

      4. Small jar of fireflies

        In a confusing plot twist, a group of high school students have found themselves in charge of a company, and are seeking a ceo.

      5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        Nope, nope, nope. I have no problem with casual language but this painfully transparent attempt to be cool turns me right off.

  9. BPT

    I think this workplace is confusing this with an assignment that might be more useful for higher ups. Like with hiring Executive Directors for an organization, I’ve known hiring committees to ask them to give a “state of the union” address for the organization, pretending it’s 3 years in the future. It’s more of a way to see what their vision is for the organization, what ideas they might have for leading the organization, and presentation skills. This is after the candidates have been able to see the budgets and history of the orgs.

    That’s different than a performance review for a lower level employee after 3 months. Like the most you can really ask for from new employees after three months is that they’ve become familiar with the workplace and are picking up training at an appropriate pace.

    1. lapgiraffe

      This! The amount of hoop jumping and homework should be directly proportional to the level of the job, and the OP’s scenario seems out of whack.

      I had to do a 30/60/90 plan for a job that was not entry level for the industry but was an entry point to taking a step up into a different corner of the industry and would require a new skillset and ample training. Much of what would be happening in those 90 days would be the employer training me, introducing me to clients, showing me the ropes and getting me ready to jump out on my own. I could see three months in that they’d like me to put together a plan for the next 90 days, an exercise that would demonstrate I’d taken in my training and understood what I need to do next in order to be successful, but not one for those first three months where they would actually be driving the bus.

      Not only did they take another month to schedule the next round of interviews and my dream job finally opened up in the interim, I don’t even know if they ever read that stupid plan. I went to the last interview, in person, with the guy who asked me to do the plan and had done three phone interviews with me at that point, plus a principal, and for an entire hour that guy started his first interview script verbatim, as if we had never even spoken, never once mentioning anything like “I know we’ve talked about your experience here, could you expand on that and explain to princpal here.” NOPE it was groundhog day, the interview edition.

      So yeah, I feel rather negative about these kinds of plans/exercises because the people who ask for them tend to be the worst at the hiring process, inconsiderate of your time, and have a very disorganized understanding of what they’re even hiring for, which makes me think they wouldn’t be someone I’d want to work for long term.

      Note – that job is still unfilled over a year later.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        Perhaps because the interviewer can’t remember that he’s already interviewed people, Memento-style? Did he have, like, post-it notes on his face?

  10. Naomi

    It’s not even a good indicator of your ability to self-assess, because you’re talking about imaginary work. If you say you had a fantastic three months, how can the hiring manager prove otherwise? They can’t measure your ability to assess your work without real work to compare to your self-assessment.

    I hope some candidates really just run with it: “In my first three months, I earned the company millions of dollars, saved the whales, and won a Nobel Peace Prize. Clients throw themselves at my feet with bouquets and marriage proposals, and the CEO is stepping aside to offer me his job.”

  11. ive made a little confused face with my ball of playdough

    This reminds me of the time an employer asked for a cover letter detailing why applicants were overqualified… only to tell me I was overqualified. Sounds like a lot of sound and fury with little signification, but if you’re otherwise interested, I wish you the best of luck.

  12. Falling Diphthong

    When Wilhelmina started stockpiling fish in the break room fridge, then the microwave, then the supply cabinets and Diane from Accounting’s cubicle, we thought it a bit odd but didn’t understand her thought process. Then she smashed the drinking fountain off the wall, flooding half the first floor, and welcomed the bears to their new urban habitat. Her creativity and unconventional approach have won her many fans. Exceeds Expectations.

    1. True Story

      God, I really wish that someone would submit this the next time this question comes up. I know I’d have a good laugh if I were the hiring manager!

  13. CatCat

    “I have exceeded all expectations, started a new line of business in underwater rice sculpting YouTube videos that has generated millions in new income, fixed the employee dress code so cold shoulder tops are not a thing here, and created a solution that has solved the thermostat and kitchen wars. Recommend 50% raise and a bonus.”

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      Ah, but you didn’t invent an odorless way of heating fish? No raise for you!

  14. CAA

    I think I would write that my main accomplishment was “Successfully revamped the hiring process to eliminate the unnecessary step of having candidates create a performance review before having performed any work.”

    1. irene adler

      And ended any other asinine hiring practices proved not to be fruitful in assessing job candidates.

  15. OP Here

    Thanks to all of the comments so far! I too thought it was a little weird. How am I supposed to know what I will accomplish. I am thinking of framing it as a what I hope to accomplish. I am thinking this is a really “different” way to assess my writing skills and do a pre interview.
    The crazy thing is otherwise this company gets high marks across the board. I know someone who works there already and she has nothing but glowing reviews, albeit in a different department. The hiring manager is a leader in the field and the company is growing exponentially YoY.
    The industry is so niche and I don’t want to blow my cover, but the questions are in the vein of..

    Job Description Says: experience improving the durability of tea cups
    Assessment Says: summarize in a measurable way your accomplishments
    My response: I re engineered our plastics to improve the durability of teacups by 45%

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      So they give you the Job Description and the Assessment and you just have to make up the results?

      That’s actually not as bad as I thought it was going to be. If it were me I’d add bits about leading a cross functional team… Benchmarked data… things like that. If possible try to substitute something that you have done into what they are asking. So with the example you gave, I would write the response to the tea cup as if it were the real coffee cup project that you worked on last year. That would at least give you a frame of reference and a starting point. You could alter the real life scenario to fit the 3 month evaluation time frame.

    2. pomme de terre

      It’s such a crazy assignment and so likely to turn good candidates off to the company.

    3. Catalin

      Please, please, make this an exercise in hilarity. Make everything normal at first, then start throwing in phrases like, “And because of (her? My?) hard work and innovation, the tea cups were able to ensure the recent llama stampede without a scratch.

      The re-engineering of plastics, combined with the brilliant slight design change, resulted in teacups that were more flexible and can withstand being slam-dunked by the pope playing basketball.

      Please, for us?
      (60% chance I’d do it)

    4. Artemesia

      I actually don’t think it as stupid as the reactions suggest. Great? No. But it is a way of assessing writing and also thinking in terms of measurable achievements. If you have a fairly clear idea of what the job entails you should be able to talk about the kind of things you would bring to the table. It is not ‘what kind of tree would you be’ or ‘zoo animal’. (Bonobos for the win) — it is ‘focus on the kinds of achievements you could bring to the organization here.’

    5. MCMonkeyBean

      I don’t think they want you to accurately predict the future. I doubt they would look back on this in three months and think “hmm, which pieces did OP guess correctly.” It’s basically a platform to talk about things you do well and what you think you can contribute to the company.

      Are you organized? Do you like to improve processes as you learn them, looking for anything that can be simplified? Maybe you are good with excel and could suggest automating some manual processes with better formulas? Obviously I don’t know what your field is so maybe none of those things apply, but it’s just a different way of phrasing things you have done well at past jobs and skills you think you would bring to the table at your new job.

      1. CM

        +1. I think this is a weird assignment, but it reads to me like “tell me why you’re awesome” rather than “tell me your exact three month plan.” So kind of like a general idea of how your specific strengths could be useful in this role.

    6. Autumnheart

      I did a similar thing for my capstone (went back to school late in life). We had to come up with a project that had real-world applications in our field, and then present a realistic report that was basically: Proposal, here’s what the project will accomplish, proposed costs and labor; Launch, here’s what it actually cost to launch and what kind of response we expect to get; Completion, here’s the summary of results and the things we learned (e.g. we didn’t need as much labor as we thought, had to push back the launch date because we were still negotiating main partnership).

      Nearly all of it was essentially made up, though using realistic numbers like actual costs of products and average wages someone who would be employed in these made-up positions. It just had to sound realistic, it didn’t actually have to be true (obviously, I had no authority to launch a new product line at work).

  16. Hiring Mgr

    It does sound silly, but not too much more than “where do you see yourself in five years?”

      1. A username for this site

        I heard somewhere it’s a trap into getting people to disclose stupid things that they shouldn’t, like “Well I’m going to be applying to graduate programs for next year, and when that finishes up I’ll be looking to have a baby” instead of “I’d like to have developed and refined my skillset and be looking for advancement opportunities.”

        1. Ann O'Nemity

          Huh, I didn’t realize it was so dreaded. I’ve asked questions like this before, but not to trap people. More that I’m interested in someone’s career plans and passions.

          It can be a bad sign to me (but not always a deal breaker) if their answer is totally misaligned with the role they’re applying for. The best outcome is when the open role would be a good stepping stone to where they want to go.

          1. A Non E. Mouse

            Huh, I didn’t realize it was so dreaded. I’ve asked questions like this before, but not to trap people. More that I’m interested in someone’s career plans and passions.

            It can be a bad sign to me (but not always a deal breaker) if their answer is totally misaligned with the role they’re applying for. The best outcome is when the open role would be a good stepping stone to where they want to go.

            Honest question: what is a “good” answer to this, that also sounds genuine?

            I ask because really my answer would be “lottery winner”, but since that hasn’t happened yet, so….

            1. kalaid

              It depends on the job. I have done hiring for jobs where ” lottery winner” or ” beach in the caribbean” is a wonderful answer; I am hiring for a temporary job and it is a way of testing that YOU know it is a temporary position. I have hired for jobs where ” sitting here earning my wage” is a great answer- you want a reliable job that gives you money? Great! I want to give a reliable employee money! I have hired for jobs where ” I have finished my novel” would be a great answer- You want a boring job that doesn’t challenge you so you can do something else the rest of the time? Great! I want someone who is not annoying me by thinking up challenging ways to change our whole product line. Its like Anon E Mouse said, its about finding out what your career plan and passion is, and seeing if it fits with what I want- I have had as many people fail the interview because they were passionate about moving up in the organisation, expanding their capabilities, being exciting, as there have been people fail because they had zero vision. It really depends on the job.

    1. mark132

      I actually somewhat like questions like this one, because they are easy to practice before hand. Though I agree it is a rather silly question.

      1. Hiring Mgr

        I know what you mean…those questions just make me tired and irritable, like when my wife drags me to a store..

    2. nnn

      Ugh, I’ve always hated that question because it really depends on whether I get the job I’m interviewing for or not!

      (I’ve since come up with the idea of saying “That really depends on where you see me in five years,” but since I came up with that idea, I haven’t been asked the question.)

  17. animaniactoo

    You know, if they approached it just slightly differently, I think it might have made more sense.

    “Write what you *expect* a performance review might say about you after you’ve been in the role for 3 months.”

    Even then, it still would be a funky assignment. But I’d be able to somewhat assess what a performance review might say about me and create that. Including areas of opportunity and goals for future. Because I can talk about the kinds of things that I am likely to see an opportunity for and carve out some space to work on.

    But if you just tell me to write a performance review about myself, I’m gonna write pure fanfic. Cons included and all.

  18. Persimmons

    I’d be tempted to match their crazy and go all out on a really epic fanfic review. Something like Hugh Gallagher’s college essay.

    1. Sparkly Gnorbu

      I’d be tempted to do the opposite, especially if I’ve already decided not to go for the job. Something like:

      “Sparkly interviewed very well and her first few weeks suggested she would be a good fit and a promising member of our team. However, her behavior in the weeks to come was unusual at best. Her colleagues frequently complain that she eats their lunches even though they are clearly labeled with their names. She spends the majority of her time on her phone, in the bathroom. She also attempted to create an organization called the Duck Club. Our advice at this stage is to double her salary.”

  19. Mike C.

    Just remember that even though you cured cancer and hunger in the third world that you’re still only going to get a 4 out of 5. HR strictly limits the number of 5s that can be handed out each year.

    1. Environmental Compliance

      And even then, you’re only going to get a 2% raise, because we have 5 people and the manager can only distribute 10%, and it needs to be fair so others can catch up.

  20. TootsNYC

    I think it’s weird, but I will say this:

    it’s kind of the flip side of Alison’s “what makes someone an excellent employee in this job?”

    My advice for applicants is: Pretend you are the hiring manager. What skills and abilities do you want? What will be the toughest part of the job? What will be the parts of the job that a mediocre employee will do poorly (like, filing)?
    Now look through your own experience and find the examples the prove you had those skills, can do those tasks well.
    In a way, this is doing something similar, but in writing.

    So, for this job? What does it entail? What will make someone a good employee? And, how much of that do YOU think is fair to achieve in three months (this is your chance to set their expectations)?

    For an AdminAsst, I might say “Candidate has created good working relationships within the department, and has tapped into the knowledge of other team members. Candidate books meetings and processes invoices without error. Candidate is responsive to scheduling changes and unflustered by them. Candidate has identified two process refinements, thereby reducing errors and saving time.”

    So you indicate that you have an opinion on what makes someone excel at this job, and what things you would identify as valuable.

  21. Darkitect

    I’d be concerned that the company may use this as an assessment metric for the first three months of employment, particularly if there’s a probationary period.

  22. Minocho

    I wrote fan fiction before. I don’t know that I’d pick myself as the protagonist though. I’d hate to Mary Sue…

      1. Marthooh

        “We were all devestated whwn Mary Sue was trampled to death in the llama stampede — sacrificing herself to save the life of the CEO’s young grandson. Janine the receptionist collected more than eight thousand dollars in voluntary contributions for the funeral wreath.”

  23. Not Today Satan

    I recently saw an ad for a teacher position that asked the candidate to “please write a brief essay through the eyes of a
    student taught by you that reviews your teaching style, expertise in subject matter, and rigor of taking your course.”

    Literally fan fiction!

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      would that be thru the eyes of a typical student? an exceptional student? a student who is actually an adult in disguise? I mean, honestly, would they mostly be “she’s mean but she can answer all the questions but she always takes off points if you’re late to class”.

      No, sorry, that should be “”shes mean she can anwser all the ques. but she alwas takes off points if your late too class”

  24. DCompliance

    As someone who hires people, I can’t see writing a fake evaluation as helpful. There are better job related writing samples and writing a performance evaluation is different than other business writing. I feel like any information I could get out of the evaluation, I could have gotten out of an interview.

  25. Kyrielle

    My solution probably wouldn’t be a good idea (since it’d probably get talked about and might make a poor impression with other people), but I’d be tempted to write a *ridiculous* evaluation.

    I mean, top-notch flexible thinking for solving the P=NP question in my first three months and, not so incidentally, improving the shipping and routing algorithms amazingly….

    (Replace this with whatever pie-in-the-sky answer fits your industry. Or, well, don’t, because it’s probably not a good idea to actually do and give to them.)

  26. OP Here

    This thread has given me a great laugh this afternoon! :-)
    I am going to play ball and if I get through I’ll keep you all posted!

  27. Indie

    “Oh, I may have to withdraw my candidacy at this point as I actually still had some questions about the role and it seems like you’re looking for someone who …. can predict the future. I hope no one figures out that you’re simply holding court and waiting to be entertained by desperate hoop jumpers. Good luck with that lack of mutual communication issue and best wishes as you figure out how on earth to manage.”

  28. Gotham Bus Company

    “After speaking with the hiring manager, this is meant to get a grasp on my writing skills and self assessment….”

    Or they could ask you to submit a writing sample.

    1. The New Wanderer

      That’s what gets me. First, I really don’t think a self-assessment is much of an opportunity to show off writing skills, unless the bar is so low that they just mean basic grammar and spelling. IME they are just a sentence or two about the goal you set, what you accomplished, and whether you met or exceeded expectations.

      And second, if you are setting your own fictional goals and writing about your fictional performance, then yeah, why would you set yourself up to merely meet expectations? Are you supposed to arbitrarily throw in some issues or failures on your own fictional part? It’s like a terrible mashup of “what are your worst qualities?” and “what unique qualities would you bring to this role?”

  29. Bob Loblaw Law Blog

    I have asked candidates in interviews to describe their most recent, actual, performance review including what went well and what didn’t. I’ve also been asked this in interviews where I’m the candidate, so I’m fairly certain it’s not an unusual question. Maybe this is some kind of creative spin on that? Though I think you’ll get a much different result. Asking a candidate about an actual performance review provides the opportunity to ask “drill down” type questions to weed out the BS. And see how they interpreted their manager’s feedback: defensively or constructively?

  30. Batshua

    Is it bad that my first thought is you do the assignment with excellent use of vocabulary, etc., but you say you did things like “saved the company billions of dollars”, “invented a new widget” and “cured cancer”?

    And then be like “you said it was an assessment of my writing skills”.

  31. PC Police

    Although the assignment is a bit weird, I wouldn’t consider it ABSURD. In addition to giving the recruiter/hiring manger a chance to review your writing skills, it also offers a way for you to highlight your strengths. If I were assigned this, I would probably talk about how, in the first three months, I was able to identify inefficiencies and improve procedures to reduce time to completion by X. This would illustrate my project management abilities and give the hiring manager another piece of who I am and what I bring to the table.

  32. Bingo

    Oh my word. This is something a business owner I once worked for would have asked… and there is a very good reason I don’t work for him anymore (spoiler: I left to preserve my sanity.)

    Said business owner once asked me a very hypothetical question and I responded that I wasn’t sure but could do some research to find out. He said he didn’t want to wait, and asked me “if you did know the answer, what would the answer be?”

    ….

    Seriously.

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