Sample Work Versus Probational Hire

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

Let’s start this tip off with the disclaimer that I am not an attorney, and if you have ANY questions on this, I recommend you contact your attorney and get legal advice.

I am familiar with the fact that when you hire someone, even on a probational basis, you are hiring them with the expectation they will be paid. That seems pretty straightforward, right?

To my knowledge, “sample work” is something different. You have not made a decision to hire but you would like to see how they would handle some aspect of their projected job.

Giving them sample work to do can provide you considerable insights.


You’re hiring a software programmer and you’d like to know how proficient they are technically.

Sample work:

Give them a problem to solve in the programming language you are using. Ideally, this problem has already been solved and you’ll see if 1) they can solve it on their own and 2) if they possibly can provide a better solution to what you already have.



You need someone to do collections.

Sample work:

Give them a list of five theoretical accounts. Each account has a name, an amount to be collected and what the status of the account is: recently due, past due 30 days, past due 60 days, etc. You will be the customer in this sample work. Have the applicant go through the process of calling you and working out getting a payment made. Could be a partial payment, could be a full payment. Give your applicant a variety of responses and see how she deals with each.



You need a receptionist.

Sample work:

This one seems pretty simple. Take the person through a series of calls coming in — with you making them and see how your applicant deals with each. You’ll probably need to set a few guidelines on who can be reached and what not, but you get the idea.



You need a salesperson.

Sample work:

Give your applicant a clear picture of what you sell, how much it costs, how it gets delivered, some of its features and benefits. Then take your applicant through several sample selling scenarios.

Some positions can give you “sample work” to carry out in the hiring interview better than other positions. But I’m thinking a considerable number of positions will give you this opportunity.

Finding out just how your applicant would handle things iF he were hired is a great tool for your hiring interview.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

The Hiring Juggling Act

Hiring and Juggling

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

In reading an article that Anthony Iannarino published on LinkedIn, entitled “Hiring People Based on Their Deficiencies,” I particularly liked this paragraph:

“You are not going to hire perfect people. You are going to hire people who need to develop in some areas. You are hiring human beings, and we all have deficiencies. One of the decisions you are making when you hire is the decision as to whether you can help them improve in some area or mitigate the damage the deficiency causes.”

During the hiring process, when we are presented with an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, we are doing a bit of a juggling act in our mind. Actually, it’s a two-part juggling act.

The first is simply weighing the apparent points of strength and weakness of the candidate.

The second considers the weaknesses or deficiencies head on. Can these be improved upon? To what degree? And, if you don’t think they can, can any potential damage be kept in an inconsequential range?

If you feel you have someone who could be of value but you just can’t get past the juggling act, then a conditional, or probational hire is worth considering. The time period on these vary, anywhere from a few days to several months.

Even with a probational hire, there’s no guarantee your applicant’s deficiencies will fully manifest, but it will give you considerably more insight than a few hiring interviews.

There is of course the positive side of the ledger here. Will the exposure to you and your staff help the applicant build on his strengths and minimize his weaknesses? If so, my hat’s off to you — you’ve created a great team and a great work environment.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

Just How Much Should A Top Producer Fit In?

Top Producer

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

We’ve heard for some time now the idea that new employees should “fit in.” They should be able to fit in with the company culture and even the company’s way of doing things.

That’s a fair approach to hiring new people, right? You want your existing staff to feel comfortable with new staff coming on and you want the new person to feel comfortable as well.

With potential top producers, this may be a bit more complicated.

First, let’s look at a definition of the phrase “fit in:”

“Be socially compatible with other members of a group.”

Synonyms for the phrase are:

“Conform, be in harmony, blend in, be in line, be assimilated into.”

A few of those synonyms are something to think about, aren’t they?

“Conform, be in line, be assimilated into.”

But we’ll stay with just the definition for now. What if your applicant may not be someone who will be socially compatible with your existing staff but she is a proven powerhouse producer and could come in and dramatically improve your bottom line?

These individuals are out there. They are top producers, but they do not necessarily get along well with others.

Please note that I did not say all top producers do not get along well with others. But we do run into the very productive individual who is known to rub their fellow staff the wrong way.

Ideally, your potential powerhouse producer will come in and get along with everyone. Ideally.

But you’ve checked with previous employers about this applicant and she indeed was a fabulous producer but she did not treat other staff very well. Eventually, that became the reason to let her go.

Now, I realize I’m giving you a fairly black and white scenario here: amazing producer / horrible team member. But let’s use this scenario to consider a possible approach. A very direct approach.

Present your dilemma to the applicant.

“Mary, I have a dilemma. After speaking with a couple of your previous employers, I’ve learned you are a superb producer. That you get a ton of things done, usually more than you’re asked to do, and that this made you a great asset to their company. I also learned you didn’t get along well with other staff. Are these fair observations?”

We’re hoping that Mary is self-aware enough to simply say, “yes, they are both fair observations.”

“Okay, Mary, thank you for being candid. Well, I’d like to get your help in solving this dilemma. I’d like to hire you, but I’m also interested in having a somewhat harmonious work environment. I’m not talking about everyone getting together for regular weekend barbecues, but I think you know what I mean.

(get some sign of agreement on this)

“So, Mary, what specifically could you do that would help you and your fellow employees get along?”

You’ve presented the problem directly to Mary. She’s agreed that there is a problem, and she’s being asked directly for how SHE can solve the problem.

The answers Mary gives you here should help you immensely in which way to go.

If she’s weak on personal responsibility and shifts too much of the blame on others, not a great sign.

If she gives you some specific ways SHE can make life in your workplace very livable for everyone, that’s a great sign.

You could also tell Mary you’ll hire her on a conditional basis and that you’re really looking forward to her being productive and her getting along well with your staff.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

What Are We Really Looking For?


Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

Yes, what are we really looking for: someone to get the work done for awhile or someone we can count on to be with us for years to come?

For the positions with routine turnover, this question is fairly easy to answer.

But what about the key positions?

Has the hiring culture changed so much that even the key positions are experiencing routine turnover?

I know we touched on this subject in a couple of earlier tips, but I’d like to give another perspective here if I could.

When it comes to long term commitment, what do we feel we have the right to look for and require?

If we travel back into the past some, qualities such as loyalty and allegiance were sought after and sometimes demanded.

Now, when I say “back into the past,” I’m not referring to medieval times with nobles and serfs.

For the greater part of the 20th century, when we hired for key positions, there was often an agreement between the employer and the prospective employee — whether openly stated or not — that important positions required a healthy commitment in time. The further back you went, the more the concept of allegiance played a role.

But here we are, well into the 21st century, and what can we expect? What can we require?

Has the hiring landscape changed so much that now every position is subject to routine turnover?

I think, for many of us, the answer is yes.

If we’re looking for commitment and even loyalty, we realize these qualities are earned, not just given.

That seems fair, right? The prospective employee is checking you out while you are checking out the prospective employee.

Let’s say you’re hiring for a key position and you’ve got a very qualified candidate in front of you. The résumé, the background checks, their test scores and the hiring interviews all look great. Before you make that decision, it might be worth your while to have one more conversation.

Have a conversation about commitment. Find out what that means to your candidate. Does it have any importance to them? And you should ask about it both ways. How important is it that their new company show commitment to them? And how important do they see their side of that coin?

It’s possible this conversation could influence your final decision.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

When In Doubt, Ask More Questions

Curious Interviewer

Listen to the Hiring Tip Here

Have you asked an applicant a question and the answer seemed pretty clear, but not 100% clear?

Here’s an example:

“Michael, where do you see yourself with our company in 12 months?”

“Well, for the most part, I see myself doing great work and ideally moving into more responsible positions.”

Okay, good answer, right?

Well, maybe so, but there could be more to it. Consider asking this follow up:

“Thanks, Michael. Could you tell me what you mean by ‘for the most part’?”

“Oh, well, I meant that I hoped I’d be around for at least 12 months.”

And you may want to clarify that answer with:

“When you say ‘you hoped you’d be around for at least 12 months’ — what does that “hope” depend on? Something on our end? Or something on your end?”

Back to his original answer, you’ve simply detected some uncertainty. Maybe a little lack of determination with how he views his future with you.

We understand every applicant has the right to shop their talents before they land a new job and we understand they can be looking elsewhere while they’re working for you.

We understand that.

Some of us consider employee loyalty a critical factor when hiring; others not so much. And the position plays a role here too. For some positions, you want to see real determination from the applicant that this is THE job for him and he’ll fight to get it and keep it.

Besides loyalty, there are of course other key qualities you’re looking for in the hiring interview.

When you ask an applicant an important question, don’t pass over an incomplete answer. Keep asking away, keep digging until you’re satisfied.

Six weeks later when the new employee didn’t pan out — for whatever reason — you don’t want to have that thought pop up: “Oh, darn, I remember in the interview not really getting a full answer to that key question. Well, I guess I just found out the answer.”

Find out ahead of time. Dig, clarify, ask more questions.

To see how our employee test can help you bring better people on board watch this three minute video.

If you have ever interviewed someone and later discovered a "different" person is working for you, check out our new book How To Hire The Right People.

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