Does A Working Interview Mean I Got The Job?

If an employer really wants to get to know their candidates and understand how they operate before fully investing in them as employees, they may choose to conduct a working interview.

Working interviews do not necessarily mean that you will be hired into the position you have applied for, rather they are real-world demonstrations of your capability, and may end up leading to an offer, but in themselves do not carry concrete implications of permanent employment.

Below we’ll quickly address how to approach a working interview and what it means for your potential employment.

What is a working interview?

A working interview is essentially exactly what it sounds like; it is an interview in which, instead of solely answering questions or taking written or oral assessments, the candidate is asked to perform the role for which they are applying.

Candidates are heavily supervised and given specific tasks, then, after a set time period – usually a few hours up to one or two working days – a decision is made on whether to hire them. Candidates are generally not told on the day of the interview whether or not they’ve been hired on permanently.

The candidate is always paid for their time, since they are performing work for the company. This is usually done in the form of a same-day check for the hours worked. It may be a flat or hourly rate depending on the employer.

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Do I get paid for completing a working interview?

On an extremely technical level, for the duration of the working interview, the candidate is an employee of the company for whom they are interviewing.

They do have to fill out some form of formal paperwork (usually an I-9 or a W-4 in the United States and potentially an NDA for higher level or sensitive positions), and they must be compensated for the time they spend performing tasks for the employer.

That being said, a working interview does not guarantee a long-term position with the company. It is still an interview; after your working interview has ended, you or the hiring team, or both, may decide that this position isn’t a good fit for you, and you may not be offered the job.

Working interviews are strictly temporary agreements to assess a candidate’s aptitude and appropriateness for a given job.

Are working interviews and probation periods the same thing?

Some workplaces have a mandatory probation period for new employees. This period may last between 60 and 90 days, although it’s often shortened for less intense positions. During this time, you agree that your employer may terminate your contract if they believe you are not a good fit for this position.

In most cases, you are also allowed to leave their employment for any reason during this period with no hard feelings between you. You do not receive benefits such as health insurance or retirement contributions until after the probation period ends.

Probation periods and working interviews are extremely similar, but do have a couple of key differences. Firstly, probation periods are much longer than working interviews. They tend to pay at a slightly higher rate and may include on-the-job training.

Most importantly, a probationary employee is brought on with the assumption that they are going to transition into full employment, while working interview candidates are brought in with the knowledge that their employment is not guaranteed.

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Why do companies use working interviews?

A company might choose to do working interviews if they need an extremely specific, particular, or high-level set of skills in a candidate. Having them perform the necessary tasks in a working interview proves their capability and their ability to learn from and adapt to their environment.

It also means that the company can be certain that they are getting the right person for the job, which can mean that they retain the employee for a long time and use the working interview as an investment in their future with the company.

The pros and cons of working interviews

Working interviews, like any other interview format, have benefits and drawbacks for both the employer and the candidate.

The benefits of working interviews include:

  • Letting an employer see the candidate “in action,” showing how they perform under pressure
  • Letting candidates test the waters of a position in a more concrete way than reading the job description alone
  • Offering employers the chance to check for competency in vital job skills and assess the validity of claims made on a resume
  • Offering employees the chance to showcase their skills (including ones not listed on the resume) in a hands-on manner

The drawbacks of working interviews include:

  • Employers having to pay every candidate they assess for their time
  • Employees having to dedicated hours or days to a position they may not enjoy or be a good fit for
  • Issues with paperwork regarding employment and unemployment benefits
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Five tips for acing a working interview

Here are five tips to help you succeed during a working interview

  1. Be truthful on your resume. While it may seem like a good idea to exaggerate your skills to impress an employer, if you can’t actually perform, then you aren’t likely to be hired. Only put down skills on your resume that you actually possess.
  2. Research the employer. To impress the CEO or hiring manager, it’s a good idea to know more about the company you’re applying with before you arrive. Knowing the expectations and values of the company – usually found on their website and the job listing – can help you perform your working interview tasks and interact with your potential coworkers in the way they are looking for.
  3. Set yourself up for success. Get plenty of rest the night before your interview, eat a solid breakfast before you go in, and dress appropriately, as if you’ve already been hired. Business casual is the usual standard, but make sure that you check with your interviewer for any dress code specifics.
  4. Be clear in your boundaries. Ask about your responsibilities and compensation upfront, to be as transparent as possible about the expectations on both sides of the interview. Be polite, but firm, when asking.
  5. Stay positive. You probably won’t know how to do everything that your interviewer asks you to do during your working interview. Even when things go wrong, stay positive; ask questions, offer potential solutions, and show that you can accept feedback with grace.

Final thoughts

While it isn’t a guarantee of an employment offer, a working interview is usually a good sign. It means that you sufficiently impressed the hiring manager during the initial rounds of interviewing that they would like to see what you can bring to the table in a real-world scenario.

There’s no need to be overly anxious about a working interview just because it’s a different interview style than the one you’re likely used to. As long as you are calm, confident, and willing to adapt, you’ll likely do just fine.

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