Anyone who applies for a job these days might be given an assignment on a short deadline - essentially an audition to show they have the chops for the job.
That's happened to Bryan Wells. He's helped commercialize products in a number of fields, including the biomedical industry.
A few times in recent years Wells has had to complete an assignment as part of the interview process. And the assignments can be extremely time consuming. He shudders when he remembers the hardest one - creating a marketing proposal for a company launching an operation in the United States. The job eventually went to an internal candidate despite all the work Wells put in.
"I put together a full-on proposal," Wells aid. "It took about two weeks to put it together. It was in detail about 70 pages long, included a power-point presentation along with it, and I presented it to them."
Hiring managers can afford to be picky, and employers are coming up with new hoops for job applicants to jump through.
That could easily happen to others. Although Minnesota's job market has steadily improved since the great recession, more than 150,000 Minnesotans remain unemployed -- and it's still a buyer's market for labor. Hiring managers can afford to be picky, and employers are coming up with new hoops for job applicants to jump through.
Dozens of Twin Cities companies are requiring job candidates to complete challenges, said Ann Costello, a recruiter with Venteon Finance in Edina, Minn.
"There is a huge trend towards doing interviews that involve presentations, some kind of work product, bringing in code, even welders coming in and welding," Costello said.
Of 200 local firms she polled, about a third of the respondents make an audition or challenge part of their hiring practice, a level of adoption that surprised her.
Costello worries employers are putting too much emphasis on this part of the hire.
"I wonder how much of the decision is based on that, how subjective it is, how they determine a score, and whether or not to hire people is it purely based on challenge," she said. "If they're wonderful everywhere else and the challenge doesn't go so well, do they not get the job, and is that a good hiring practice?"
One company Costello works with, The Nerdery software development company in Bloomington, Minn., has taken a different approach.
"We're not on the business of just saying, 'Sorry, you don't meet our requirements, good luck in your career,'" said Cassie Hanson, the company's director of talent acquisition.
The Nerdery is known for its quirky, laid-back culture. Workers can bring their dogs to the office, and the company offers free beer at quitting time.
When job seekers apply for positions and make it to the "test" phase at the Nerdery but don't win the job, they receive feedback about where they came up short. Company officials then encourage the candidates to beef up their skills and reapply a few months later.
Hanson said it's all part of an ethos of making people look forward to coming to work -- and wanting to work specifically at the Nerdery.
"We want our application and interview process to match what our goals as an organization are for employees: to really have this be a unique and great experience for candidates," she said. "We don't want them to feel like they're going through filters. We truly do advocate for our candidates as they're going through the process."
That's what the audition process was like for Nate Levine. He was turned down for a job more than once. But one "no" didn't mean "never."
"They were very good at giving me feedback at what I needed to improve on," Levine said.
After completing a "challenge" three different times, Levine's now a front-end developer at the Nerdery.
The Nerdery may be unique in its willingness to cultivate talent this way.
With so many unemployed people on the market, other employers may not feel the need to help applicants along.
And in that context, Bryan Wells is resigned to doing more work for a job application. If an employer asks him to produce another big proposal to prove his skills, he knows how he'll answer: "Absolutely. I'll get it right to ya."
Wells said he's up for any challenge that will land him a job.