As a recruitment and human resource business in Cambridge we have met hundreds if not thousands of candidates over the years and we hear many, many stories of past employers, interviews and work trials – a common story we have been hearing recently is candidates being asked to work for free.
In cases like this an interview will take place, the interviewer will like the candidate and ask them to come in for a work trial or a working interview – this may be for 1 hour or for a full shift. The idea of this working interview is that the employer can see the skills the candidate has for the role and if they fit in with the team, business and brand.
The employer then decides if the candidate is a suitable match and offers them a job if they feel this is the case, or explains the candidate is not suitable for the role with helpful feedback – it is rare that this working interview is paid for, whether the candidate is offered the job or not because the business is still treating the time as an interview.
An employer may ask you to work for free if they want to give you an experience of the job or industry, if they want to check you have the skills you claim you have to do the job or if it’s a voluntary role for a not-for-profit organisation.
While it is ‘okay’ to ask the candidate to work for free and complete a working interview, there are rules around work experience and work trials of this sort and things can get messy if the employer doesn’t understand these rules.
The part where it gets messy is if the employer is inviting you to the working trial to test your skills; there is no length of time set on how long this could take and is dependent on the nature and complexity of the job which could change from an hour to a shift.
You also need to be under direct supervision of the potential employer throughout your working trial; if you are shown what to do and left to your own devices you are then ‘working’ and not actually showing the potential employer your skills.
The benefit of a working trial for the candidate is that they get to experience the job role, team and business too which will help them decide if it’s the right job for them – if a company was to push their luck and request a long shift as a working trial it would then be the candidates decision if they want to accept the job with this company or not.
Never forget that an interview is a first impression for both the candidate and the company.
In summary, a company is allowed to ask you to work for free and it is the candidates choice if this is a reasonable request that they are willing to accept or not.