Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Bench tests


#1

Hello everyone. This is my first post. I have a question.

I worked as a bench jeweler for several years for the same employer.
This was my first job as a bench jeweler, my boss hired me with out
any bench test. Right now I am applying for a bench jeweler job at
another company. I agreed to go in to work for them for a "few hours"
so they could see the quality of my work and speed. I don’t know how
long they will expect me to work, or what they will want me to do. My
question is: Should I expect to get paid for the time I do the bench
test? I am just wondering what is typical.

Thanks
Matt


#2

Hello Matt,

Bench Test’s!! Wow For sure if you produce anything worthwhile while
you are taking your test you might be paid. For the most part I was
not paid for the many I have taken.

Any Hoooooo here’s one for you guy’s.

While at a very high end jeweler in Phoenix I was involved with
bringing in new jewelers and the search for what turned out to be 4-6
positions. We were looking for skilled people and placed ads and
touched base with all of the connections possible. You know the
usual.

It turned out to be a very funny, sad and surprising endeavor. When
we were in contact with an applicant we would first try and screen
on the phone and if the person "sounded like they were up to the task
we would arrange for a visit and then a bench test.Somtimes on the
same day. I would tell the applicant that we would ask them to make a
basket in plat. (Setting) for a large CZ (to reduce the pressure and
the risk) they would almost always respond with “no problem!”

They would then be introduced to the jewelers present (who were all
instructed “no funny business”) and they were always made welcome
and told if they needed anything to just ask. I must interject these
guys were the greatest in regard to bench and personal skill. They
were all busy working on projects from simple everyday stuff to very
high end projects. A lot of the work in this shop was between 1/4 to
over a million dollars. As the “testee” would walk around the shop
you could almost feel the nervousness begin to take hold. They would
then sit at a bench next to one of the guy’s and be given a piece of
stock (usually 4x4)and they could even sometimes pick from a box the
shape CZ they wanted to make a basket for.

Here is where it usually got interesting.

The typical question was “where are the parts?” or “You mean you
want me to “make it”?” Most often the Testee would just get up and
leave.

Sometimes they would get started and during a coffee break just
never return. One young man who impressed us with his determination
even though not highly skilled stayed for a few day’s and would just
plow on sweating up a storm and sometimes even shaking a bit.
Although we like him a lot we had to say no thank you because we were
so worried about him. I would say that out of maybe 15-20 bench tests
I witnessed while I was there it would yield one useable basket. (We
would scrap them in the end anyway. But maybe one basket would pass.)

They have a great bunch of guys and lady there today and I am sure
still producing some of the most beautiful work I have encountered. I
have been on that end of the test as well. Back in NYC early in my
career I could prong and channel set fairly well but wanted
desperately to learn to set Pave and bead work. I was given an
interview at David Webb with the understanding that I was a novice
who would sweep the floors if necessary to be taught. I worked for a
couple of days on seating stones until one day the foreman came over
midday and said he did not as it turned out have time to teach a
beginning setter. (I was by the way setting for some years already
and had a family to support.)I was crushed! I had to pack up my
tools in front of everyone and carried my tools in a box across 57th
street with real tears in my eyes to the subway.

Wow! what we who have remained have had to do just to be able to
function in this trade.

Good luck on the bench test
Bowing Deeply
Karl


#3

Hello Matt,

Should I expect to get paid for the time I do the bench test? I am
just wondering what is typical. 

This has been raised before. Apparently some bench workers here got
burned being used as free labour. I have always been paid, plus
travelling expenses. I negotiate quite hard.

They will probably give you a variety of work. It might be prepared
but they might like to see you work out of chaos (more likely they
are lazy in the later example). They might not be all that concerned
with what you do, but how you are doing it. Some shops can expect to
be reliant on you as the expert whilst others want you as part of a
team. The best job for you might depend on your personality. One
main skill will be to intuitively know where the findings are kept
or where the dust pan and broom is in case you drop something. The
other people behind the bench will be asked what they think of you
and depending on the run of the place, either listened to or
ignored. If it sounds like it is varied it really isn’t. Most
workshops are similar and the work is fairly consistent.

Some things I have noticed is that they always take you for your
word. If you say you can set they will give you something to set and
so on.

Remember it goes both ways. They are on trial too. Conditions for
workers vary a lot. Some places will suit you and others won’t.

Do your work the way you are used to doing it. Don’t take extra long
to lift your standards above what they are and don’t rush even if
the guy on the next bench is ploughing through. Don’t be arrogant,
because that will kill you in case you can’t find the dustpan and
want to ask for help. Don’t ask too many questions in case someone
wants to use you as proof that they know everything. Work out who is
boss and deal with them as much as you can. Treat your co-workers as
co-workers. Try to fit in. The more you relax into the job the
better you will know if the job is right for you. Don’t worry about
having your best day ever, you might, or you might mess up the
simplest things.

My best advise is to see how they do things and learn what you can
because if you don’t get the job at least you will walk away with
something, (and cash).

Good luck,
Phillip


#4

I have been through bench tests in the past, and look at it as a job
interview. Don’t expect to be paid for it, but if they do pay you,
bonus! Also how long they ask you to work for is up to them. Long
enough for them to have a half-decent understanding of your skills.

Cheers,
Dale


#5

This test is common and expected in order to prove your skills. No
you should not get paid. Explain how much you are worth by producing
at the bench.

Eric


#6

This story really happened last November up here in the Toronto
area. In the midst of the maddening jewellery season, a setter with
some experience knocked on the door of this shop. Voila! he sat down
and was ‘bench-tested’. He did his setting at an average level, his
work was just passable and but was allowed to sit and set the many
center stones given to him…(here’s the fun part!)

He was always looking at the CCTV camera on the monitor near him. He
thought that when the screen was not showing his face it was not ‘on
him’…big mistake! So when the screen was not showing his face or
his actions, he would quickly put the diamond package into his shirt
pocket or in his pants!! No one saw what he was doing, as they had
their own work to do three or four benchs away. It was only a two man
shop. That day alone, there was a ‘rush’ to get set over $200,000 of
merchanidse set for the upcoming Xmas selling season. Fantastic
timing on his part!

Shall we say he had a ‘field day at this shop’? He left for lunch
and along with ALL OF THOSE DIAMONDS in his pockets. He didn’t ask
for any payment, he took what ever he could. The sizes of those
stones were from 3/4 carat, and up!!! The wrong thing on the owners
part, is that they neglected to have any written down
from him, no record, no nutttin’, pity!

He then ran over to Calgary, Alberta and is still being searched by
the R.C.M.P. to this day. His ‘modus operendii’ is “Have setting
tools, will steal and run into the sunset”…

Gerry!


#7

If you ask to be paid, the boss is likely to see that as a signal
that you are a work-to-rule sort of person who might be difficult in
other situations. I would have to agree with Dale. Think of it like
an interview. Some employees are always on the defensive about being
taken advantage of. Sometimes they might be correct believing that,
but there is a certain personality that is just difficult that way.
If you want the job, you do not want the boss to think that is how
you are.

I have bench tested people with no prior training at all. The idea
is to see if they are totally klutzy with their hands and how well
they can handle things. If they can put a saw blade in the frame and
cut out a simple shape without fumbling too badly, they pass.


#8

Hi Matt - there’s been several good posts in reply to this, and
hopefully by now you’ve done the thing anyway. I want to illuminate
some of what’s already been said, though. I guess “bench test” is a
valid label - I’ve never heard that term except in Orchid, though.
There was a place I knew of that gave a real bench test - one thing I
remember was to polish a steel block dead flat with files only. Why
they’d want to do that, I don’t know. Anyway, as one said, it’s
actually a job interview. What you say doesn’t mean a whole lot, it’s
what you do at the bench that they’re hiring you for. It’s the "Real"
interview. If you know how to do the work, then just get to work,
that’s all. Sure they’re watching, but if you’re qualified there’s
nothing to be nervous about. What I’m saying is that "Bench Test"
probably gives people more nerves than anything - it’s really just
work. Sit down, arrange your bench, and do the jobs - if you are
inexperienced with some thing, say so. Same if you are especially
experienced with some thing or are just good at it. Craftsmanship
can’t lie, so don’t try. They want to see what you can and can’t do,
but more importantly your touch and your “shop sense.” Finally, it
would never occur to me to be paid for such a thing - like another
said, if they do that’s a bonus.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#9

Im sure this “bench test” has occurred by now, and this thread is
aging, but it is good therapy to just talk to people about our
experiences. Anyway - I’ll never forget I had to bench test a while
back for Sterling. I had to do so in the back shop of an old worn
out Kay jewelers. Man that was like “youre kidding, right?” They
threw some easy sizings my way (all 10k of course) and to throw
together a marquis setting into a stuller shank and set a big ugly
garnet marquis-1.5 cts I think. They had no tools I was comfortable
with, and I even brought my own handpiece, files etc. Im used to
doing quality work at a good pace, with the right tools. I had no
problem handing the marquis stuff back and said I wasnt going to
waste everyones time on it. Like John said, if you arent experienced
at something or feel that you wont do the piece justice because your
way out of your comfort zone, just tell them.

By the way I was asked to work for Sterling, just really didnt fit
what I wanted to do. Bench tests are fabulous for gaining experience
under pressure. I found that if you want to go far in this field you
must really push yourself-even way out of your comfort zone,then you
are prepared for anything someone throws your way. I told my
apprentice that when you can fix your own giant mistakes(and well),
then you can consider yourself a goldsmith. Happy work week to all.

Brent


#10

I have never done a bench test and not been paid. I have also had
accommodation paid for as well as travelling expenses. If I go to do
a bench test I treat it like a days work. Most tests have been for a
few days and for every test I did I already had a job and took time
off. This hasn’t been a problem for anybody I have tested for. I am
surprised how unusual this is on this forum, but I suspect that is
how it goes in the States. All I can say is that it is different
where you are. If I sit behind the bench and set 20 stones, resize
15 rings, make something new and tackle a few repairs I expect
something in return and I know I have earned it.

I can see how it can work where you don’t get paid. Perhaps they
will organise a days work before you are there or have you do work
that won’t earn them money. The difference being that if you are
paid then they will also want to make money from your time. I don’t
think it is wrong to ask for money. I am not saying this in case
they are looking for free labour, I shouldn’t have phrased it that
way, but it has always been expected with the bench tests I have
had.

Phillip


#11

You know Phillip I think you are the one who has it right. This
comes from my very limited experience so take it however you like. I
have had one bench test and it was for a few hours (3 I think) in the
town where I live, after business hours. It was so my boss could see
if I could function without constant supervision. I’m happy to say my
boss was happy with my progress and hired me (this was after a change
of career a flight to Florida and learning the basics at a jewelry
school).

I am a skilled tradesman and construction supervisor… my time is
money. However, I didn’t mind taking a risk since my boss was taking
a risk on me. NOW, after saying that, if the employer was a distance
away and/or for DAYS that they wanted to bench test me? Then I would
expect to be paid for my travel and my time. There might not be a lot
of owners who like to hear that but, what are you looking for a
Apprentice or a Bench Jeweler? There is bound to be recorded work
that your prospective employee has done and hopefully has shown you.
You have already talked with the possible hire. Now you want to see
how he/she does on a bench test.

Test them then, watch their progress if he/she does good hire them,
if he/she does bad tell him sorry, but pay him/her for there time.

I love this business its a great thing, fun to work in, no real
outdoor work, and it pays. Every jeweler out there has one overall
goal and that is to make money. Well its the same for your future
employees… love of jewelry and “the arts” aside… they are in it
for money. Its treating people well that will keep you from having
to bench test again in a year because someone left you and opened
competition down the road.

So Thank you Phillip and happy profits to you all

Sean


#12

As a recruiter in the industry I work specifically with bench
jewelers and watchmakers. I assist in scheduling many
interviews/bench tests every year. Getting a good job in the jewelry
industry is truly twofold. One part the company is looking for
is…are you the type of individual the company is looking for that
will fit in well with co-workers and the culture of the company? The
better employers understand that a good bench jeweler lacking in
overall people skills and attitude may not be a good fit for their
company. The second part the company looks for is skill level…can
you, the candidate, perform the quality of work their customers
demand and do it with sufficient speed to be profitable?

As far as the bench test goes, within reason it is typically
expected to be part of the job interview thus not compensated for.
Within reason means no more than a two day interview. I have had
candidates that were available for a longer period, say up to a
week’s trial, and in those instances all time spent following two
days the candidate has been compensated for and should be. As far as
expenses for the interview, lodging, travel, meals, etc. should
always be covered by the employer. I would be very leary of
accepting a position with a company that would not pay my way for an
interview, and I clear that right up front with all the companys I
work with. And, if you are offered the position, part of your
employment package should be relocation assistance. You should not
have to pay your own way to move to the location of the new job.

One final thought on bench tests. I do run into candidates that do
not want to perform a bench test. Typically they have many years
experience and feel they are beyond the point of needing to show
what they can do. Although I understand their position, really the
bench test can be of as much benefit to the candidate as the
employer. Most jobs have a small range of pay associated with them.
The bench test allows you to “show your stuff” at the bench and thus
put you in a position to negotiate on the higher end of that
starting pay range. I have even had jewelers get more than they
expected going in because they did such a good job during their
bench test. My advice is to look at a bench test as an opportunity
to showcase your abilities giving you a much better chance at
securing a better offer of employment.

Again, successful candidates who bring the right attitude, courtesy,
people skills and bench skills to the interview get the
opportunities for good jobs. Good jewelers with a broad array of
skills are in short supply, and I’m seeing salaries going up as a
result. It’s a great skill to possess, and one that should always
garner job opportunities nationwide.

Regards,
Vic Davis

Vic Davis & Associates, Inc.
866-650-6400 (toll-free)
417-887-5277 (fax)
Vicsjobs@aol.com


#13
Again, successful candidates who bring the right attitude,
courtesy, people skills and bench skills to the interview get the
opportunities for good jobs. Good jewelers with a broad array of
skills are in short supply, and I'm seeing salaries 

Vic says many good things - I want to tell my experience, though.
I’ve taken 3 bench test in my life. One was just a LITTLE beyond my
abilities. The other two I was hired. I have to wonder how a person
can take “many” bench tests - it’s the old question of “Can’t they
hold a job?”, at least it raises flags. In my case the two times I
was hired they gave me some work, watched me for a while, I didn’t
even finish the work and they said "That’s good, you’ll start on
Monday morning. Maybe a couple of hours each…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#14

Hello Everyone!

I have to say that my first bench test was the most incredibly hard
thing that I had done in my life. I did not plan on going for this
job but I was encourage to go by my instructor from my
silversmithing class. She said I could do the job no problem. She
should know because it was a job that she had just quit. Well if she
says that I can do it, I will give it a try. Now I had never sat
behind a real jewelers bench. We had real benches at class but there
was nothing there other than the hand full of basic tools. I had
never used a Little Torch at this point. We used that big silver
Acetylene torch. She told me what I might expect to have to do. I
think I was given seven rings. Three to size up and three to size
down and one to reprong. All rings in sterling with citrine,
amethyst, peridot and garnet. Sitting down at a strange bench and
working is hard. So I sized and repaired the rings and none of the
stones got damaged. My instructor told me about the wet kitty litter
she used at the bench and It was still there. So after how long I
cannot remember. It could have been hours or days it took me to
finish the rings. When I left there I was exhausted! My clothes where
all very damp from sweating like crazy. I was so tense that if
someone would have hit me I would have broken into a million piece.

My second time to go about a job I was being hired as and apprentice
and they did not believe in a bench test. They felt that you are too
stressed out to do anything worth wild. So they would bring you in
for a week and pay you for that time. They said that they pretty
much know in a day or two if it was going to work out. That really
takes the stress off.

Then my current job I was given the job after a 15 min chat and
based on where I had worked before.

So when someone says they are doing a bench test I do not envy you in
the slightest. It is the hardest interview for a job you can do.
Other than an actor or singer who else has to actually perform work
before you get the job?

Regards,
Rodney


#15

Everyone,

Thanks for the help. The bench test ended up not happening. But I am
sure I will have one eventually.

Matt