Dear Tell All: In your response to Jobless in Madison, you solicited reader opinions on the practice of employers asking applicants to do a working stint as part of a job interview ("Working' Job Interviews," 1/30/2014). I would consider such an "interview" reasonable if it ran for an hour or two. I've sat for oral interviews of that duration, so my time would've been occupied either way. I would look at such an interview as trying on the job, sort of like how I would try on clothes before buying them.
However, I would consider two or three days of this to be unreasonable. Under this scenario, the employer is unfairly benefiting from free labor.
Dear Tell All: I worked at a company where job finalists were given a series of tasks that were similar to what they would be expected to do on the job. It wasn't real work that would benefit the company, but it would require a couple hours of the applicants' time. When that was finished and evaluated, we would have interviews. In all, a final applicant would spend most of the day with us. This gave us a much better idea of the applicant's skills than a resume would. And it gave the applicant a better idea of what the job entailed.
In New York City in the 1970s I applied for a job where I was given about three hours of tests in the morning and then spent the afternoon in interviews with everyone I would be working with. I got the job, which I might not have gotten based on my resume alone. And my employer started out knowing my strengths and my weaknesses.
I fail to see how this is degrading.
Dear Tell All: Maybe demanding an unpaid working stint is the employer's way of identifying candidates with the qualities they are really looking for: low-information worker, easily intimidated, cheerfully accepts his/her inferior status, grovels appropriately.
Applicant with Bad Attitude
Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.