Table of contents
  1. Types of Job Shadowing
  2. The Benefits of Job Shadowing
  3. Good Practices for Effective Job Shadowing
  4. Conclusion

Job shadowing allows an individual who is new to a particular field to follow an employee who currently works in the industry, and to learn how they perform their role. The person who is being shadowed typically has significant experience and a strong record of achievement.

Job shadowing often acts as a type of pre-employment screening before a candidate starts a new role. These programs are also popular with students, graduates, and interns keen to gain insights into the world of work.

Job shadowing can take place in most professions. However, it is most common in industries in which a job is best learned by observing another perform the necessary tasks. This may include:

  • Catering 
  • Retail
  • Skilled trades (such as plumbing and electrical work)
  • Medicine

Types of Job Shadowing

If you’re running a work shadowing program, it’s important to understand the various forms these initiatives can take. In most cases, job shadowing will fall into the following categories:


Under this model, the participants (or shadowers) spend most of their time simply observing the work of others. They are unlikely to interact significantly with clients or engage in hands-on activities.

The type of shadowing may be more suitable for young people or if a job involves highly skilled or potentially risky activities.

Practical-based learning

Unlike observation-only job shadowing, this type of program gives shadowers the chance to attempt some of the tasks they have observed.

These initiatives may be especially useful if your job shadowing program is part of pre-employment screening. Allowing applicants to perform tasks that would be expected of them in the role can give you an idea of their suitability.

The Benefits of Job Shadowing

When running effectively, a job-shadowing program can have numerous benefits for both businesses and employees.

Gives shadowers an accurate picture of the role

Job shadowing gives young people or potential employees a clear indication of what a job involves. Based on their experience, they can then decide whether they can see themselves working in the role in the future.

By observing a high-achieving professional, the shadower can also get a sense of what success and competency in the role might look like. Understanding the qualities your company values in its employees could also help the shadower become a valuable asset to your business in the future.

Provides development opportunities for those being shadowed

Supporting less experienced colleagues is a great way for your employees to improve their leadership skills. If, for instance, a person is considering applying for a management role, mentoring a junior colleague can provide experience in overseeing others.

Allows you to assess a candidate’s suitability

Job shadowing can be an extremely informative part of the hiring process. By observing a shadower in an environment in which they may soon be working, you can gauge whether they would be a good fit for the role. As well as assessing whether they have the appropriate skills for the job, you can also get a sense of whether they have the right temperament for the work.

Improves communication between departments

Many people taking part in job shadowing will be new to the company or industry. However, these programs can also be useful for existing employees wishing to learn more about other aspects of your business. 

For example, you might consider encouraging members of one department to observe colleagues in another department. This can be particularly useful if there is a need for better communication across your business. In this case, understanding how things operate in other areas of your organization can help employees work together more effectively.

Boosts community engagement

A job shadowing initiative can be a good opportunity for your business to reach out to the community in which you operate. By welcoming young people and potential employees into your organization, you can demonstrate that you care about the career prospects of people in your region.

Such positive engagement may also improve your reputation with potential customers and raise your profile as an employer of choice.

Good Practices for Effective Job Shadowing

While the benefits of job shadowing are clear, these programs involve a great deal of effort to make them a success. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your program runs smoothly. 

Set clear goals

Before you launch your program, all the key stakeholders need to understand exactly what you want to achieve. If you fail to set concrete goals, you may find it difficult to judge whether your program is a success.

Consider health and safety 

If you welcome people into your organization as part of job shadowing, you are responsible for their health and safety. As such, you will need to take the same precautions as you would with any other employee. 

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to run a risk assessment before the program starts or provide training on operating specialist equipment. Likewise, you should check your insurance policy to ensure that it permits these types of initiatives.

Select the most suitable candidate to be shadowed

One of the most important ingredients in a successful job shadowing program is making sure you involve the right person. As well as having an established career in your business, it is useful if your mentors are friendly, approachable, and patient. Selecting employees who have previously hired others in your business could also be sensible. Hiring managers are ideally placed to provide shadowers with guidance on how they could succeed in the interview process.

Provide adequate training

By working with potential employees and members of your community, those being shadowed are effectively acting as ambassadors for your business. 

It’s therefore essential that you provide these individuals with suitable training. You might, for instance, want to instruct mentors on the types of questions their shadowers are likely to ask. You should also provide guidance on how to reassure a person feeling nervous on their first day. 

Budget time and money

Before you commit to a job shadowing program, check that your business has the time and resources to do so. While there are significant benefits to these initiatives, they can be time-consuming for the employees being shadowed. It could therefore be sensible to avoid job shadowing during your company’s busy periods. Likewise, workers with a heavy workload may not be the best candidates to be shadowed.

Seek feedback

When running a shadowing program, it’s sensible to seek feedback from its participants. By doing so, you can learn what works and also make changes to improve your program. In order to get the most valuable feedback, try to ask as wide a range of questions as possible. For instance, you could learn more about your company’s culture by asking if the shadower felt welcomed into the business. In addition, you could identify areas for improvement in your program by asking if there had been anything the candidate had expected to observe but didn’t. 

Probably the most valuable question to ask, however, is whether the shadower would consider applying for a role with your company in the future. Remember, it is crucial to ask your respondents to explain all their answers.

Form ongoing relationships

In many cases, job shadowing can lead to a long-lasting relationship between your business and the shadowers in your program. If a candidate has performed well, you may want to keep them informed about future vacancies with your company.


Job shadowing is an initiative that allows candidates interested in a particular role to follow experienced professionals already working in the field. As well as allowing shadowers to learn more about a profession, these programs can help companies bring new talent into their organizations.

Establishing a job-shadowing program requires time and dedication, but the rewards should make these efforts worthwhile. As well as allowing potential employees to learn new skills, you can improve your reputation in your community and identify new talent. Remember, however, you have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for all participants.