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I interviewed today with a medium-size (around 100 employees) German software company. I solved all the technical questions quite well and I think I did pretty well also with HR questions. My interviewers were nice and friendly and I believe they like me and I do like them so far. One of the interviewers was the technology manager and the other was the HR manager.

After I finished the interview they showed me around the offices and then at the end they said that they usually invite candidates for 3 days to work full-time at the company. They said they do that so that they get to know me better and see me coding more than what I coded during the interview, and also said that it's a good opportunity for the candidate to see if he likes the company/atmosphere or not.

I live in the middle of Germany and I had to travel for 4 hours for the interview. They said they will invite me to stay in a hotel during the three days.

My questions:

  1. Is it common for companies to invite candidates for couple of days like that?

  2. Would a company invite multiple candidates for something like that or would they normally only invite the candidate that they are mostly interested in? Since they will be responsible for the costs of staying and so on.

  3. Should I expect to be paid for the three working days?

I don't have any experience in the industry hiring processes much so that's why I'm asking!

Edit:

they also asked about my expected salary and I replied.

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    Soooo... if you're currently employed, they expect you to use 3 of your vacation days for this somewhat-excessively-long interview ? – Radu Murzea May 11 '15 at 10:45
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Is it common for companies to invite candidates for couple of days like that?

It's getting more common to invite someone for one day, I had not heard of three yet.

Would a company invite multiple candidates [...] ?

Probably not. Hosting a candidate comes at a cost to the company, too. Expenses are probably peanuts, but to actually make a decision for or against hiring you, someone has to work with you and/or supervise you. They'd not want to do this with more than one candidate per job opening.

Should I expect to be paid for the three working days?

Probably not. Most companies I heard of consider it a fair deal: they pay for all expenses and the people that work with you/supervise you, you spent your time. Both parties pay part of the whole a cost. As you probably won't be working on production code or at least not on code they will actually release, you aren't actually working for them. They don't gain anything from your three days except a better insight in your work. Most likely you will work on a problem they already solved. They might not tell you to not demotivate you. But only if they already implemented it themselves, they will be able to judge your skill and compare it to their other developers.

What does it mean to be invited to work for three days after an interview?

It's a good thing. Your interviewers think you might be a good fit. They would not expend time and/or money if they had serious doubts.

  • Since I'm just a recent graduate, can you give me hints what should I prepare? I'm weak in using git, so I will be doing git tutorials. I also never used junit for testing in Java so I will also try to learn how to use it for testing. Actually I never done proper testing before, so I will try to learn how this is done (I used to create a main method to test my code). Other than that, what do you recommend I should prepare to show that I'm a good developer who can write high quality commercial code? – Jack Twain May 10 '15 at 14:19
  • Any advise will be highly appreciated :) – Jack Twain May 10 '15 at 14:24
  • I think you are pretty well prepared. Do a few coding excercises and you are good to go. – nvoigt May 10 '15 at 14:59
  • you are awesome! – Jack Twain May 10 '15 at 15:24
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    Once again: Not getting paid for working three days (and it doesn't matter if the work actually helps the company or not) would be illegal in Germany. If they want to do this, this would be a big red flag for me - Who knows which laws the don't care about apart from this one? – dirkk May 10 '15 at 15:34
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I can't speak for Germany (so feel free to stop reading if you like), but my general observations:

  1. Is it common? - I've seen it in the UK a few times, and it is becoming more common. As people like Google have found, interviews are only of so much value (and especially the mind bender questions). A scenario like this is a much better way of seeing, both the way you work, and the way you may fit into the team, and show they are serious about team fit over how well you can present yourself in interview. So it's not common, but not something to be concerned about.
  2. You need to ask them - They may have budget to bring in multiple people, but the main thing is they are serious enough about you to take this step, so concentrate on that.
  3. Payment - Again you need to ask, I've seen companies who do this who expect you to donate your time. I think the fact they are paying for accommodation (and travel?) will be a sign they will pay, but clarify first. It's a fair question to ask, so don't be embarrassed.

My gut feel on this is that it depends on the work they expect you to do whilst there. If it's still interview like (or straight forward project work, with good reviews of code/documentation etc), then use the opportunity to get the job. If they throw you into something mission critical or causing them real issues, I'd watch they aren't just trying to get contractor help for free/cheap. I'd expect them to spend time with you, show you how they work, and see how you fit, not for you to solve their biggest headache, that'd be a red flag to me.

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    I will expand on a few things from a German perspective. It is definitely not common at all here, I guess it is much less common than in the US/UK. In general, German industry is quite slow in picking up the new hiring trends from the US. Also, regarding payment they absolutely have to pay you here, considering the new Mindestlohngesetz (minimum wages) - Also, if they would not pay you it would be a big red flag for me. – dirkk May 8 '15 at 13:08
  • @dirkk so yo mean that it's not common to do that here. So what does it tell then? – Jack Twain May 8 '15 at 14:46
  • @dirkk and how much do you think I will be payed per day?! – Jack Twain May 8 '15 at 14:47
  • It can mean many things. Could be they are just super-hip and follow every new trend anyone is telling them or they could be doing serious HR research and have found that this is the best approach for hiring staff. Or it could be that they try to rip you off and get people to work for free for them. How much they pay I have no idea, as I have never heard of such a thing in Germany, and it just depends on the company. You will (and absolutely should!) have to ask. – dirkk May 8 '15 at 15:09
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    From the US (where I personally have never seen this): what happens if the applicant already has a current job? Is he/she expected to use 3 vacation days for the work experience? That's a lot to ask for, in my opinion. – wolfPack88 May 8 '15 at 15:23

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