Using Job Trials and Assessment Centres to Identify Quality Candidates

Using Job Trials and Assessment Centres to Identify Quality Candidates

Why Job Trials and Assessment Centres Might be a Good Idea

It is difficult to know how someone you have just met will perform if you give them a job. Some candidates interview really well but collapse once they start their new job. If you are not using predictive hiring technology, you might want to consider using job trials or assessment centres to increase the success rate of your new hires. If you don’t know what staff turnover is costing you, have a look at Calculate The Cost of Employee Turnover.

Resumes are Not the Whole Story

Resumes only provide the recruiter with a broad history, and that may not always be truthful. A good interview adds depth but it still only provides a limited view of what the employee will look like in the role. And it seems that it doesn’t matter how expert you get with these traditional methods of candidate assessment they are always limited.
Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, recently stated, “… we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring. We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.” (New York Times interview 19/6/13)

Job Trials

If you are considering an unpaid trial, it must be limited to a demonstration of the person’s relevant skills to do the job, and only run for as long as needed to demonstrate those skills. This will depend on the job and might be one hour or one shift under direct supervision. If you need longer for the assessment, consider hiring as a casual employee.
In any event, if they pass the assessment, always use a probationary period to confirm their suitability over time. You have made a big investment getting to this point, so ensure you monitor their performance, provide regular feedback, and give them opportunities to correct any shortcomings that may appear. If after three or four months, they are not productive, cut your losses, let them go and start again.

Assessment Centres

Assessment centres are very expensive and, consequently, a lot of half-baked centres have proven to be unreliable giving the concept a bad rap. However, when done well, assessment centres can provide excellent insight into how the candidate will perform on the job. It is expensive to set up because each role needs to researched, preferably by psychologists, to identify the core personality traits, skills, and maybe even the physical abilities required to be successful in the role. Then, specific tasks, problems and tests need to be designed to assess those identified traits, skills and abilities. Plus, skilled assessors are required to ensure fairness and consistency. If you have the budget to do all that, then you might get excellent results.


Job trials are not suitable for everyone or for every position and are limited to just a skills check. There may be legal or financial issues to consider as well. And, people can put on a good front for short periods, so do make full use of the probationary period to properly assess every new hire.
For those who can afford to do it well, assessment centres offer an opportunity to get in-depth information on how each candidate performs in structured tests that cover the actual demands of the role.

About the author

Michael-Dickerson imageMichael has been involved in IT solutions throughout his career enjoying a strong and very successful progression in Sales, Sales Management, General Management and running his own businesses. He has first-hand knowledge of recruiting from both sides, when choosing a new role and when recruiting A-Player talent.