A reader writes:
Quite a few years back, I was assisting my manager with interviewing candidates for an office manager position. One of my colleagues, a non-exempt employee, interviewed for the job. She was told she did not have to clock out for her interview. I asked my manager why that was, because I thought that we were essentially paying her to interview, which might give her the wrong impression that she was going to be offered the job. (She ended up getting the job.)
A few years later at a different organization, I was going to interview for a promotion to a management position within my department but for a different team. My manager, who was not on the hiring committee and who was very supportive of my potential promotion, reminded me to make up the time I was missing to interview by working extra that day or at a later date that week. I was an exempt employee.
I was hired for the management position, and a year later I had a non-exempt employee who was interviewing for a position within the organization but outside our department. Several days before her interview, after helping her with her interview skills, I wished her luck and reminded her to clock out before she left the afternoon of the interview. The interview was at a different site, so she would probably be upwards of two hours gone. She said she didn’t understand why she had to clock out because she was still at work, so I explained it was because she was leaving for a couple hours to go to the interview. She ended complaining to my boss who told me that I should not require her to clock out because she was interviewing internally. I quickly conceded (I liked my boss and wasn’t going to argue) but expressed by confusion because I had to make up my hour for interviewing for that very job.
Was I in the wrong to ask her to clock out for an internal interview? Is it common to pay an employee when that person is interviewing for an internal job or should the employee be required to clock out/make up the time? I suspect you may tell me that it depends on the manager, so I’m also interested in hearing you (and the readers’) opinions. Finally, could the employee get the wrong idea if they are being paid to interview?
Yep, it depends on the employer. Different employers and different managers do it differently. I’d never ask someone to clock out for an internal interview, though — I think it’s a bit petty and sends the wrong signal. The signal I want to send is “we value you,” not “we’re going to nickel and dime you even though you’re about to spend time helping us determine if we can use your skills in a different area of the organization.”
I don’t look at internal interviews as being all that different from any other business meeting; the fact that it’s an interview doesn’t set it so far apart from that that I’d want the person doing it unpaid.
I don’t think that getting paid for the interview time will give reasonable employees the idea that they’ll definitely get the job. That’s more dependent on your own messaging — like whether you’re making it clear that you’re interviewing multiple candidates, that the interview isn’t just a bureaucratic hoop to jump through, and that you support their professional development even if they’re not ultimately selected for this particular job.