Searching for the best candidate for your team is challenging. By hosting work trials, you, as a founder, can gain confidence about performance and team fit. These are hard to get signal on in interviews alone, therefore it creates risk by not hosting work trials. At Candor, we’ve been experimenting with work trials for over a year and have found them invaluable to de-risk the hiring process.
An interview, even a series of them, fails to provide you with a complete understanding of how this candidate would fit in with your team. Whether you are virtually hosting an interview or having it in person, you will not be able to completely envision what the candidate works like and if they will be a good fit for your team. It is important to acknowledge that interviews are quite simple to prepare for, candidates may have come prepared with their ‘perfect’ answers in advance to nail the interview. But how do you know they’ll perform at the level you need or fit your team’s culture? You really have no clear idea if a candidate is a good fit until after they are immersed into the work culture.
From the perspective of the candidate, it is unlikely that they are able to pick up on company culture, expectations, and the overall feel of what it’s like to work in your team from a singular, or set of, interviews.
So, how do you avoid hiring a candidate not fit for your team?
By introducing and implementing work trials to your team, you can immediately see how a candidate will work and fit into your company.
A work trial is simply when a candidate joins a team temporarily in order to meet their potential team and complete an assigned challenge. Work trials are intended as an intensive way to dive deeper into a candidate’s skills, cultural fit, and experience- all while the candidate themself can have a real taste of what it looks like to work as a team member of your company. Work trials can be resource intensive (using your team's time and of course money) but that should not be a reason to throw them off of your radar. Ranging from one week to a month, work trials allow for a genuine experience.
It is very important to create an open feedback relationship before hosting a work trial. You need to have your team on board, and make sure they too understand the reasons behind hiring this way. A work trial, of course, has to end with an assessment. The candidate will be assessed on how they have been working. Are they a good fit? Or are you going to go into a work trial with another candidate? There needs to be an open feedback relationship in order to make sure there is mutual understanding for both parties of what this will look like.
In an interview, candidates have most likely come prepared. By researching the company and its ethos, rehearsing their answers to interview questions, and preparing their possibly fluffed-up resume. The skills and knowledge presented by a candidate during an interview should easily be connected to how the candidate is actually working. How do you know the candidate has the skills they are claiming to have? Do they know how to use their skills and strengths in order to improve the workplace? If you hold a work trial, you have the opportunity to verify the candidate's skills.
One of the main reasons why companies host work trials is to see how seamlessly the candidate is able to fit into the company culture and their potential team members. It is very important that any individual candidate participating in a work trial gets along well with their team as well as adds to the company culture in a positive way! As companies grow and make progress, each individual team member should bring new elements to the table. Work trials allow the company to see how efficiently a candidate fits in with the company’s team and culture.
Hosting a work trial allows the team to understand the candidates’ thought processes while completing a task. Certain decision-making skills will be revealed during a work trial, whether positive or negative. When the potential candidate is completing an assignment, it is important to focus on their approach to the assignment, what capabilities do they have outside of the task itself?
When an employer runs a work trial, it allows both parties to truly understand each other and their roles. Work trials, even though resource intensive, can allow you as an employer to dodge a bullet. It is an easy way to prevent hiring an individual that does not fit into the current work environment and has negative impacts on other team members' behaviors. Having an opportunity to get a genuine working experience with somebody before hiring them is beneficial to both parties.
Hosting a work trial can be challenging and overwhelming, these are important tips that we have found useful:
It is vital to make clear the time period of the work trial. With a contracting agreement in place, it makes it clear to both parties what the objective is and does not allow for a drawn-out process. (Personally, here at Candor we found it most effective to have this occur over a two-week period- working at least 20 hours a week. At the end of the first week, we recommend checking in and giving feedback to the candidate and also getting a feel of where their head is at. It is important to keep an eye out and notice if the candidate is able to implement your feedback throughout their second week. By week two, if it doesn’t seem to be a fit, then you have your answer)
In order to host an effective work trial, you need to inform your team about these possible candidates. Schedule this into your company’s calendar, that way even the employees who are not directly involved with the assessment are aware of the new face. Consider even giving evaluation or interview scorecards to team members who were directly involved in working with the possible new hire.
The challenge you assign is the main focus of the work trials. As an employer, you have to decide on the nature of this challenge. What is the reasoning behind it? It would be pointless in creating a task that lacks value, a task that the candidate would not do when they become an employee. The task you assign needs to be very clear. What specific skills are you looking for?
If you find yourself struggling to create a challenge for your potential employee, I suggest moving backward. Go ahead and take a look at the job description, note the skills that are needed with the job and order them in importance. Now, what is a task that can access those skills? (And be sure to, of course, have the programs/tools/equipment necessary for one to successfully complete the task).
If you have more than one candidate participating in a work trial for the same job position, you should assign them all the same challenge. When planning for the work trials, create a checklist as well of the characteristics the candidate needs to have in order to be a right fit.
Be sure to give the candidate a real opportunity to feel comfortable and pull them right into the gist of things at your company- do not leave them on the outside. I recommend you pull them into any existing team meetings if there are any. This is a good opportunity to see how they may interact with the team. There is usually either an immediate acceptance or an awkward rejection. Even having a team lunch while they are participating in their work trials has a lot of benefits. While they probably have already gotten to meet a few team members, having lunch with them allows for a more personal setting, even if it is through a computer screen due to a remote workforce. Scheduling team lunches is important for remote workers to have time to interact on a more personal level, be sure to invite the candidate to the weekly/bi-weekly team lunch-in!
Questions to consider:
Lastly, evaluate your candidate. Take your team members' scorecards into consideration if you decide to give them. Do you see them as a fit for your company? Have a meeting set up at the end of their work trial and discuss the results and explain to the candidate what may come next.
Work trials have many benefits for a company and we, as a team, highly recommend taking this path when you are in the process of hiring. They are a great way to enhance your work environment and the culture you create within your company. Work trials can be discouraging for the candidate themselves rather than encouraging, they may doubt themselves. “Why did I not get the job right away? What do I not have?” The candidate may think to themselves. They may doubt their role and wonder why they weren’t ‘good’ enough to land the job right away. When in reality, a work trial is mutually beneficial for both parties.
As a founder, you aim to hire people that have high performance and fit well with your already existing team. On the other hand, finding a job that has similar core values that match your own and provide clear opportunities for personal growth can be just as tricky. Let’s say you interview with a company that has poor interviewing techniques and unintentional bias, as a candidate you wouldn’t want to work with them, but due to the lack of insight on the job, you take it.
So, how do you avoid hiring a candidate not fit for your team? And how do you, as the candidate, know you are taking a job that you truly want?
Finding a perfect fit for your company should be felt on both sides, and it is important to highlight the mutual assessment aspect of what others refer to as a work trial. This can and should be a benefit for both the employer and the candidate.
As a team here at Candor, we highlight the importance of this ‘mutual assessment’ and use that language when talking to candidates about the opportunity. Referring to work trials as mutual assessments highlights the positive aspects of these trials, leaving your candidate feeling hopeful and eager for the opportunity. At the end of the day, hosting a mutual assessment is an effective way to de-risk your hiring process by avoiding the hassle of an unfit employee.