are "tests" common when seeking employment?


I’ve been modeling and animating at game studios for 7 years now. Recently I got laid off when our project got cancelled, so now I’m looking for employment opportunities, including freelance.

I’ve come across a few places that want you to complete an unpaid “test” assignment before getting the job. Is this common? Is it even ethical? It takes days to complete a nice model and its textures. Does a professional seeking work really have time to do unpaid test work? I’ve got a new baby, I don’t have time to do unpaid work. Is this a practice in other industries? Are programmers asked to code whole sample programs before they get a contract? It seems unfair to the freelancer to ask them to prove themself by doing unpaid work, isn’t that what the portfolio, resume, and interview are there for? I could see doing a single paid assignment as a test before getting a large contract. Doing unpaid work to “earn” a contract just seems abusive towards artists.

I’ve made a policy out of turning down jobs where they want me to do test artwork. My portfolio and resume demonstrate clearly that I can do the work, why should I spend time proving myself by doing unpaid work.

Lets say someone did the test assignment. What about the work that you submit? Can the studio use that work without compensating the artist? Surely not. I could see a studio needing 15 models done. They get 30 artists to do “test” models. now they don’t need to hire anyone because they got all the work they needed for free.

I’d love to hear comments from people with more experience in these matters.

~Adam Crockett~


Your gonna have a hard time finding a place that won’t ask you to do an art test. several of my friends have done em for EA and i haven’t heard of a place that doesnt’ ask you to. they usualy aren’t huge hard ones to do. and honestly, would you rather spend 1+ months looking for a job? or do a 2 day art test and get hired?


Dont do too much modeling, but I do program.

I’ve known a few that do some form of test before employment, mainly to see if you can really do what you say you can. As we have seen on this forum, some times people stell others work & put it in there portfolio, so the portfolio will not show them that YOU created the work.

If you are required to create somthing on your time unpaid, with your equipment, I would beleve that you would then own the rights to that creation.

And you state that you dont have time to create a test model, how will you have time to do real work then ? Or do you have a temp job right now while you are lookig for work ?


They’re common, they’re infuriating, BUT, they are hands-down the best way to see what you can do in a given time-frame. It’s not fair to you, but it really hammers down what they’re getting, so it’s fair for them. Since they’re the ones holding the paychecks, it really is all about them.

So, I’ve done em. I hate em. But I’m working. -J.



I have done a few tests for different companies.

The first was for a game studio in Utah, they said they would pay me for it and once I did the work they decided they didn’t want to pay. They said it was a misunderstanding. I didn’t want to appear untrusting so I sent them the project files. Live and learn.

The last one I did was for a studio in Atlanta, and they liked what I did and offered me the job. Unfortunately, I had paperwork problems at the border and never made it to the job but the test was worth it.

If you are worried about getting screwed over like I did the first time, don’t send them the project files. Send them renders or a movie of the models.

Hope that helps,



Art tests are usually not specific to anything the company is working on… generally they are not going to use your labor for free, and if they did, you could sue them for it. Doing an art test does not sign over rights to the work.

Also the art tests I’ve seen are often posted publicly and are the same for everyone, I doubt a company would ask 15 people do do 15 different models and then use them.


I agree with Slurry:beer: in regards to sending renders and movie files… I’ve been doing graphic design for better part of my Freelance life and then I started doing 3D as of recent. I did a test for this one so called Graphic co. a long time ago and the test was for a logo design for the company and working for them and doing other things I found out that they used my logo with out paying for the rights for it :surprised, Granted it was a test but they never got my permission to use it. after that whole issue, all of the other freelance jobs that I have done I made it clear that under each image or movie clip I made I put it clear that I own the rights to all displayed images and no one can use it without my written permission !!! so if all else fails you can use it for evidence in court !:deal:


Every art job/interview I had, asked for an art test. Its more important than your portfolio. If your spidey sense is going off on a interview then dont do it.

number of places get burned with people who have fake portfolios. most of them are just covering their ass.


I used to get furious when companies asked me to do tests, since I have a very complete and polished website which showcases my entire career portfolio, and I felt like my portfolio spoke for itself.

But in the past few years, more and more art thieves have tried to get jobs using stolen works. The only way you can catch the thieves is if you give them a test that they have to do on their own, and can’t go out and steal. This is also a good way to find out just how fast and production your candidates are. It would be useless to hire someone who is talented, but works at 1/5 the speed that is required for production work.


I’ve have never seen so many thiefs and liars than in the last year. Demo reels don’t mean squat if you can’t actually do the things on the reel.

So we do a testing period, but it is paid at either full rate, or something negoiated depending on the job. And the failure rate for people with amazing reels is quite high.

The problem becomes when an artist leaves a big house, but he/she was only one small gear in the machine. Its like putting the entire T-Rex on the reel when you only modeled the back left molar.

If you do a “free” test just make sure its only for a few days, not weeks. Anyone serious would be putting thier money where thier mouth is, unless its for an intership or something.


Hey jackdeth can i ask the test you make people take for you company???



Usually I make them do a shot for the film/commerical that I was planning to do myself. That way if it isn’t done right, it doesn’t affect the schedule because I wasn’t counting on it being good anyways. But if the person kicks ass, then we are now ahead of schedule, and they get hired.

Lighting seems to be the problem theses days. There are lots of good modelers and a handful of animators, but I can’t find any really stellar lighting people so I can finally retire. :wink:


Sweet :slight_smile: I’ll have to work on my lighting skills. :slight_smile:



with a recent spree of reviewing reels and requesting “samples”, the importance of comparing directed work with that of a person’s demo reel is monumental.

there have been countless times where the work on the reel did not match the quality of the test, and vice versa.

tests are in place to quantify an applicant’s skills in the areas of time management, direction, coherance of instructions, technical ability, aesthetic interpretation and imaginative ideas within a given border…

we have had stellar reels come through, but then when asked to provide a “directed sample” it did not reflect the good quality of the work presented on the demo reel. on the flipside, we have seen some reels that are not particularily amazing but breathe a lot of potential…and they too have the knack for either wrecking the test, or drowning in the interview.

tests are a real part of the industry…companies that issue such requests need to make sure there is a balance of work that is deep enough to cater to thier discerning hiring eyes, but comprable enough that the applicant does not feel discouraged by a test of girth…


Now for the flipside…:slight_smile:

SO, I have done tests and I believe in the principle, a very real problem however, arises in a situation like my own before I got my current job. I was working full time on a game (in crunch time) writing a book (in crunch time), married, dealing with immigration issues and up to my eyeballs in debt.

I started having to blank on tests, just to be able to survive. I’m sure, had I the time/mental ability/energy to carry them out, they would have been fine, BUT, I literally had to “ignore” tests given to me in a lot of cases just because it was quite literally impossible in the timeframes they wanted.

And, not to be a dick, but, I say that being probably the fastest all-arounder I know, so, the problem really was with the test, or rather the company’s insensitivities to the fact I was doing MULTIPLE tests AND living la vida loca. In that case, a test proved/disproved nothing but my ability to choose what was and what was not possible at that given time; neither helping me nor the employer. In one 3-week span I turned out 2 different “test” models, rigged and all, with 3 “moves” a piece at “demo quality”, while turning out footage at work and for the book that totaled about 90 seconds of animation as well as over 50 pages of writing and images for the book. Another test just wasn’ happening. I needed the remaining MINUTES for sleep.

Again, I support the idea, but a conversation to find out what the person’s life is like at the moment is also something that should be a part of consideration. One place loved my reel, and I did great in the interview, but they threw me a test basically out of habit. I couldn’t complete it; as it was a particularly bad two weeks at work AND for the book, and so, that was it. I hate to say it but, really, that was their loss, not mine :slight_smile:


If you can’t manage to do the test, why do you think they would ever trust you to do the real work?

Your problems are not thier problems. They need people who can be counted on to be their through thick and thin. It sucks, but speaking as someone who has been burned many times dealing with artist personal issues, I think its really unfair to want everyone else to bend over backwards for your own unique needs.

Perhaps you need to focus on what is more important to you. The book, or the job…


Originally posted by bentllama

there have been countless times where the work on the reel did not match the quality of the test, and vice versa.

I have seen the same thing as Bent. The place where Im at right now had a huge need for animators at the end of last year, so basically everyone that sent a demo reel in was brought in for testing. It was surprising how many people with weaker reels came in and did kick-ass work. It was also surprising how many of the ‘pros’ didnt do so well. Stressful as it may be to the applicants, it really weeds out the good from the… ‘not too good.’

And I am not saying this from high on a pedestal, I also had to test for my job a while back. Its hard, the pressure’s on and its an unfamiliar rig. (And the whole time you’re playing with it you’re kicking the monitor saying “Why oh why the hell did you set this character up this way!!!” But Im a better person for it… Well I tell myslef that at least.

Come a month or 2, it looks like there will be a break in my employment again… I may have to test at other companies soon… assuming my demo gets past the evil drooling hellhounds I call human resources.

So all in all, I hate testing… but it’s sooo nessesary. :thumbsup:

Mike Rhone

Discount mortician and character TD


I did a paid test for my first freelance gig. The test involved taking on and producing one of the client’s old projects within a week.

The project involved concept design, modelling, texturing, lighting, animation, rendering, compositing, audio work, and delivery into an appropriate format.

Having no prior production experience myself, the test gave me the opportunity to prove myself.

In the end, the client was most impressed with the work done during the test, and thus I ended up getting a constant stream of work from them.

It has already been stated what the purpose of these tests are. Pretty much a means to judge a book by more than its cover!


I’m actually looking forward to making tests.

They say you demo reel has to reflect your ‘latest’ work,that’s gotta be as close as you can get.



Yeah it seems that the reasons companies are doing this is to enhance their hiring decisions…ANYONE can goto animation school, get ok grades, graduate etc–BUT they may not be as good as the other animator…

This way a company ensures that just because you graduated from ABC College of Animation that you may have some clout graduating from that college…BUT you may be a mediocre animator or modeller…so sad as it is…I support this “new” hiring decision from an animation majors perspective and a job-seeking animator.

Several of my friends and myself have had to do this for companies that we applied to in the Chicago region–and we usually whip up, texture or animate the model in a day or so…and we get the entry-level, low-paying animation jobs!

“I have an animation degree----It MOCKS me from my wall!”