Contract to Permanent: An Extended Two-Way Audition

I read somewhere in the past week that candidates should be willing to work for a couple of weeks or up to a month as a contractor to show potential employers how great they are. (I thought this was in the Boston Globe, but I can no longer find the article, nor the pointer to the article.) Extended auditions are useful and you need to manage them carefully.

If you do hire someone as a contractor, or if you work for an organization who starts all employees on probation (and really means it), then be prepared to assign work, monitor status weekly, and provide feedback immediately if something’s not going well. Sounds like a lot of work — just like a regular employee.When you bring someone on as contract-to-permanent, you are hiring an employee, you’re just framing the offer in a way that makes it easy to fire that person. That means you want to negotiate a fair offer. You want to offer the person work that the person would perform as an employee (so you can see how well the person works with the rest of your team and how well they work). You need to check status regularly and provide at least weekly feedback — just as you would do with a new employee.

So some of you are saying, “But JR, you believe that managers should spend the most time with their best people.” Yes, I do. And when you hire someone new and you think that person will be with you for a long time, you choose to coach that new person into success in your organization.

Extended auditions, such as contract-to-permanent positions, are auditions for the candidate and for you as a hiring manager. If you take advantage of the contractor, or if you don’t provide feedback, or if you don’t monitor the work status, you are failing your audition as a manager. If you offer contract work, plan how you will manage the work. And plan how you will manage the feedback to the contractor, feedback from your interview team, and making the final offer to the candidate, once they “pass” the extended audition.

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