The New York Times recently ran an article on “test driving” employees before you hire them. This is a fantastic strategy.
Finding good people is one of the hardest parts of building a great company. Any employee represents a significant expense, too—especially high level employees, who will cost you an arm and a leg. You can’t afford to take any chances.
I don’t necessarily advocate staffing your company with temporary workers, as the companies profiled in the article did. That course of action comes with a host of other problems. A temp-to-perm program can impact your reputation by making you look exploitative (just ask Amazon.com). It can also dilute your company culture.
Fortunately, there are other ways to put potential employees to the test.
1. Watch their approach.
Look beyond that glorified marketing document known as a “resume.” Look instead to the methods your candidates used to conduct their job search.
For example, did the candidate reach out through his or her network? Did he or she take the time to learn your name and, in so doing, address the cover letter to a real human being? Does he or she actively blog or tweet about your field or industry?
Look for something that makes this candidate stand out. The candidate should know how stiff the competition is, so what he or she does (or doesn’t do) to rise above the noise can be telling.
2. Get them to work on the spot.
Here at InternetReputation.com we often assign test projects during our job interviews. This tells us whether the candidate really knows as much as he or she claims to know. It also tells us how the candidate performs under pressure.
Someone who is capable of producing on the spot and who has a good attitude about being asked to do so is likely a good bet.
3. Put them on probation.
A 90 day probation is highly reasonable for rank-and-file employees. Executive employees might even warrant a six month or a one year probation period. During this period you’ll get a chance to see whether or not your tentative employees really fit into the company culture. You’ll also get to see their skills, and their work ethic.
If it’s not working out you can let these candidates go. No harm, no foul. Both parties understand this period functions as an extended interview, and there’s a lot less pain and trouble involved in saying “no thank you” if it doesn’t work out.
Believe it or not, employees often appreciate these chances to “show their stuff.” After all, the outcome of their employment is quite a bit more within their control during the course of these tests. If they aren’t hired they will know the reasons are performance-based, and that they don’t have anything to do with the often random and arbitrary reasons why people don’t get hired during a more traditional interview process. You’ll both know you’re a good fit for each other by the end of the process, and as a result you get a happier, more committed employee. In short, putting candidates to the test may seem a bit harsh, but in the end it’s a win-win for both of you.