Job Trial — Taking the Heat Off Hiring

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Job Trial — Taking the Heat Off Hiring

In an effort to increase hiring success, companies are using job trials as part of the recruiting process.

For hiring managers and recruiters, the stakes are high.  Filling positions quickly, in a way that suits the culture, conditions, and requirements of the company is difficult.  The ideal recruiting and hiring cycle is smooth, quick, and cost-efficient.  The reality is much bumpier.  With cost-to-fill expenses higher than ever, employers are using tryouts before making an offer.

We talked earlier about the need for recruiters to deepen and expand talent pools through marketing and other techniques.  In the past, hiring managers facing steep need and a shallow talent pool had to make-do.  Now—instead of taking a risk on a shaky candidate, more companies are looking to short-term assignments and job try-outs.

Try before you buy—the advantages of a job trial

Some companies have been tinkering with the probationary process for years, but contract assignments and job trials are now commonplace.  Consider the well-known disadvantages of standard hiring methods:

  • Interviews: Even when conducted by a panel, in different settings, interviews are not likely to provide the wide-angle view needed to understand whether your applicant is a good fit on any level.
  • Resume: As a personal marketing tool, a resume is a great thing.  But for an employer, a resume is a surface document that serves as an initial screening tool.
  • Past performance: A well-worded resume that accurately describes the ability of a candidate to lead a high-performance team means little.  Past performance does not guarantee a candidate can do the same thing in your setting, with your goods and services, in the here-and-now. A resume is a halfway useful historical marketing tool, and that is about it.

Traditional hiring methods are useful—but limited.  A job trial reduces the chances and cost of hiring the wrong candidate. It also reduces voluntary turnover by giving applicants experience with the job before committing to a position.

Some key points of job tryouts include:

  • Job tryouts work for most positions: Instead of relying on recitation of past performance, job tryouts are plug-and-play.  By expanding assessment methods to include at-home tests before the job try-out, companies can save even more time.  Coding, writing, and other tests can be specialized for candidates before they are chosen for on-site or off-site trial work.
  • The importance of pay: While you could offer some type of internship, issues arise when intellectual property is created, or ideas are floated without pay.  Provide compensation by project or hour for work-product whether it is coding, design, or customer service.  Consult with your legal team for tight contract language that defines the contract position, protects your business, compensates for work provided, and provides a clear exit-plan.
  • Use the opportunity: If your candidate is temping on-site, put them in a position, or on a project closely associated with the actual work of the position you want to fill. Provide support and feedback just as you would a new hire.  In the ideal situation, when the job trial ends, the candidate has provided and been compensated for work, and you have a good idea of whether this individual is a good hire for your needs.

Other companies are using the job trial as a start-up idea.

Udacity, an online learning business, is piloting a job trial program that moves its knowledge graduates into contract assignments, and then into jobs.  Employers work directly with Udacity, which takes on a recruiting role to promote its trained candidates. Because Udacity provides bundled, high-tech skill nanodegrees, it is uniquely positioned to offer big employers like Google and others the well-trained, in-demand tech talent they seek.

While a job trial or contract assignment is a positive step toward aligning employer and employee, it may not be viable in all cases.   Highly desirable candidates who are already working may be legally unable to take on contract work, or lack the time to invest in a job trial outside of a job offer.

Taking a page from the gig economy, a job trial offers a short-term look-see, potentially saving both parties the high cost of a mistaken hiring decision.



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