April 12, 2017

So you think you’ve found an incredible new assistant or other team member. You’ve gone through a smart process to find them and you’ve avoided falling into hiring pitfalls along the way.

Hurray! Good job, you!

Maybe you’re wondering … “Now what?”

What’s the next step? How do you get ready to hand over all your work to this person?

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In this post, we’re talking about a key step in your hiring process: doing a test project with a new team member before you on-board them.

I use test projects to take my hiring to the next level. We’ve talked before about how to hire an incredible assistant. But once you’ve done your initial sorting through applicants, you may need to work with your top applicants in a small way before you’re ready to hire them.

In other words, you need to run a test project with them.

You might think this sounds pretty simple: just give them a test project and hope for the best! But I’ve come up with a few tips to help me refine this process so that

  • it works for me long-term, and
  • I can use it to test a variety of skills.

Tip #1: Be clear, but not exhaustive.

You want to be clear when you describe the goal of the project. But you don’t want to give SO much detail that you can’t accurately test a candidate’s potential.

For example, if ‘m hiring an editor, I’ll give them an example of a finished video. I’ll also give them the materials that they need to create one: for example, raw video footage, my intro stinger video, audio files, or maybe a document that has the fonts and colors that I like.

But as for the nitty gritty of every detail, of what not to do, or key mistakes to avoid – nope.

I’m trying to test this person’s “common sense” (or at least assess whether our ideas of common sense are similar or not). If I do all the work for them, I won’t get an accurate test result.

Tip #2: Run the same test with multiple people – at the same time.

When I’m sending out a test project, I almost always send it out to multiple contractors – whether that’s editors, writers, social media people, image designers, etc.

What I really want is to be able to compare the work of 3-4 different people. When I do that, it gives me optics that I couldn’t have if I only sent it to one person.

I’m able to compare…

  • Did this person communicate both quickly and clearly?
  • How quickly did they work?
  • How much did their work cost me?
  • How effectively do they operate?
  • What is the quality and skill level of their work?
  • Did they proof themselves, or am I catching a lot of mistakes?
  • Did they charge me for avoidable mistakes that they made?

Sometimes it can be hard to know how much to pay a contractor. Comparing different contractors’ work and rates can be incredibly useful.

With everything in my business, I try to be as efficient as possible. The resource that I want to protect above everything else is my time, but of course, a close second is my money.

I don’t want to hire someone for $200 per hour when it’s really a $10 per hour job – or vice versa. Ask yourself: Is this person’s quality of work worth that amount of money for you? Of course when it comes to price, quality and speed are an important consideration.  I’ve often hired someone that has a higher hourly rate than someone else but requires less hand holding and uses their time more efficiently, saving me both time and money in the long run.

Tip #3: Use test projects to shorten your list of interviewees.

I’ve switched it around. I used to interview someone first, then do a test project with them. For a lot of jobs now, I’ll do a test project after just some emailing back and forth.

Only after a test project will I interview – mostly as a formality, but also to talk about streamlining processes going forward, setting expectations, figuring out availability, etc. This saves you time! By doing a test project, you weed out the people who aren’t the right fit and don’t waste any time interviewing them.

You may wonder: Won’t most contractors be putting their best foot forward on a test project? Sure! And yes, that means sometimes you won’t catch problems that might come up later.

BUT, doing a test project will still give you a pretty good understanding of what it might be like to work with a person before you really commit. Just think of it as a little bit of “dating” before you “tie the knot.”

Have you ever done a test project with someone you were thinking about hiring? Was it helpful? Let us know in the comments!

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