Try Before You Buy = A Smart Way to Hire!

Try Before You Buy = A Smart Way to Hire!

by Sara Bennett | September 7, 2023

0 Author-Jeanne, Hiring.Best Practices, Lead Gen Content - Candidate Selection, Temp-to-Hire Staffing get connected

The Temp to Hire Staffing Model Takes the Risk Out of Hiring!

I can’t begin to tell you how many new customers come our way because their last hiring decision didn’t work out as intended.  They’re not always sure what went wrong, but they suddenly find themselves facing the need to replace an employee who they have reluctantly concluded shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.  DARN!

The reason for these hiring mistakes is a mixed bag.  Sometimes a hiring manager simply hires someone who looked and acted very  differently in an interview than the person who showed up for work the following week.  Sometimes they hired someone who they knew could hardly wait to get a job offer, only to decide after a week of actually doing the work that the job wasn’t “right for them”.  Sometimes the culprit was created by a hiring manager taking a short cut – not taking the time to talk to a previous employer (the only one in the process who can verify what the candidate said in their interview was true) OR not doing a background check.

Long and short, many hiring mistakes create employees problematic from the get, others aren’t uncovered until after 2-3 months on the job when the hiring manager realizes they’ve hired a subpar performer.

Did you know that somewhere between 35 and 50% of all hiring decisions end up as hiring regrets within the first 12 months after hire?

Hiring mistakes are not only big disappointments but have a costly impact on your team’s productivity, morale and ultimately your company’s bottom line.

Think about it.  You’ve spent a lot of time and resources finding the right candidate.  You went thru all the steps needed to update the job description, craft a clever job posting, and wade through the stacks of employee wannabes who clicked on your posting.   If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to uncover one or two candidates who are qualified to do the work, and after spending the time to arrange first and second interviews, you’ve found someone you’d like to hire.  You then take a guess at what rate of pay it will take to get the candidate to say “I do” and if you get an acceptance you then go thru a series of administrative steps to onboard your new hire, verify their eligibility to work and enroll them in your payroll system.

And of course, it’s more than embarrassing when your “great new hire” turns out to be such an obvious mismatch, all on full display to your direct reports, peers (and yes upper ups.).  And  if after all this work you’ve hired an employee who isn’t quite right, you’ll typically wait too long to, yes, start over.

I’m here to deliver some good news – these scenarios don’t have to apply to you.   There is a hiring model that is not only easier to get thru, but a strategy that all but eliminates the chances of making a a hiring decision you will later regret.

It’s called an employee audition which is actually the recruiter/HR version of “try before you buy” – a very smart way to purchase something important OR make the decision to hire the right candidate.

Here’s the key steps in a “try before you buy” staffing model……..

  • Find yourself a staffing partner – a company or recruiter agent who is really good at recruiting and candidate vetting, but also is really good at a range of staffing services – from direct hire to temporary or contract staffing. (In our biz, we call these “full service” staffing companies.)
  • Engage your staffing partner in your hiring project by describing your preference for “auditioning” a candidate before you hire them. In the staffing world, a workplace audition is most often referred to as a “temp to hire” staffing model and has become a very popular hiring option because of its proven results in reducing hiring errors.
  • Work with your staffing partner to create the right preferred candidate profile.  One of the key things missed in many hiring projects that results in a hiring mistake is the failure to clearly and accurately profile the candidate who is the right fit for the job you need filled. Your staffing partner will now guide you through the profiling steps it takes to pinpoint that profile.  Keep in mind that the candidate profile that works for a temp to hire audition is very different from the profile needed  to select a temporary employee for a short term work assignment.  Most temporary employees can be selected based on the skills they’re ready to deliver, but for an employee you want to audition for hire, the profile needs to include all the personal and work style attributes important to success in a core role.   So don’t hold back – tell your staffing partner the good, bad and ugly about the job you are trying to fill, including your history making hiring mistakes. The right partner won’t judge by your mistakes, but will learn something important about the candidate profile that will actually be that right fit – someone who is comfortable with “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
  • Get prepared to meet great candidates – your own short form version of candidate vetting.   Its now time to let your staffing partner take the wheel – going thru all the steps in the recruiting and candidate recruiting and “fit finding” process that keeps the process hands free for you, focused only on the 1 or 2 candidates that fit your profile.  Your staffing partner will often add some steps to how they vet candidates that you may not be able to do on your own – skill or aptitude assessments, comprehensive reference checks, observations of the candidate’s behavior when they’re not being interviewed.
  • Decide who you want to audition Once you’ve uncovered a candidate you “think” you could hire, you simply ask your staffing partner to hire them on your behalf – as their temporary employee but assigned to work for you. At this point you haven’t hired anyone – you’ve just selected someone to audition for hire.  Because your staffing partner is also a third party pay agent, they will do all the work to onboard your employee and get them “payroll ready” – side stepping all those time consuming  administrative details and fiduciary responsibilities you would incur if you were hiring the employee hiring direct.  Their role is to provide you with the opportunity to see an employee in action BEFORE you hire, allowing you to be as picky as you need to be about who you hire.
  • Set up some regular touch points throughout the audition.   Staying in touch throughout the employee’s work assignment is an important component of the temp to hire hiring model, allowing your staffing partner, yourself and the employee, to stay on the same page with respect to the ultimate goal – hiring the right employee.  Your staffing partner is your facilitator throughout the process, making sure all factors important to both you and the employee are addressed at each milestone in the audition process.   If either you or your staffing partner’s employee (your job candidate) starts to sense issues with ‘fit”, those issues can be addressed and resolved quickly, avoiding wasting time “wondering.”
  • Use all your options….At any time point or for any reason during the audition period, you can have your staffing partner end their employee’s temporary assignment…. OR you can just keep going until you are “fully comfortable” that the candidate has demonstrated they are the “right fit” for your team.
  • The hiring event. Once you’ve decided the candidate has the skills, attitude and knowledge  it takes to do the job, plus a work style that is a good fit for your team, you can make arrangements with your staffing partner to transition the candidate from their payroll to yours.

Yes, it’s as simple as that – or better stated, your staffing partner will make it as simple as that.

What does it cost to do a job candidate audition? 

No more than the cost of a regular temporary staffing service which on a per hour basis is often very close to what it costs you to hire the employee directly.  By the time you factored in all payroll taxes, your costs of recruiting in addition to your premium based benefits and paid time off costs, the real costs of an employee on a per hour basis can be anywhere from 30-60% of an employee’s actual pay rate, roughly about the same as your temporary staffing bill rate.

Yes, if you’ve asked your staffing partner to recruit and vet the candidate for audition, they will charge you a  “conversion” fee at the end of the audition.  If you’ve recruited and vetted the candidate yourself and just handed the employee you’ve selected to your staffing partner, there is almost never a fee.

Conversion fees, if there are any, are typically calculated as a discounted placement fee (without any placement guarantees) minus the service fees already generated via temporary staffing services.

If I found a candidate on my own, can I still do a workplace audition?      

Absolutely…and the bill rate from your staffing partner during the auditioning will be significantly reduced because your staffing partner hasn’t had to find and screen the candidate.  They are providing what we call “employer of record” or payroll agent services.   The benefits of a try before you buy hiring process – reducing hiring mistakes, avoiding the costs of onboarding a short term employee – still stand even if you are not using your staffing partner to actually find and screen the candidate for audition.

How long does an audition last?

We recommend that your temp to hire audition last between 2-4 months – long enough to get a good look at a job candidate at work, but not so long that the employee will get disillusioned because they aren’t being hired.  Keep in mind that the more you can see how a candidate handles the situations and challenges that are unique to your work environment,  the smarter your hiring decision can be.  While short cutting the audition once you start feeling comfortable with your “temp” can be tempting, it also increases your risks of making the wrong decision.

Why would a really good candidate agree to a job audition instead of a direct offer?

Candidates, particularly good candidates, are just like you.  They don’t want to get stuck in a job or working for a company where they are not the right fit.  The work audition works both ways…both the employee and the employer get to decide.  Some of our best, longest lasting placements, began as an audition.

How do I go about finding the right staffing partner to help me with an audition?

As you’ve probably noticed in reading thru the steps in the auditioning process, picking the right staffing partner to facilitate an effective audition, is key to a successful hire.   When you are v/v with a prospective staffing partner, inquire about their business mix, making sure they regularly provide both direct hire and traditional temporary staffing services.   If they’ve also done Employer of Record services all the better.  Most important is to find out how often they provide what our industry calls “temp to hire” staffing solutions.  How frequently do their auditions turn into offers of employment?  Do they have the option of being the payroll agent for an employee you’ve uncovered and want their help through the auditioning process?

As no surprise, we’d like to throw our hat into the mix of staffing partner options, as “work auditions” are our favorite service option and represents over 60% of our staffing business.

What hurdles do I have to go thru to convert an auditioning employee from their “temp status” to a W2 employee status?   

Very few.  Your staffing partner should not only be prepared for that conversion but will make it easy for you and their employees to go thru that conversion without missing a beat.  The right staffing partner couldn’t be happier that you have hired their employee, even though it means their temporary assignment comes to an end

How does using a staffing partner to manage the auditioning period save me money, or reduce hiring mistakes? Can’t I just employ the auditioning employee on my own? 

Great question. And while the big picture answer when it comes to avoiding hiring mistakes is that they extend the vetting process and allow you to never make a hiring decision until you’re sure you’ve found the right candidate.  There are also specific aspects of using a third party staffing partner to payroll the employee thru the auditioning process that adds value.

  • They make it easy to get a candidate to work quickly. Most companies don’t want to go thru any kind of onboarding or get an employee upgraded to their payroll process if they don’t think the employee will be working long.
  • They ensure the employee your auditioning is paid weekly…..a preferred benefit for employees on temporary assignment
  • They help you create the right profile of the candidate you want to hire, including all those soft skills that are so important to hiring but not necessarily important to an employee taking a temporary assignment.
  • They screen all candidates against their preferred profile, so the only candidates you see and review are candidates who have been screened for “fit”. No downtime spent on the wrong candidates.
  • They facilitate the right conversations at the right time between you and your candidate during the auditioning period. If something is of concern to either party, it gets surfaced and resolved quickly.
  • You never go thru the embarrassment of making a hiring mistake. A temporary employee ending their assignment with your staffing partner will not impact your reputation as a savvy hiring manager – in fact it likely will enhance it – you’re working smarter, not harder.

If you’d like to talk more about the temp to hire audition process and learn how it can be adapted to fit your hiring processes,  we’d love to chat.  For sure we’ll offer up some ideas to incorporate an workplace audition into your hiring process. 


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditionsdirect hire professional recruiting servicesEmployer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

If you’re a hiring manager looking for a service that will actually “make a difference” to who and how you hire, contact us at 425-637-3312 or fill out this form and we’ll be in touch!

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