As more companies ask their employees to return to the office, it’s possible you’ll be asked to take part in a working interview before receiving your next job offer. Are you ready for one?
If not, that’s okay; we’re here for you! I spoke with Paula Christensen, the professional resume writer and interview coach behind Strategic Career Coaches, to develop the following comprehensive interview preparation guide and answers to the most common questions related to working interviews:
- What is a working interview, and how long does it last?
- Why do companies conduct working interviews?
- Do you get paid for working interviews?
- What should you expect during a working interview?
- How do you prepare for a working interview?
What Is a Working Interview, And How Long Does It Last?
While the definition of a working interview varies from company to company and industry to industry, there tend to be some common themes among employers who use them to assess candidates. According to Christensen, “A working interview is a type of interview where the employer provides candidates with tasks or projects to complete as part of the interview process.”
“Candidates test their ability to work and learn alongside the team they would potentially join,” she says. “Vastly different from traditional job interviews, which typically involve theoretical and behavioral questions, working interviews give employers a first-hand look at how candidates perform under realistic pressure and, in some cases, how they interact with the team or customers.”
The length of a working interview can vary considerably. Christen says that, “Working interviews may span a few hours or last a full day – the timeframe is up to the company.”
Why Do Companies Conduct Working Interviews?
A primary goal of any interview process is for companies to manage risks, explains Christensen. “Companies want to learn as much as they can about candidates before they commit to hiring them. Working interviews offer a way for companies to try before they buy,” she notes.
However, working interviews don’t just benefit the employer. “Many people see working interviews as a great investment for all parties. They minimize the chances that candidates will struggle in the job and decrease the likelihood that companies will have to re-open the hiring process,” says Christensen.
“Working interviews can benefit candidates who know they can excel in the job but have difficulty articulating their value during job interviews,” she adds.
Do You Get Paid for Working Interviews?
The compensation question can be a bit tricky when it comes to working interviews. “It is unlawful not to pay candidates for work performed during an interview,” shares Christensen.
However, it’s not always so cut and dry. “There is a difference between a working interview (paid) and completing a skills test or research project (unpaid) as part of the interview process. It is important to clarify the terms and expectations with the HR representative or recruiter before participating,” she explains.
What Should You Expect During a Working Interview?
So, what should you expect during a working interview? Christensen says that, “Candidates can expect to get a first-hand look at their day-to-day job duties and what interacting with the team feels like.” In other words, she explains that you get an opportunity to “try out” a potential employer before committing to working for them.
Christensen recommends interviewees ask themselves the following questions during their working interview.
- Will I fit with this team and corporate culture?
- Do I enjoy the job duties?
- Do our values align?
How Do You Prepare for a Working Interview?
Now, how do you prepare for a working interview? Although many of the strategies are similar to preparing for a traditional job interview, there are a few specific steps you’ll want to take when getting ready for a working interview.
A good first step in planning for a working interview is to research the company, culture, and job position. “Get a sense of the work environment by conducting informational interviews or perusing glassdoor.com. Familiarize yourself with the job description and take the time to brush up on the tasks you will be performing,” suggests Christensen.
After you conduct your preliminary research, you will want to dive into role-specific preparation for the working interview. “If you are applying for a customer service or sales position, practice active listening and communication skills, as well as problem solving and conflict resolution techniques,” recommends Christensen. “If you are applying for a technical role, you should review any relevant technical skills and knowledge required for the position,” she says.
The amount of preparation you need to do leading up to your working interview will depend on your level of comfort as well as your ability to think on the fly. According to Christensen, “Some candidates feel preparing for a working interview is easier since the anticipated job duties are familiar. Others find these interviews more stressful and intimidating because they are expected to perform under pressure.”
Conclusion: Working Interviews
Regardless of your opinion of working interviews, I hope this preparation guide has you feeling more confident and ready to ace your next working interview. You’ve got this!
Also, in case you missed them, here are three additional Career Director International interview preparation guides: