Skills testing has become increasingly common during the hiring process for design-related positions. Unfortunately, not all skills tests are created equal, and some skills tests are unreasonable and can even deviate into spec work.
In an effort to provide clarity and guidance around skills testing for candidates and employers alike, the RGD's Ethics Committee created Skills Testing Guidelines.
The Guidelines outline the key components of a fair skills test; provide candidates and employers with straight-forward do's and don'ts; give a simple checklist to determine if an existing skills test is fair; and list examples of skills tests that meet the Guidelines' criteria.
Skills Testing Guidelines Summary:
- Know when to test: determine whether a skills test is necessary
- Know what you are testing for: have a clear idea of what insights you hope to gain from a skills test
- Set expectations: tell candidates as early as possible that you intend to administer a skills test and what you’re hoping to get out of it
- Value everyone’s time: keep skills tests short and administer them to no more than 2–3 candidates
- Don’t give homework: schedule a dedicated start and end time with the candidate to complete the skills test
Don’t ask for spec (free) work*: don’t deter top talent from applying by asking them to complete free or speculative work
Click here to download the Skills Testing Guidelines.
Document design and copy: Evelyn Csiszar RGD
RGD, particularly through its Ethics Committee, advocates against contests and the many other situations where designers are asked to provide commercial work on spec. But we realized that there is a need to educate new designers, who are the most vulnerable amongst us, on what spec work is and how to avoid it. Inspired by Jessica Hische's comedic "Should I Work For Free" Flowchart, the Ethics Committee begain work on its own flow chart (based on RGD's Rules of Professional Conduct) of questions designers should ask themselves before deciding if it's appropriate to work for free.
Click here to decide whether to work for FREE, charge a FEE or save yourself some pain and FLEE
"Students are busy preparing for a future career in a world where they will be paid for the work that they do. We want to help them understand when it's totally okay to work for free and when they should expect to be paid," explained Julian Brown RGD, RGD's VP of Ethics and Chair of our Ethics Committee. "And even more importantly, we want to help them respond professionally and constructively no matter what the situation."
RGD asked Nascent Digital to contribute their interactive talents to the initiative. "When RGD approached us about their new "Free, Fee or Flee" initiative, we knew right away it aligned with what Nascent believed in. Education, collaboration and doing the right thing are values that are important to us, and this website provides a tool for new designers to feel supported and be informed. We didn't hesitate to work with RGD on this great initiative!"
- Linda Nakanishi, Design Director at Nascent Digital
We encourage all designers to check out this new tool and share it with fellow designers. And if you have comments or questions about this and other ethical issues, email
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