When it comes to applying for jobs, most candidates know the drill: you send in your résumé and cover letter, receive a callback (hopefully), and interview with a hiring manager. At many companies, this process is quite lengthy, sometimes even leading to days of hours-long interviews with a variety of employees.
To put it mildly, the hiring process is something of a logistical burden for candidates, especially if they already have a job. With a packed schedule, they might not be so inclined to apply for positions for which they think they’re a long shot; or they’ll decline a follow-up interview once they realize it’ll involve 12 hours of diagramming out complex problems on a whiteboard.
With that in mind, how can companies encourage highly skilled applicants to apply for certain jobs? They might consider paying them to do actual work, according to some experts.
“Paying candidates to work on a simple project and then discussing it with our team has almost single handedly eliminated any bad hiring decisions,” Amir Yasin, CTO and co-founder of June, wrote in a recent blog posting. “Paying a candidate that gives you a terrible solution (or no solution) is FAR cheaper (both financially and emotionally) than hiring the wrong person.”
Yasin also referenced a Medium posting by entrepreneur Eric Elliot that advocated a paid sample project as part of the interviewing process.
The idea might seem lunatic to some hiring managers: why pay candidates to come in and solve a “mock work” problem, when so many of them will go through the interview process for free? But Yasin, Elliot, and others think that paying candidates accomplishes two aims. First, it convinces candidates to give their best effort at tackling a problem, providing valuable insight into their actual thinking and work process. Second, it’s a better indicator of future performance than a candidate’s résumé, portfolio of past work, or even an abstract whiteboard problem, as it most closely simulates an actual office scenario.
In a video interview with Dice (which will be posted soon), recruiting strategist Dr. John Sullivan also indicated that giving candidates real tasks—and paying them for a significant block of their time—is potentially a solid way of separating top performers from the rest of the pack.
But no matter how sound the underlying logic, it might prove hard to convince hiring managers to shell out cash for candidates who might not become employees, especially if the HR budget is tight. As with so much in hiring, it may take a number of prominent companies adopting the practice before it gains any sort of traction.