In dentistry, it is common for an employer to interview their potential job applicant via a “working interview” process. This can typically involve the potential employee exhibiting certain skills and abilities for the employer by performing clinical or office tasks.
When hiring new employees for your medical or dental practice, you should be cognizant of the differences between a working interview and paid work. At a certain point, a working interview may cross over into paid work territory. It is up to you, as the employer, to make sure that you are legally compliant at all times and have not violated any rules or regulations relating to the pay that a potential employee may be owed. The following are guidelines that can help limit your exposure to compensating a potential employee during the application process, as well as making sure that the working interview is comfortable for all parties involved.
Implementing carefully designed evaluative-based skill tests are an excellent tool in determining the qualifications of a potential employee without having to compensate them. These types of tests can be performed in the traditional written style, as well as in a “hands off” context. The work environment will most likely play a large role in an evaluative-based skill test. For example, an employer may require the applicant to spend some time making observations of the flow of the workspace. The employer will then ask the applicant how they might recreate or improve the setup of the environment they have observed. These types of analytical based questions combine situational and hypothetical questions that require a larger range of analytics. Not only will these questions give you more information on how a potential new hire thinks, it also allows you to evaluate how detail oriented someone is, how and what they view as problems, organizational habits, work styles, etc., without them ever actually working-- and you having to pay them. By implementing evaluative-based skill tests, you can place a limit on compensation during the interview process while also learning key skills and personality traits.
In order to avoid compensating a potential employee for their time during a “working interview” you will need to make sure that that person does not actually perform any work for your dental or medical practice. When having the applicant shadow one of your existing employees, you will want to make certain that that person does not cross any lines into paid work territory. If at any time the potential applicant performs work that would benefit the practice, you will need to compensate that person for their time. In California, “hours worked” are defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Essentially, this means that you should not allow your potential employee to be subject to performing any work during the interview process. Production of work can be limited by clearly explaining to the applicant that he or she will not actually be performing any work but will instead focus on understanding what the workplace culture and environment are like, along with other best practices of the business.
While the length of time that a working interview lasts may vary from position to position, you will need to try to keep that time to a minimum. The longer the working interview lasts, the more danger you are in of having to compensate the interviewee for their time. While some positions may require only an hour of interview as the requisite amount of time, others may require several hours or even a day or two. Determining the length of time for the working interview ahead of time and structuring that to the applicant’s skills set will be key to achieving the best outcome during the interview process.
In addition to the above, there are other things that an employer should be aware of during the working interview process. For instance, working interviews can be disruptive to your existing work environment. Having an extra person floating around and shadowing existing employees can sometimes make other employees uneasy. By making sure that everyone at your practice is properly briefed ahead of time, you can hopefully mitigate some of these discomforts. In the alternative, a working interview can be very stressful on an applicant. To make sure that your potential employee is comfortable, be sure that while your skills test is structured and your time is laid out accordingly, you will also need to allow time for that person to ask questions and bring up any concerns that they might have. Lastly, because this is a competitive process, you may want to consider having a potential employee sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the working interview. This is especially important if your dental or medical practice includes any proprietary secrets or methods in your work.
While a working interview may seem nerve-wracking for everyone involved, arming yourself with the above knowledge will help you feel confident in your decision-making processes in the realm of employment law. If there is ever any doubt regarding whether or not you should compensate the applicant for their working interview, it is best to go ahead and do so to avoid any potential liability. Should you have any pressing questions regarding any particular interactions during the working interview process, consulting your legal counsel can additionally put your mind at ease.
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