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Do I Have to Pay a Job Candidate for a Working Interview?

  • As part of your interview process do you bring in candidates for a day to shadow employees as part of a “working interview?”   If you do here are a few questions you should be asking:  Can I legally do this? Do I have to pay them? Is there any liability if they get hurt?

    Employee Verses Independent Contractor for Working Interview

    Shadowing employees is considered a “working interview.”   Any candidate you bring in for a day as part of a “working interview” needs to be compensated. Time must be compensated as you would any other employee – you can’t classify this worker as a 1099 contractor.

    You can, however, pay minimum wage for hours worked.  At minimum you need to have the candidate fill out a W4 and Form I-9 to work for the day. Should you go this route, we recommend you have a check prepared for them, they can take with them when they leave your premises.

    Risks to Consider

    If you choose to conduct a working interview, there are risk.  A Candidate could be injured during his time at your facility. This would make you liable for a workers comp claim or even worse a lawsuit.  if the employee wasn’t reported and paid correctly, your workers’ compensation carrier may deny the claim.

    Additionally, candidates completing working interviews could file for unemployment if you do not hire them for additional work at the end of the day. because your unemployment insurance rate is tied to your employment history and unemployment claims filed against your company. As an employer it is always in your best interest to minimize all unemployment claims against your company.

    Alternatives to the Working Interview

    1. Use a Temporary Agency to Hire Your Candidate

    If it is essential you observe the candidate in your office under regular working conditions, you can contact a temporary employment agency and inquire if they will hire the candidate for a single day. the candidate would then be the employee of the temporary agency and no employer-employee relationship exists between you and the candidate. If you anticipate a number of working interviews, this is a good option to explore.  The drawback, is that you will pay a premium to go through a temporary agency.  However, think of the additional premium pay as an insurance policy for implementing working interviews.

    2. Have Candidates Undergo a Skills Test

    In place of a working interview, make a skills test a part of the interview and hiring process.  The difference between a working interview and a skills test is the environment in which they are conducted.  During a working interview, the candidate works side by side with your employee(s). In contrast, skills testing involves setting up a scenario and asking the candidate to complete certain tasks on their own.  This skills testing method isn’t considered work and will give you insight into the candidate’s skill, personality, ability to follow directions, and learn new tasks.

    A skills test can be setup for a candidate to take and complete at home. When setting up a skills testing it should be designed to be completed within a reasonable amount of time (about an hour) and not be a day long process. Do not waste your time conducting skills testing on candidates you know you will not hire.  A skills test should be saved for a final step of the process.

    General Guidelines

    • Be certain tests are job-related and an accurate predictor of performance for the position.
    • Administer the same tests under the same conditions for all applicants for the same position.
    • Accommodate people with disabilities by modifying the test or testing conditions eliminating the testing requirement; and
    • Do not rely solely on tests for making decisions about candidates; use them as one component of your overall selection process.