Should candidates be paid for time spent interviewing?

Everyone seems to agree that the way we interview people is broken.  I’ve heard the analogy that an interview is like asking someone to marry you after you’ve dated them for an hour.  I agree with this.  It’s a big commitment for both sides and there isn’t much time to figure out if you’re a good fit.  In an effort to avoid bad hires, a lot of companies are using longer interview processes:

  1. Some companies will give candidates an at home test to work on in their free time.  I’ve heard stories of these being side projects that take up to 2 weeks.
  2. Some companies want you to take a day off for a full day interview.
  3. Some companies want you to take a day off to actually work at the company for a day as a trail run.

Should a company pay for the time that a candidate spends interviewing?

The candidate’s perspective

I think we’d all agree that time is a valuable resource.  To take a whole day off, a candidate has to sacrifice something.  They may be giving up a sick day, a vacation day, or actual income to take that day off.

When a company assigns an at-home test or side project, the candidate is working during their free time.  This is time they could be spending with their friends or family.  Even if the candidate is the type of person who works on hobby projects in their free time, I’m sure they’d rather be working on their hobby project instead of a throw-away test.

If a company has a good interview process, the candidate should be performing work that they would be doing if they were hired.  If they were doing that work after being hired, you’d be paying them for it.  The only difference is they’re not working for you yet.

There’s no real downside from the candidate’s perspective that I can see.  Being paid > not being paid.

The company’s perspective

Paying candidates for interviews could be seen as an investment in marketing.  It could be an way to convince great people who are happily employed at other companies to interview at yours.  It will be very difficult to convince these people to take a day off to interview otherwise.

There are plenty of companies out there that pay for relocation and these companies almost always pay the interview travel expenses.  Paying for the interview itself is not a huge leap from that.  But…

Interviewing for candidates is already an expensive process.  A company obviously isn’t interested in paying more than it has to.

A candidate has to invest a certain level of commitment to take a full day interview without pay.  This is a double edged sword.  Candidates who are not serious drop out earlier, which is a good thing for both sides.  But, candidates who are on the fence may drop out early because of the sacrifice required to take a full day off.  These could be great candidates that would have decided to work for you if less sacrifice had to be made.

Also, paying a candidate for their interviews may have unexpected results like the Cobra Effect did.  For example, if word gets out that your company pays for interviews, you may get a flood of unqualified resumes that you have to spend more time filtering though.


The point of this article is to open up a discussion on this topic.  I certainly haven’t made up my mind, but I can see the pros and cons depending on the perspective.  What do you think?  I want to hear your opinion.

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