Small Business Mythbusters: Working Interviews

Working Interviews Mythbusters Header

Myth: A business is not required to pay prospective candidates for working interviews.

Working interviews can be beneficial to both prospective employees and employers. When interviewees spend a few hours or days embedded in a workplace environment, they get a real-world glimpse of what it might be like to report there every day, while interviewers can observe whether potential employees would be a good fit for the role and their organization.

No matter how long the working interview lasts, the candidate must be paid for time spent working.

Working Interview = Actual Work

Once a business has a candidate work for it, federal, state and local enforcement agencies generally consider the candidate to be an employee, even if just for one day. Thus, employers should pay at least the minimum wage for the hours worked, overtime where applicable, withhold taxes and comply with all other applicable employment laws for the period the individual performs work. The candidate may be unaware of the laws concerning working interviews, so the interviewer should communicate to the interviewee compensation and other employment requirements before the interviewee begins to work.


A business is generally not required to pay if a candidate simply observes operations for a set period of time. As long as there is no work that includes any kind of training, the interviewee is not considered an employee. However, in limited circumstances, candidates may be issues a 1099 for expenses reimbursed by the employer.

Is It Worth It?

Small business owners should consider whether it’s worth it for the business to hire employees for a working interview. Having a working candidate on-site can be disruptive, particularly if it turns out to be a poor fit. A working interview is advisable only if it’s a strong candidate who seems genuinely interested in the position.

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