A step-by-step guide with templates and contracts

How Engineering Leaders Get More Candidates to Complete Their Take-Homes

You need to hire experienced software engineers. But not enough candidates are completing your trial projects, and they're taking other offers.

This playbook shares best practices for implementing an honorarium

An honorarium improves your completion rate and helps you attract top talent.

At Woven, we believe that real work predicts fit better than credentials and conversations. So we use take-home projects across all of our hiring. But the most in-demand professionals have lots of options. How do we compete with other companies who might be asking less in their interview process?

We pay candidates! It’s called an honorarium.

No strings/liability attached. Honorariums help you get what you need to evaluate while showing the candidate you value their time. In a competitive hiring market, this gives a candidate one less reason to disqualify your role in favor of an opportunity that’s asking less of them.

Honorariums are especially useful for senior/exec roles where defining a good project is tough without using something real from your business. And it’s a small expense that pays off when you find the right people for the job.

Check out this Take-Home Interview Honorarium Agreement Template. Your company can use a similar policy for potential hires.

The template includes:

  1. A clear definition of the work to be done and what deliverables are expected.
  2. The honorarium amount and how it will be paid (e.g. gift card, Venmo, bank wire, etc.) Stay under $600 (as of 2022 in the US) to avoid triggering tax implications. For international payouts, consider an Amazon gift card or Wise.
  3. A statement that the work is being done as a trial project with no expectation of employment.
  4. A statement that your company will have no liability for any work produced by the candidate.
  5. A signature from the candidate acknowledging they’ve read and agree to the terms.

💡 Note: If your take-home includes specific customer databases, client lists, product designs, or business plans, your honorarium should include an NDA.

Free labor is widespread in the tech industry. You might need to explain your honorarium policy to candidates who are used to being asked for free work or who are worried about violating terms with their current employer.

Below is some language that’s worked for us! ⬇️


Hi (Candidate Name),

A big part of our culture and philosophy is that doing a small slice of the work together is the best way to get mutual alignment on fit.

The goal with that pre-work is to scope something that we can live together in the messy mix of writing + engineering + collab. Because we’re sensitive to concerns about paid work, we’ve typically structured this as an Honorarium. We won’t be using the work you produce.

I’m happy to jump on a short call together and talk through the details of the project and hash out options. Anything that’s convenient for you on my Calendly works great.


Next Step

After the candidate finishes the project, we ask them how they’d like to receive their honorarium. Feel free to copy & paste the email below from our EA ⬇️


Hi (Candidate Name),

Reaching out to see how you’d like to receive the honorarium for all of your work! Would you prefer PayPal, Amazon gift card, Venmo, or Square cash?

Let me know and I’ll make it happen.

Thank you,


Just the Facts

Woven customers get higher offer and accept rates and a ~20% → ~30% completion rate on work sims that candidates actually enjoy.

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Paying engineers for take-home projects creates a better candidate experience. So does using real-world scenarios and giving every candidate feedback on their work.

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From Our Candidates

“The experience overall was great because it seemed like a better reflection of what on the job expectations are. I appreciate what Woven has done and I hope other companies learn to adopt your approach.”

Woven Candidate