Editor's note: Welcome to Resource Actions, our occasional column covering everything from the bizarre to the day-to-day that, despite everything, impacts HR departments. Please feel free to send all tips, thoughts and weird job application stories to [email protected] and [email protected].
Ryan Golden: As an employer, you (hopefully) know about your obligations to pay employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and applicable state and local laws. After all, it's common sense to pay employees for the time they spend at your worksite doing work for your business, right?
Yet, the application process also involves a great deal of work on the part of candidates, from putting together a resume to contacting old colleagues for references to travel on the day of the interview, and everything in between. Should that work be compensable?
Kathryn Moody: The notion of fairness at the heart of that question is one reason why Racquel Coral's tweet and subsequent blog post went viral at the end of September. Coral was paid $150 for her time spent on her application and the interview process, including a "final project," for a job she ultimately did not land.
A job that I interviewed for a month ago selected another candidate.— Racquel Coral (@Withloveracquel) September 22, 2020
This afternoon, I received an email from them asking for my information so they can send me a stipend of $150 for all the time that I put into my application, interview process, and final stage project.
It's one of those moves that makes you think "oh wait, yeah … it would be nice to be paid for that, wouldn't it?" Because interviews (at least in the pre-COVID market) have only gotten longer, with zero guarantee of the outcome — and sometimes with zero guarantee you'll even know your status with the company at the end of it, as Coral wrote in her blog post.
"As I went through the retweets and comments, I saw where some people stated that they have gone through 6, 7, 8, all the way up to 12 rounds," she wrote. "Can you imagine the investment that was put into constantly showing up and putting their best foot forward, to impress different groups of people, for one job, only to not even receive a simple thank you?"
Ryan Golden: The "final stage project" Coral mentioned touches on another subject: interview homework. I still remember the moment when, in my junior year of college, a hiring manager asked me to complete a "homework assignment" in the middle of an on-site interview for a summer internship. "Wait, they can do that?," I thought.
Indeed, such take-home assignments have become a common practice, particularly in industries like software development, according to a 2018 article from the Society for Human Resource Management. Similarly, "working interviews," in which candidates perform the same duties they would do on the job, are relatively common in fields like fine dining and dentistry.
Depending on their nature, however, these assignments might also cause some wage-and-hour compliance headaches, particularly if they contain some form of economic benefit for the employer, Paul DeCamp, partner at Epstein Becker Green, told HR Dive last year. DeCamp also explored a variety of options in such situations, including: hiring candidates for a probationary period; asking them to complete hypothetical tasks; or simply paying them for their time spent participating in a task-related interview.
Kathryn Moody: Employers want to know they're getting the real deal when they go to hire someone. That makes sense. Interviews also are often used to showcase an employer's culture; if the company has a culture defined by its teams, perhaps all senior members of that team should get a chance to interview that person.
But those interviews add up — and employers can't afford to create a bad candidate experience, even in strange times like these. Bad experiences drive candidates away, surveys have shown. And negative recruiting experiences, according to an Indeed survey from March 2019, include a lack of respect for a candidate's time.
The good news? Candidates who have a good experience are more likely to share that with their communities — as Coral's post clearly signifies. If a long interview feels like a requirement you can't shake, ensuring candidates feel valued may go a long way in keeping the doors open to as many people as possible.
Ryan Golden: Perhaps the lesson here isn't to pay all candidates, but to consider compensating those who produce deliverables from which the employer might benefit. Or, if you like, cut it out with the overly demanding interview tests and projects. For folks working full-time, let alone those who have caregiving responsibilities or graduate school classes, even a one- to two-hour assignment can be difficult to prioritize.
Plus, there may be worries on the candidate side that all the work put into such projects may end up being used by the employer despite it passing on the candidate. As Coral put it: "So now there's someone filling the position that YOU should have had, executing YOUR idea, and receiving all the credit and accolades that come with it."
Kathryn Moody: While the job market may be in recession for now, a near decade of straight growth taught most employers why it matters to consider the worker's perspective. Good tweets about your practices are just one of those reasons.