Talent: Should you try before you buy?

Weebly’s hiring practices (as described in the Business Insider article located here) are used to prompt the discussion on what indicators companies should use (and how they should use them) in their hiring practices. I don’t know any detail on Weebly’s hiring process beyond the aforementioned article. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a happy Weebly customer using their product for multiple websites in my household.

A recent article by Business Insider highlighting Weebly’s hiring approach reminds me of the age-old question:

How do you reliably hire the best talent for your business?

According to Schmidt and Hunter’s foundational 1998 article on The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology, the single most reliable indicator of job performance is work sample tests (54%). Considering the single most reliable indicator of future job performance is only slightly more accurate than a coin flip, it’s no surprise companies continue searching for ways to hire in the most accurate way possible.

Weebly’s approach seems to be one of the latest attempts to de-risk the hiring process, similar to “temp-to-perm” hiring or probationary periods. If their process is effective for them, all the powerWeebly Hiring to them, but there are, as Business Insider alludes to in the article, some challenges with the approach.

The first challenge is successfully headhunting passive candidates. Very few, if any, candidates would walk away from their job for a trial week (even if it’s paid) for the potential of employment in a new role. The Business Insider article does mention that Weebly supports an alternative schedule for circumstances where a candidate has a current job but doesn’t go into any detail.

The accommodation of employed candidates introduces the second potential challenge. Without knowing the detail of how the alternative schedule process works for evaluating currently employed candidates, there is a risk that disparate impact is introduced into the hiring process because unemployed candidates might go through more rigorous evaluation or vice versa.

The last challenge to consider is the message the trial week sends to a prospective hire. Some might see it as an opportunity to fully evaluate Weebly (which it certainly is) but others may see it as a lack of confidence in Weebly’s ability to confidently select talent, uncertainty about the candidate, or an unnecessary roadblock in the hiring process. For positions where there is a tight supply but high demand (e.g. engineers, designers, etc.), this might be enough friction in the hiring process for candidates to self-select out of the process with Weebly to pursue opportunities with other companies. This, of course, might be another beneficial “filter” for Weebly, but perhaps not.

In the end, I have to assume Weebly, like most other businesses, is looking for effective ways to reliably hire the best talent for its business. As Schmidt and Hunter’s article clearly shows, there is no silver bullet indicator to reliably predict job performance. Instead, the prudent move is to employ multiple indicators to significantly increase the likelihood of selecting the best talent. Employing a week-long case study might introduce more challenges than benefits, but the idea of a case study should be a cornerstone in any hiring process. Combining a case study with structured interviews, assessments, and reference checks, a company can create a highly reliable candidate selection process but also mitigate most, if not all, of the potential challenges listed above.

Bryce Murray Red BullBryce Murray is a veteran of both in-house and agency recruiting. He serves as the VP of talent acquisition at Red Bull and as managing director of the Talent Acquisition Group, an executive search firm he founded. You can reach to him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Bryce Murray


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