Interviews That Are Work

“I have job candidates do a 1-day working interview before I decide if I’ll hire them. I write the candidates a check for the time but don’t put them on the payroll. Is this okay since I’m paying them?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Most “working interviews” involve having the candidate actually do the work they would normally do if hired. When you do that, you have created an employee who should be on your payroll. Writing a check to them instead of putting them on the payroll could be considered fraud because it shows you actually know you shouldn’t have them working without compensation.

The biggest problem is you aren’t paying state and federal payroll taxes and that can upset the governmental entities. The candidate can and might file unemployment on you, bringing you to the attention of EDD (CA’s Employment Development Division). Plus, if the candidate were injured during a working interview, you’d have to pay all medical bills yourself because this person isn’t on payroll so they won’t qualify for workers’ compensation.

The better interviewing solution is to develop some testing you can do with each candidate to give you a clearer picture of their skill or knowledge. Testing should be completed within 2 hours at most. Here are a few examples:

  • Administrative – Provide the candidate with a printed letter or form to duplicate that has some particular formatting challenges, like a table, bold words, tabs, etc. When they’re done, look at the digital file to determine if they did it using the expected software features.
  • Sales – Provide the candidate with an item to verbally sell you and see how they do.
  • Data entry – Provide the candidate with a stack of forms that need to be input and watch their time and accuracy.
  • Accounting – Have a dummy company set up already and have the candidate enter a few invoices, pay a few bills, and set up a couple of accounts.
  • IT – This might be a questionnaire with issues the candidate needs to resolve or, for lower levels, the candidate might be put in front of a computer and asked to get it up and running (not knowing you left a cable unplugged).
  • Physical ability – If you’ve been clear the job requires the ability to lift or move around items, present them with that physical test. Can they lift this object off the floor to table height and back down to the floor?

You must be consistent and provide the same test to everyone interviewed for that position or you could be seen as discriminatory. Every job has something you can test; you just need to be creative in figuring out what would give you the most information.

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