Are Working Interviews Legal? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Legality and Ethics of Working Interviews

In today's competitive job market, working interviews have become increasingly popular, but are they legal? This comprehensive guide will help you understand the legality and ethics of working interviews, ensuring that both employers and job seekers make informed decisions.


Working interviews can be a valuable tool for both employers and job seekers, allowing a more hands-on approach to assessing a candidate's skills and fit for a particular role. However, the legality and ethics of working interviews remain a topic of debate and confusion for many. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the legal aspects, ethical considerations, and best practices for conducting working interviews, providing valuable insights for both employers and job seekers.

Definition of Working Interviews

Before we dive into the legality and ethics of working interviews, let's first define what they are. A working interview is a type of job interview where a candidate is asked to perform tasks or job duties that are part of the position they are applying for. This can range from a few hours to several days and allows employers to assess a candidate's skills, work ethic, and compatibility with the company culture.

The primary purpose of working interviews is to give both parties a more accurate understanding of what the job entails and whether the candidate is a good fit for the role. For employers, it can help reduce the risk of making a poor hiring decision, while for job seekers, it offers a chance to showcase their skills and experience in a real-world setting.

Legal Aspects of Working Interviews

Understanding the legal aspects of working interviews is crucial for both employers and job seekers to ensure compliance with federal and state labor laws. Here, we'll discuss some key legal considerations related to working interviews.

1. Federal and State Labor Laws

Working interviews are subject to various labor laws at both the federal and state levels. The primary federal law governing working interviews is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, and recordkeeping requirements for employers.

It's important to note that state labor laws may also apply and can sometimes be more stringent than federal regulations. Therefore, employers should familiarize themselves with the labor laws in their specific state to ensure compliance.

2. Wage and Hour Laws

Under the FLSA, working interviewees are generally considered employees and must be compensated for their time. This means that employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage (or the applicable state minimum wage, if higher) for all hours worked during a working interview. Additionally, if a working interviewee works more than 40 hours in a week, they may be entitled to overtime pay.

Employers should also be aware of any state-specific wage and hour laws that may apply to working interviews, as these can vary widely.

3. Classification of Working Interviewees

A key legal issue surrounding working interviews is the classification of working interviewees as employees or independent contractors. The FLSA and state labor laws generally treat working interviewees as employees, which means they are entitled to certain protections and benefits, such as minimum wage and overtime pay.

However, some employers may attempt to classify working interviewees as independent contractors to avoid these obligations. This can lead to legal disputes and potential penalties for employers who misclassify workers. To avoid such issues, employers should carefully review the criteria for employee and independent contractor classification under federal and state laws.

4. Potential Legal Issues

In addition to wage and hour concerns, working interviews can also raise other legal issues, such as discrimination and harassment. Employers must ensure that their working interview practices do not discriminate against any protected class, such as race, gender, age, or disability. Additionally, employers should be vigilant in preventing and addressing any harassment or hostile work environment issues that may arise during working interviews.

Ethical Considerations

Beyond the legal aspects, working interviews also raise ethical questions that both employers and job seekers should consider.

1. Exploitation and Unfair Treatment

One of the primary ethical concerns surrounding working interviews is the potential for exploitation and unfair treatment of job seekers. Some employers may use working interviews as a way to obtain free labor, while others may use them to "test drive" multiple candidates without any intention of hiring them.

To avoid these ethical pitfalls, employers should be transparent about their intentions and expectations for working interviews and be prepared to compensate candidates fairly for their time and effort.

2. Transparency and Communication

Open communication between employers and job seekers is crucial to ensuring a fair and ethical working interview process. Employers should clearly explain the purpose of the working interview, the tasks and duties involved, and any compensation that will be provided.

Job seekers, on the other hand, should feel empowered to ask questions about the working interview process and seek clarification on any unclear or concerning aspects.

Best Practices for Employers

To conduct legal and ethical working interviews, employers should follow these best practices:

1. Develop a Clear Policy and Guidelines

Having a clear policy and guidelines for working interviews can help ensure consistency and compliance with labor laws. This policy should outline the purpose and goals of working interviews, the tasks and duties involved, and the compensation and benefits provided to working interviewees.

2. Compensate Working Interviewees Fairly

As previously mentioned, working interviewees should be compensated for their time and effort in accordance with federal and state labor laws. Employers should be prepared to pay at least the minimum wage for all hours worked during a working interview and provide any additional benefits or protections required by law.

Tips for Job Seekers

For job seekers navigating the working interview process, these tips can help protect your rights and ensure a positive experience:

1. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Don't be afraid to ask employers about their working interview expectations, compensation, and any other concerns you may have. This can help ensure that you have a clear understanding of the process and can make an informed decision about whether to participate.

2. Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with federal and state labor laws related to working interviews, so you know your rights and can recognize any potential violations.

3. Seek Legal Advice or Report Violations

If you believe your rights have been violated during a working interview, don't hesitate to seek legal advice or report the issue to the appropriate government agency, such as the U.S. Department of Labor or your state labor department.


Understanding the legality and ethics of working interviews is crucial for both employers and job seekers to ensure a fair and compliant process. By being informed and proactive, both parties can make the most of working interviews as a valuable tool for assessing skills and fit, while avoiding potential legal and ethical pitfalls. Open dialogue and informed decision-making are key to ensuring a positive working interview experience for all involved.