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Eight Ways To Design An Effective Trial Period For A New Hire


Bringing on new hires to your team is always a gamble. While applications, resumes and interviews can help you make an educated decision about whether or not you think someone would be a good fit for your company, you never truly know until you hire them and they start working in their role. This is why a trial period can be a useful next step in the hiring process that can help you see how a candidate tackles real-life problems.

However, to ensure a trial period is an effective test of a new hire’s abilities and potential, you’ll want to strategize thoughtfully. To help, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council share their best tips for designing an effective trial period so you—and the hire—get the most out of it.

1. Tailor The Trial To The Use Case

To ensure that a trial period is an effective test of a new hire’s abilities and potential, it’s best that you tailor your trials per the respective use cases. For example, if you are hiring a marketer, design the trial to best assess the marketing skills and capabilities of a new recruit. The trial should be specifically designed to evaluate if the potential recruit is capable of effectively designing and executing marketing campaigns. This would convey a clear message to the recruits with respect to the position they’d be hired for. This would also help the company assess the candidates’ skills and see if they’re fit for the job. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

2. Design An Onboarding Plan With Goals And Milestones

Every new hire should have an onboarding plan with associated goals and milestones. If you give a new hire a defined trial period, then there should be some defined targets for the employee to hit during that period. In fact, all new hires for us have a 30-, 60- and 120-day onboarding plan with expectations and goals at each stage. We’ve found that by being transparent with expectations, we set both the employee and the company up for success. In most cases, we share these expectations during the hiring process so that new hires have an idea of what will be expected of them before they even agree to take the role. We’ve found that this approach creates alignment on both sides and yields the highest success rate possible. – Arian Radmand, IgnitePost

3. Set Check-In Times To Go Over Any Problems

Check in after the first week with the direct supervisor. Often, issues of an over-exaggerated resume come up pretty quickly. Make sure you document problems that are arising early and point them out. The goal is to keep the employee—not let them go after the trial period. Recruiting is too expensive for that. I would have at least two 30-day check-ins before making the determination to keep the employee or part ways. We have probably all brought on someone new and, despite red flags during their trial period, continued to give them the benefit of the doubt. I have learned to trust my judgment. If it is not working out during the trial period, cut them loose. Sometimes no matter how sure you were that you had chosen the right candidate, you might have been wrong—and that’s okay. – Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc.

4. Assign A Project That Mirrors The Real Work They’ll Be Doing

Create a specific project with a defined start and end date that will mirror the type of work that will be done full time. This will give the candidate a sense of what the work will be like and give the team a sense of what it is really like to work with this person. I believe this helps to create much better alignment and ultimate fit than a typical interview process. – Josh Weiss, Reggie

5. Gauge Work Style And Strengths Via Personality Assessments

I have new hires take two tests: Gallup’s CliftonStrengths test and the DiSC profile. The Gallup test shows me what the hire’s top five strengths are so I don’t put a person who likes to talk a lot in a library to do research all day. By identifying what the new hire’s top strengths are, I am able to tie them in with their main job duties. The DiSC profile helps me understand what their work style is. Some people like to attack a project individually by understanding it on their own first and then later collaborating with a team. I like to think about it out loud with a group and then assign duties of who is going to do what by when. After I learn the new hire’s work style and strengths, the three-month probation period allows me to leverage their talents to see if the hire is a good fit. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office

6. Ensure Open Communication Throughout

One way to ensure that a trial period is an effective test of a new hire’s abilities and potential is to clearly communicate the expectations and goals of the trial period to the new hire and to provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed. This could include providing them with a detailed job description, giving them access to any necessary training or resources and setting specific goals for them to achieve during the trial period. It’s important to regularly check in with the new hire to provide support and feedback and to give them the opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns they may have. This can help to ensure that the new hire is on track to meet the goals of the trial period and can help to identify any potential areas for improvement. – Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

7. Structure The Trial Around Specific KPIs And OKRs

One way to ensure a trial period is an effective test of a new hire’s abilities and potential is to structure the trial period around key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure it against the organization’s Objective and Key Results (OKR). Setting clear expectations ensures that both parties are on the same page and that the new hire can demonstrate their skills, capabilities and potential. During the trial period, it’s essential to provide the new hire with feedback and guidance to maximize the effectiveness of the trial period. Additionally, it’s crucial to provide the new hire with a reasonable timeline to focus on their goals and objectives. It is important to ensure you consistently assess the new hire’s progress to gain the most out of the period. – Jay Dahal, Machnet

8. Agree On Measures Of Success

Start with really clear and mutually agreed upon measures of success. For example, “If XYZ is accomplished by the end of this trial, we will both agree it has been a success.” Put down your assumptions in writing before the trial period starts, and book the time at the end of the trial period to ensure that you look back to review your assumptions. Include others in the company beyond the hiring manager and employee to ensure this meeting is impartial, as the two directly involved in the decision will be subject to confirmation bias. Through this process—which should be a mutually agreed upon set of objective goals and a vigilant review process that is resilient to confirmation bias—you can ensure an effective trial period with a new hire. – Andrew Powell, Learn to Win

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