As a small business owner, you don't have the time or resources to waste on a lengthy hiring process. When you think you've found the right person for the job, you'll likely want to get him or her on board as quickly as possible. But first impressions can sometimes be deceiving: A person who's well-qualified on paper and aced the interview may not actually turn out to be the perfect fit for your company — which you probably won't discover until after all the paperwork has been signed.
"There are a lot of reasons people don't work out," said James Kenigsberg, chief technology officer and founding member of online education platform 2U. "Somebody might seem amazing, but the [cultural] fit is terrible. I believe in my gut feeling, but it doesn't always necessarily match the rest of the team's."
An employer will know within the first 90 days — and, usually, much sooner — if an employee has long-term potential at the company, Kenigsberg said. The things they want in a career — whether it's financial return, structure or being part of a great mission — all come out during that period, as well as their ability to accomplish their assigned tasks and work with the existing team.
Of course, no one has 90 days to wait around and see if a new hire is in it for the long haul. So, what's a hiring manager to do? Kenigsberg advised finding ways to test out a potential employee's practical skills and cultural fit within your company.
"I'm a huge believer in 'testing before you buy,'" Kenigsberg told Business News Daily. "It's a great way for both parties to try each other out. Neither of us has a lot of room to screw this up, and [we both] need to be all-in."
Kenigsberg suggested bringing a candidate on as a consultant initially, and review his or her performance after a predetermined period of time, to decide if the person is still the right fit for the full-time position. Bill Peppler, managing partner of staffing firm Kavaliro, agreed, noting that in today's economy, the "contract-to-hire" or "temp-to-full-time" employment status is becoming more and more popular. [What the Part-Time Economy Means for Employers]
If a candidate is already employed full-time and isn't able to take a consulting role, there are other ways to get a feel for his or her abilities.
"You can [assign] sample projects, or ask for past work, where you can see what they actually accomplished at their prior positions," Kavaliro said.
"Look at the candidate's open public work," Kenigsberg added, citing open-source projects and portfolio links as good examples of a potential hire's capabilities. "You can look at work that they didn't necessarily prepare for you and see the quality and how hard they worked on it."
While an interview won't necessarily give you the full picture of a candidate, asking the right questions from the start can shed some light on whether you should move forward with a "test drive."
"It's interesting to ask about their past co-workers and managers, how close they were and how they worked together," Kenigsberg said. "I don't ask people where they see themselves [in the future]. I care about who they are now."
Originally published on Business News Daily.