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Put job candidates to work

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Danny Meyer doesn't just hire employees and then hope they succeed. He gives them a chance to succeed before they're hired.

Meyer, chief executive of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, puts job candidates through five phases of tryouts before he officially hires them to work in his restaurants. After each phase, they meet with a manager and get feedback on their performance.

"It's a combination of auditioning and training," says Meyer, author of Setting the Table. "They demonstrate their level of technical skill to us, and we discuss our approach to hospitality with them."

Meyer and his managers thus wind up hiring the cream of the crop--and their hiring strategy represents an emerging trend. Employers are realizing that the traditional approach of running a classified ad, interviewing applicants and choosing the best one has its limits. A bad hire can prove costly, time-consuming and expose a company to legal liability.

The newer approach is to put candidates to work and let them showcase their skills and talents. That enables employers to evaluate people on their actual performance, rather than speculate about it. More employers are starting to assign mini-projects to top job candidates. Depending on the type of position they seek, the applicants might find themselves conducting marketing research, calling the organization's customers for feed-back or even handling part of a shift performing real work. Employers sometimes pay candidates a negotiated amount in exchange for their willingness to provide their services.

Among sales managers, the trend is to have candidates for sales positions prepare and deliver a presentation on a specific product or service that the company offers. Similarly, some software firms follow Meyer's incremental strategy of hiring. Promising candidates pass a series of tests starting with a screening interview with human resources, a technical quiz, an interview with the hiring manager and completion of a trial project such as diagnosing a computer virus or modifying an element of a software program.

Some employers issue a 30-day contract-to-hire to individuals who jump through all the preliminary hoops. That enables both the employer and the employee to gauge the potential for a good long-term match.

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