Viewpoint: Give it a try?

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On the surface, I can appreciate why employee trial days might seem like a good idea.

Employers get a glimpse into an individual's potential performance, work ethic, and adaptability in a real-time setting. Meanwhile the individual gets a brief preview into their possible new role, team dynamics, and a feeling of what it might be like to be part of an organisation. This sounds great, in theory! However, beneath this seemingly positive addition to the hiring process, a few issues remain cause for concern.

Firstly, for me, is the whole artificial nature of a ‘trial day’. Individuals enter knowing that from the moment they step foot through the office door they are under observation, leading to a performance that may not accurately reflect their genuine working style. They aren’t familiar with the people, the expectations of the role or the company culture so how can they possibly be expected to perform at the same level as their prospective peers? This type of setting can also be really stressful for some people, making it more difficult for them to showcase their true capabilities. In this kind of pressured environment, individuals might not exhibit the usual skills, or collaborate in a way that they would in a more natural work setting.

The job market is a stressful place to be in. Whether you have actively chosen to leave an organisation or you have fallen victim to a company restructure, applying and interviewing for new roles is a daunting and time-consuming process. Organisations don’t all follow a template interview structure, and an individual may have already completed a one, two or even three-stage interview process before getting to this trial stage. Adding another layer to the hiring process can affect stress levels financially (as it is taking longer to be hired and start earning again). This may put off some individuals from even seeing the process through, which may mean organisations lose out on great talent!

I struggle too with the idea that an eight-hour trial will reveal the extent of a candidate’s potential. Both parties are on their best behaviour, showing best versions of themselves to each other. This isn’t reflective of how an organisation really operates or how an individual will cope and act in an ongoing role. So many qualities and skills will remain hidden, including adaptability, resilience and long-term performance. Relying solely on a one-day trial may risk overlooking a candidate’s true capabilities and raise questions over its realistic value and effectiveness.

As an advocate for a more holistic and inclusive hiring process, I prefer to explore, and encourage organisations to consider, alternative evaluation methods. Such as extending the final interview with a ‘stay and meet the team’; having an informal coffee with key team members and stakeholders; arranging a show around the office; or attending a presentation and so on. All of which provide a fair and transparent experience for both employers and candidates and are more likely to bring out the true personality of both individual and the organisation.

Adi Holmes is head of talent at Jelli Group.

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