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3 Benefits of Incorporating Paid Working Interviews Into Your Interview Process

by Brittany Commiskey, PHR, SHRM-CP, on March 16, 2017
As an employer, you are more than likely familiar with standard interview formats such as one-on-one, group interviews and panel interviews. There is a new interviewing trend in which candidates complete a paid, working interview with members of the team he/she would be working with. This is a technique I personally utilize when hiring and have found it to be extremely beneficial to our hiring process.

I typically recommend four hours for a paid working interview. Four hours is generally enough time for a candidate to observe the essential functions of the job and for your current staff to evaluate the candidate’s understanding of your business.

Working interviews should be considered after an initial interview has taken place. Because the wages are an investment of your time and money, only candidates who have made it beyond the first interview should proceed to this step.

Below are three benefits of incorporating paid working interviews into your interview process.

1. Working interviews allow the candidate to have a realistic preview of the day-to-day functions of the position. Observing the work environment and typical job duties over the course of four hours provides a much more detailed and realistic preview of the job versus a traditional interview which typically reiterates what can be found in the job description. Working interviews can help prevent future turnover and determine if the candidate is truly a fit for your company.

2. As the employer, it provides you with the opportunity to evaluate the candidate on a deeper level than the traditional interview provides. For example, I interviewed a candidate several years ago who really impressed me during the initial interview. However, during the working interview she spent a significant amount of time on her phone texting and checking Facebook. I noticed it and so did members of our team. It was an immediate red flag and we ultimately chose to proceed with a different candidate. Ultimately, I am glad we only had to pay for four hours of work time versus what it would have cost the company if we hired her and had to deal with issues relating to cell phone usage.

3. Working interviews also allow members of your team to be included in the hiring and decision process. Hiring someone new who does not fit with your team can result in poor morale, tension among staff members, and possibly turnover.  I also have a few tips on maximizing the value of the working interview for your team and the candidate. If you are paying for it, you want to be sure it is adding value to the overall hiring process.

I also have a few tips on maximizing the value of the working interview for your team and the candidate. If you are paying for it, you want to be sure it is adding value to the overall hiring process.

1. Arrange for the candidate to sit with multiple members of your team rather than only one team member. Gathering input from multiple team members helps ensure the feedback is not biased or personal.

2. Prepare a schedule and enlist the help of your team to stay on track. It is important to show the candidate how your team functions (on-schedule and organized) and to maximize their time with each person on your team.

3. Schedule a one-on-one meeting at the end of the interview to gather feedback from the candidate. It is important to gauge their interest about the position and your team as well as answer any questions the candidate may have at this point. One added benefit is that the candidate may observe and share fresh ideas for improvement in your organization.  I recommend providing a timeline for follow up as to when the candidate can expect to hear back regarding a final hiring decision.  

One of the benefits of working with a staffing service such as LandrumHR is that our candidates have completed all new hire paperwork and can generally be scheduled for the working interview within a day or two. This eliminates the burden on an employer to complete all of the new hire paperwork for a paid working interview. If you are not utilizing a staffing service for this function, you as the employer are responsible for paying all appropriate payroll taxes. Candidates must also fill out appropriate employment documents such as an I-9 and W-4. 

Paid vs. Unpaid:
Some clients have asked whether a working interview really needs to be paid. Depending on the situation, the answer could be yes or no. If a candidate is just observing and is not performing any work, you might not be required to pay them. State laws vary on this point.  In an abundance of caution, the safest approach is to pay an hourly rate with the understanding (in writing) that the rate is for the working interview.  If a candidate is asked to perform any work functions during the interview, such as demonstrating a skillset, you are required to pay. The hourly wage must be equal to or greater than minimum wage.

Our recommendation is to pay candidates for working interviews regardless of whether or not actual work is being performed. It shows the candidate that you value their time and are serious about the hiring process. In tight job markets where there is a lot of competition for qualified talent, offering to pay for a working interview may also set you apart from other employers.

Confidentiality Agreement: We recommend requiring the candidate to sign a confidentiality agreement that states he/she will not directly or indirectly disclose any proprietary or confidential information regarding the company.
Brittany Commiskey, PHR, SHRM-CP

Brittany Commiskey, PHR, SHRM-CP, is the Branch Manager for Landrum HR’s Fort Walton Beach office. Brittany has been with Landrum for six years and came to us with five years of managerial experience in the restaurant and retail industry. Brittany is a regular presenter and panelist at Hurlburt Field, Emerald Coast Professional’s Networking Group, University of West Florida and Northwest Florida State College. Topics include resume writing, networking and social media, interviewing, and job search techniques. Brittany obtained a B.S. degree in Human Resource Management from Florida State University in 2010 (Go Noles!) and earned a M.S. degree in Human Resource Management from Nova Southeastern University in 2014. She has earned her certification as PHR (Professional in Human Resources) from the Human Resources Certification Institute and the SHRM-CP (Certified Professional) designation from the Society of Human Resource Management. She is a board member of the Panhandle Job Fair Foundation and Emerald Coast SHRM chapter.

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