What is a working interview? How to prepare so you land the job

Let’s face it – who enjoys a job interview? 

Interviews can be daunting, but they’re a necessary part of getting a job. They’re a chance for potential employers to find out more about you and decide if you’re suitable for the job, but they also give you a chance to find out more about the role too. 

More and more employers are turning to working interviews to help test a candidate’s skills and make sure they’re the best fit for the position. But what exactly is a working interview? Let me break it down for you.

Businesses and organizations are constantly looking for ways to find and nurture the best talent to work for them. With the increasing popularity of remote working also widening the talent pool, finding the right candidate for the job can involve a lot of time and money. And if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, recruiters have to start the process all over again.

It’s no surprise that employers are introducing working interviews to help provide a more hands-on interview experience and help determine someone’s suitability for a job. Useful for both the employer and the candidate, a working interview gives both parties the chance to see if a role is really the right fit for them.

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Table of Contents

Let’s take a look at working interviews in more detail.

What Is A Working Interview And Why Is It Becoming More Popular?

A working interview is a type of interview that allows you to put your skills into practice. You’ll be given tasks that you would normally do as part of the role, and get the chance to show your knowledge, skills and experience to show the potential employer that you’re the right candidate for the job.

If you think about it, a working interview is a very sensible approach to recruitment. Testing someone’s skills at a practical level can help employers see knowledge and experience tested on a practical level, and not just from a conversation.

Recruitment exercises are expensive, and with it being an employee market right now, businesses need to work even harder to find and retain talent that will help them succeed. Working interviews are an effective and pragmatic way of testing a candidate’s suitability, saving time and money, and potentially improving retention rates for the business.

Differences Between A Working Interview And A Regular Job Interview

A working interview is a more practical type of interview. A standard job interview is usually a question-and-answer situation, but a working interview gives the candidate tasks to perform to test whether they are truly suitable for the job.

Regular job interviews rely a lot on the trust and honesty of the person being interviewed. Someone may be able to talk the talk, but if they can’t walk the walk once they’ve been appointed, this can cause issues for the employer. 

Working interviews are a fantastic solution for recruiters wanting to ensure they have the best match for the job.

The Purpose Of A Working Interview


A working interview gives a candidate real work tasks that can better test their suitability for a job. It’s common across a range of industries, especially in roles where a certain level of skill is required.

During a working interview, the candidate will need to be hands-on to show that they are not only capable of doing the role, but doing it better than other candidates being considered.

Benefits Of A Working Interview For Both The Employer And Job Candidate

A working interview has many benefits for both the employer and the candidate:

For The Employer:

  • It gives them the chance to see how the candidate performs in the role they’re recruiting for. This isn’t always obvious during a typical Q and A situation.
  • It helps them work out if a candidate is a good fit for the company culture.
  • It can test a candidate’s professionalism and communication skills, especially in client or customer-facing roles. 

For The Candidate:

  • Candidates who interview poorly in traditional interview settings can demonstrate their suitability in a more practical way.
  • It gives a taste of the types of tasks they’d be performing as part of the role. 
  • It gives them the chance to see what a company is really like to work for and whether it meets their expectations and values. It can help improve the onboarding process and give a taste of how the employer treats and values its employees. 

How A Working Interview Can Help Employers Assess A Candidate’s Skills And Work Ethic

Working interviews test a candidate’s skillset and knowledge in a practical way, serving as a trial run. A working interview will test a candidate’s ability to do certain tasks, while also assessing their personality and professionalism.

Candidates in traditional interviews will always present the best version of themselves, but a working interview will see that put into practice so that an employee can see if they’re fully up to the job.

How A Working Interview Can Help Job Candidates Get A Better Sense Of The Job And Determine If It’s A Good Fit

On paper, a job description may not be crystal clear. It’s not until someone is actually doing the job that they can see if it’s a job they like, or if it’s something they’re interested in. A working interview will put the candidate in the role, completing tasks they would be expected to do if they got the job. 

It will also give the candidate a chance to experience the work environment and meet the other people they could be working with. A positive company culture is an important consideration for today’s job candidates, and a working interview gives them the chance to experience this first-hand.

Ever regretted starting a job in a place that wasn’t right for you? A working interview could help you spot some of those new job red flags that can save you from making a big mistake.

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Types Of Jobs That Uses A Working Interview

There are many types of jobs that use a working interview. Some job roles have always had a form of working interview, such as a hairstylist or a car mechanic. But now that working interviews are becoming more popular, they can be applied to many other types of roles.

Examples Of Jobs And Industries Where Working Interviews Are Commonly Used 

  • Beauty industry – including hair stylists, nail technicians, massage therapists, etc. 
  • Sales
  • Mechanics and engineering
  • Graphic design
  • Marketing and communications
  • Teaching
  • Food and drinks industry – including chefs, bar staff, baristas

Tasks Or Projects That Candidates May Be Asked To Perform During A Working Interview

The types of tasks you may be asked to perform during an interview will vary according to the role you’re applying for. They should be tasks that you would need to do as part of your role if successful. Some examples include:

  • A chef may be asked to prepare a dish according to instructions or prepare their own menu.
  • A hairstylist may be asked to style hair for a customer.
  • A salesperson may be asked to sell to customers or clients, either in a real or staged situation.
  • A data analyst may be asked to put together a data report.
  • A customer service agent may be tasked with some customer-facing tasks to test their manner and problem-solving skills.

Tips For Preparing For A Working Interview

Your working interview is a chance to show the potential employer what you can do. You can expect to perform tasks related to the job role, and should study the job description in detail ahead of the interview. 

Some of the ways you can prepare for a working interview include:

  • Study the job role carefully, especially the key tasks associated with the role.
  • Research the company and the work they do.
  • If you’re expected to use specific software as part of the role, ensure you’re confident using it before your interview.
  • Dress appropriately for the role.
  • Arrive early or on time to make a good first impression.

What To Expect During A Working Interview

A working interview can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done one before. It’s your time to shine and show that you can do the job, and get to know the company a little better, too. Working interviews will vary according to the job and industry you’ve applied for, but you can usually expect it to look like a typical working day in that role.

This is also your opportunity to ask questions and get to know the role and company better. Take a look at some tips for how to ace an interview and questions to ask and avoid.

Length Of A Working Interview

A working interview will usually last a full day. This gives employers enough time to assess a candidate’s skills during a typical working day.

Some working interviews may be shorter, requiring a short demonstration of knowledge and skill set. Others may take place over several days to assess a candidate’s capabilities in detail.

How Will A Candidate Be Evaluated?

Candidates will be evaluated on their ability to perform the role as required, the knowledge they possess, and possibly the speed at which they can complete tasks. Other skills may be measured, including people skills, communication skills and attention to detail.

Are Working Interviews Paid?

Most working interviews are paid, but you should clarify this with the recruiter to help manage your expectations. Most reputable companies will offer a paid working interview, and you should treat any companies that don’t with caution.

Following Up After A Working Interview

Your interviewer should outline the next steps and let you know when you can expect the outcome. Some employers may tell you that day, others may take a few days to make the decision, especially if they’ve given multiple candidates working interviews. 

Waiting for the outcome of a job interview can be agonizing, but if it gets to five days or a week since the interview, you could contact the recruiter for an update.


Working interviews are becoming an increasingly popular way to assess job candidates and decide if they’re suitable for a role. As a candidate, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to show off what you can do and why you deserve the role. A typical job interview can be nerve-wracking, and may not give you the chance to fully display your skills, which is why a working interview can be beneficial for both the employer and the candidate.

Ready to find your dream job? Practice your interview skills and who knows, maybe your next job interview will be a working interview that will give you the chance to shine!

Find yourself struggling with interviews or feeling overwhelming anxiety about them? Here are some ways to gain your composure and put your best foot forward with a potential employer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Ask Questions During A Working Interview, Or Is It All About Me Showing What I Can Do?

Your working interview is a great time to ask questions and to get to know the company and job role in more detail. However, don’t let your quest for some insight affect your ability to complete the tasks at hand.

Can I Decline A Working Interview If I Don’t Feel Comfortable With It?

An employer will usually ask for a working interview when there’s a reason for it. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, you should discuss it with the recruiter and see if any reasonable adjustments can be made.

Are There Any Legal Requirements Or Regulations Around Working Interviews?

Working interviews are generally held through recruitment agencies, but those that aren’t should adhere to employment regulations. Candidates should be paid for their work, and may be entitled to some benefits within certain industries. 

What Are Some Common Mistakes To Avoid During A Working Interview?

Avoid being late and make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the role. 

While it’s great to ask questions, you should be mindful of asking too many when you should be focused on completing a task. 

Remember that you’re there to do a job, so try not to get caught up in the usual office chatter – always prioritize the tasks you need to do.

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Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.