You've probably heard the adage, "there's no such thing as a free ride." While you may be desperate to get that new job, try to keep that phrase in mind. It most definitely applies to you and the work you do -- even if a potential employer hasn't officially hired you for the position. And if you're the potential employer, consider your options carefully before you decide to do a working interview.
For some employers, it's not enough to simply do a verbal interview in which the employer asks questions and you answer. Some employers will also ask you to perform some of the duties you'd do in the job. It's called the "working interview" because that's what you're doing -- interviewing and working at the same time. Fortunately, labor laws dictate that you must be paid for that work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, being employed is defined as "to suffer or permit to work." Even though you're doing work for a very short time and on a trial basis, it's still real work.
How Much Payment
While you have to get paid for that work, don't expect the employer to pony up a whole pile of cash. Federal and state laws may state that you have to get paid, but that doesn't mean it will be equal to the salary you'd get when you're actually hired. Minimum wage is all that is required by law. If you work more than 8 hours during that day, you'll also be entitled to overtime pay.
Say you're headed for a working interview -- or you've already completed one -- and the employer hasn't mentioned anything about payment for your services. This can be tricky since you don't want to seem demanding, but you are entitled to the pay and your future employer shouldn't take advantage of you. Instead of demanding payment or getting pushy with the people who have yet to make a hiring decision, ask a general question about how or when you'll be paid. Ask the hiring manager whether she typically hands out a check at the end of the day, or whether she'll mail one to you. This subtly reminds the employer that you know your rights. If she doesn't respond in a respectful manner, that may be a sign that this is not an employer you want to work for.
Alternatives for Employers
If you're an employer faced with the decision whether or not to do a working interview, know that while you haven't actually hired the person, she can still be considered an employee. This prospective employee could actually file for unemployment if she doesn't get the job, or file a worker's compensation claim if she's hurt while doing the working interview. If you don't want to deal with the risk, an alternative may be to do a complete skills assessment instead. Computer or written tests such as this can give you an idea of how much she actually knows and how the candidate would handle certain situations -- and you don't have to pay her for the time.
- The Dentistry IQ Network: Common Practices Fraught With Risk
- The Napa Valley Register: Are Working Interviews Legal?
- The Kennedy Center: Working Interview
- United States Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- United States Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #13: Employment Relationship Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.