July 30, 2019

What is a Working Interview?
A working interview is exactly what it sounds like – it is when an applicant for employment “works” for an employer as part of the interview process.  The working interview is an extension of the traditional verbal interview and allows the applicant to perform work he or she would be doing as a regular employee.  This gives the employer an opportunity to observe the applicant’s skills, as well as to determine if the applicant is a good fit for the company.  The working interview is an opportunity for the applicant to assess whether he or she is a good fit for the company as well.  Working interviews are very common in the medical, dental, tutoring and veterinary fields, where employees routinely perform hands-on technical work.  Working interviews typically last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Working Interviews are Paid Interviews.
All employers who require any applicant for employment to work as part of the interview process must pay the applicant for the time spent in the working interview.  The law is very simple and clear on this.  California’s wage and hour laws require that any person be compensated for all hours he or she is “suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.”  [Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders which regulate wages, hours, and working conditions in California.]  However, all that is required is that the applicant be paid the minimum wage, even though he or she may be earning more if hired. Any work in excess of eight (8) hours in one day, or 40 hours in one week, must be paid at the applicable overtime rate. The applicant must also be given meal and rest breaks pursuant to law.

Since applicants who perform working interviews must be paid for all time worked, they must complete all relevant employment documents, such as a W-4 and an I-9, and the employer must pay all applicable payroll taxes.  It is also important for employers utilizing working interviews to be aware that applicants can legally file claims for unemployment benefits (if they are not subsequently hired) or workers’ compensation benefits (if they are injured during the working interview).  Applicants are technically “employees” during working interviews, even though they are performing work for a short time and on a trial basis.

Alternative to the Working Interview:
Understandably, some employers may be concerned about the risks associated with conducting working interviews.  One alternative to the working interview is to have the applicant observe the work environment, without actually performing any work.  This gives the applicant an opportunity to personally see the requirements of the job and to determine whether it is something he or she wants to do.  Another option is to have the applicant complete skills assessment tests during the verbal interview.  These can be in the form of written tests or even hands-on tests, which will give the employer an indication of the applicant’s knowledge.  If no work is actually performed, the applicant does not need to be paid.

Need more information?
ESKRIDGE LAW may be contacted by phone (310/303-3951), by fax (310/303-3952) or by email (geskridge@eskridgelaw.net.)  Please also visit our website at eskridge.hv-dev.com.

This article is based on the law as of the date posted at the top of the article.  This article does not constitute the provision of legal advice, and does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship with Eskridge Law.