Job tryouts and other no-commitment hiring practices

The April 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review includes an article showcasing a mid-size technology company, Automattic, that uses tryouts for all new hires. Regardless of the role they will eventually play (including, the article says, CFO), new employees start on a temporary contract at a whopping $25/hour, and within 3 to 8 weeks are given a permanent job — although only 40% make it.

I’m also hearing from colleagues and friends that other companies, from all sectors of the economy, are hiring contractors exclusively, at least for individual contributor roles,  converting a portion of them to permanent status at the end of a temporary contract,the length of which is undefined and can span many months, without benefits. Not a good deal for the worker!

We have all interviewed people who were superb interviewees but did not pan out on the job — and I know several talented support managers who have trouble finding jobs because they are poor interviewers — but this systematic use of tryouts bothers me. Are we such inept interviewers that we cannot see past the smooth operators? Such unconnected professionals that we cannot check an unsolicited reference? Such wimpy managers that we cannot swiftly fire a bad hire?

Please share your current experiences and success rates…


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  • Richard Bekolay Reply

    I do not like the potential of the “Try and Buy” as a manager or as worker. The uncertainty of the position, leads to issues on both sides. How can this be a trusted environment, when you start with this as framework. I think there are 2 related issues. It is much easier to hire or interview for a particular task. You rank and rate on technical competences. Hire the person and there is an expectation of immediate use on both sides. It is much more difficult to interview and access qualities, capabilities and potential.

    • ft-admin Reply

      Richard- I agree that assessing non-technical aspects is harder. Still, if we can break them down into specific behaviors, I think it can be done, at least to some level…

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