There are few things more frustrating than when you make a great hire, they show up and totally cannot do the job. Or, someone who is so electric in your interviews is lackluster in person.

Getting your hopes up to have them smashed is heartbreaking – but when it involves business, it is doubly so.

Everyone who hires has had this happen at some point. Sometimes you delude yourself into thinking they are a rockstar and sometimes you get a little conned. Either way, it's not good. It costs you time, money and energy – things most companies and managers don't have enough of.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't tell you the truth and offer you a fantastic solution. I present the pre-hire project!

Successfully Implement Pre-Hire Projects

No matter what industry you are in and no matter what you are hiring for, you should be able to figure out some kind of pre-hire test to make sure that amazing candidate can actually do the job.

What's A Pre-Hire Project

Well…this is very complex…it's a project you give prospective candidates to test their abilities and knowledge. Ta-da! Pre-hire projects help you make sure you aren't just getting fooled by a smooth-talking candidate – the person can actually do the job.

Ok, a little more about it. The project should be realistic and true to your business. Take something that occurs regularly or has in the past and make up a dummy situation. Give the candidate the project, give some parameters around it and then stand back and wait for the results.

It can be a project, a proposal, a ride-along, role-playing – whatever makes sense for the role. Obviously, don't have someone do actual work for your company, but it needs to be something that truly shows their abilities, speed, and knowledge.

Types Of Pre-Hire Projects/Evaluation Tools

Depending on what you are hiring for, you could either give this to every candidate during the hiring process or just your top 2-3 when you get towards the end.

If it comes earlier – you are going to have every candidate participate – it usually will need to happen during an interview. For the most part, these are probably going to be more testing and or essay-type projects. So, you might have someone take an online proficiency test on your software, product lines, etc. Or you might give them a hypothetical issue and ask them to give you a very detailed essay on the specific ways they'd address the issue.

Either way, make sure candidates know it is part of the process – no one likes a surprise – and make sure it doesn't take hours to complete. It needs to fit within the normal interview process timelines. You don't want a candidate to have to spend 3 hours on your project – especially if you don't intend to hire them.

If you want to have your top candidates complete a pre-hire project as a determining factor for being hired, make sure you discuss it well ahead of time.

Prep Work

Ideally, this will be a project based on a real-life occurrence in your business. So, you should be able to define:

  • issues that may arise
  • necessary steps needed to finish the project
  • tools the candidate will need access to
  • what the actual end result should look like
  • exactly what you are trying to learn about the candidate
  • how long it should take for a superstar, a proficient candidate or someone struggling
  • how you'll decide between candidates with similar results

Get everything detailed and documented and make sure someone who has a similar role gives you input and can help you gauge success.

Keep In Mind

You can't plan for everything – tell candidates to do the best with what you've given them. Provided everything is in working order, they should be able to cope with difficulties.

Some candidates won't want to participate or might show frustration. I say, good riddance! Especially in certain pay-for-performance roles, if you don't even want to try, I don't want to hire you! If every candidate seems frustrated or has a lot of issues – look at your process, it might need updating.

I'd consider paying the candidates for any project that is going to take over 30 minutes. It just leads to goodwill. Candidates don't want to spend hours working on something that won't lead anywhere.

Some candidates won't do well – that doesn't mean you should immediately discount them. Evaluate where it went wrong and if it was anxiety or actual lack of knowledge.

If you can successfully implement pre-hire projects into your hiring routine, you will be able to know a candidate can do the job, not just make your best guess.

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