11 Tips for Conducting a Successful New Hire Trial Period

Here is how you can maximize potential

new hire
(Image: iStock.com/sturti)

What is the best way to conduct a “trial period” for new hires?

The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Give Them a (Paid) Project

“We vet all of our potential hires by working with them first. We want to see how they interact with the team, their work ethic, how they communicate, and the overall the quality of their work. In order to do that, we pay them to complete a small project that we need done anyway. For a writer, it could be a paid blog post, for a customer service agent, it could be a period of answering client queries.”

Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

2. Provide Guidelines

“One mistake hiring companies always make with ‘trial hires’ is they throw them in the deep end of the pool with no resources, no training, and little communication about how to best manage their different responsibilities. It is the employer’s job to provide workers with the tools they need for success, as well as a rubric for measuring each of their accomplishments.”

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

3. Run a Test Project

“If you expect a new hire to have certain skills, simply run a test project that utilizes those skills. It doesn’t need to be a critical project, of course, but something that will give you an idea of how your new hire understands, applies, and communicates strategies and goals associated with the project. You can also gauge how receptive the new hire is to constructive feedback.”

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

4. Offer a 90-Day, Accelerated Trial

“We start all new hires as independent contractors for their first 90 days with us, with an option to accelerate their trial period into full-time employment, if it’s working out well for all parties before 90 days. This gives us all the flexibility to make adjustments during those first 90 days of a trial period. Employees love it, too, because they get to know us before committing fully.”

Leigh Rowan, Savanti Travel

5. Be Very Specific

“From the very beginning, be exceedingly clear that they are in a trial period, which may or may not result in employment. Then, during the trial period, give them a very clear project to eliminate subjectivity. Give them a deadline, milestones, and expectations for the completion of that project. Make sure it’s the same project others have undertaken, so you can compare and keep the best.”

Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

6. Give Them a Company Mentor

“If it’s not going to be a problem for the mentor, I try to put new hires in something of an apprentice situation. They ghost a more experienced member for a few days/weeks before we have the more formal training period where they are doing it themselves. This doesn’t just give them a better idea of how things work at our place, it’s also a good way to get everyone to meet.”

Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

7. Make Your Expectations Clear

“At our company, we onboard new hires based on their role/team. During the first week, they are assigned to mentor and exposed to an assessment framework that we follow during first three months. Most times, they are working on real client project starting the second week. They are tagged with an existing team member. We do one-on-one checkpoints within first 60-90 days to provide timely feedback in terms of what is working or not.”

Shilpi Sharma, Kvantum Inc.

8. Be Candid

“Tell your new hire, upfront, that this is a trial period, and that you’re testing whether or not they’re a good fit. It’s easiest to just be candid and will allow you both (manager and employee) to keep an open and honest dialog. Preface this by being clear about your goals and what the outcome might be, if they don’t completely meet your requirements.”

Blair Thomas, First American Merchant

9. Limit Accessibility and Information

“Be sure to protect company assets and data by limiting accessibility and information, until you are sure that the new hires will stay on board. It’s important to keep tight lids on aspects of the company that a new hire that may or may not stay could use or steal. Until trust is established, it’s better to conduct a trial period with tight security.”

Cynthia Johnson, American Addiction Centers

10. Focus on Company Culture

“Involve new hires in situations where you can see them interact with the company culture. Spend less time worrying about the employee’s skills and more on if they are the right fit for the personality of your business. Hiring for skill is easier than hiring to find the right fit in the organization. If this is your focus, your process will be more successful.”

– Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors, LLC

11. List Performance Metrics for Employment

“Having a written down, easy-to-compute formula for how the new hires will be graded is key. First, decide on something that can be black and white, meaning there is exact percentage or number that can be derived from the performance. Then set a time limit in which the data will be analyzed. An example would be telling a new CSR they have one month to keep a booking average of 75% or greater.”

– Thomas Mello, A1 Garage Door Service

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