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Test Drive

By Steve Jones,

Would you be willing to take a test as a potential employee that would last a day or two? I saw this post from 37 Signals about hiring people and how they like to try and give someone a small project to see how they do with that, and if they can work with the company. There was also a great quote on this from Wendy Koop:

I used to hire people and then realize within two days whether someone was going to thrive or not. So I said, "Let's actually find out what we’re going to know two days in, before someone starts."

An interview doesn't necessarily allow you to understand how someone works. You might probe their technical skills, get a feel for their personality, maybe even try to understand how they think, but it's often contrived and in a controlled atmosphere. That limits what you can do, and how much you get to know a person as a potential employee.

However if you ran through the interview process and had 2 or 3 candidates, what if you could bring them in for a couple days? What if you could "hire" them as a contractor for up to a week, give them real work, and see how they do? You could see how they start their week, and if they can be a productive member of your team fairly quickly. You could see them at work as an actual employee.

That's definitely easier to do in a small company, but I think it's a practice that could work in any size company, if you set the process up. It would be similar to a short term consulting contract, or perhaps more like the short term contracts that often exist in professional sports. At some point I could even see this becoming a standard way to hire people.

I'm curious if any of you would want to go through this? Would you be willing to get paid on a short term basis to try out a company? I've been hired this way on a probationary period, usually 6 months, in the past and it worked out well for me. I wish I had done this at another job where I would likely have left after the probationary period, or perhaps during it. Being hired made me feel more committed and I stayed there longer than I should have.

There are definitely logistical issues with this, but it's an idea that I think could better help both employees and employers.

Steve Jones


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