However you arrive at the decision to enter into a paid audition, turn the following steps into a habit that differentiates your business.
Introduce the mission
This step is often overlooked. Hiring managers or the founder assume the world has completely understood the vision and purpose of the business through their marketing efforts.
Assume this is never true (because it rarely is!).
Go into all the detail necessary to help the candidate feel inspired by the mission you will achieve. You might confidentially share sales collateral and pitch decks with them to land this message. It will make all the difference.
Create crystal clear milestones
Each task that a candidate will undertake must be clear, specific, time-bound, measurable and practical. With the ‘Can they be my ally?’ question in mind, I frame the auditions like this:
- Provide sales targets and a challenge to optimise existing sales processes for sales candidates
- Set feature enhancement tasks which rely on hypothesis-led and data-driven experiments with customers or people who use the product for product candidates
- Design and implementation of campaigns that demonstrate a change in the company’s core metrics can be the ask of marketing candidates
Eliminate potential for candidates to feel like outsiders
The first step is to welcome candidates into your company’s way of communicating. This means making yourself as available to the candidate as you would any other team member. If you use Slack or another team-based messaging service, get the candidate on there too. They should also be part of businesses standup rituals and one-on-one meet routines where their schedule allows.
Nuance alert: The nature of paid auditions is that they nearly always happen outside of normal hours. This allows the candidate to keep their day job while auditioning for you.
This means candidates won’t always be able to make standups or respond to emails or Slack messages as quickly as you or the team would like.
Be explicit on how you and your candidate will communicate with one another.
This is the lynchpin of the audition.
Over-communicate how you will communicate.
If you don’t, you and your team will become frustrated and this is the single greatest way to make your candidate feel like an outsider.
Set an audition of between 6 and 10 weeks
Most candidates will be juggling their day job and auditioning at your company and they will need time to demonstrate their expertise and fit.
I find that a paid audition duration of 6 and 10 weeks works well.
They can be shorter but the risk in this is that you don’t get past the honeymoon period. This can mean that you don’t get the opportunity to see the candidates true colours…the whole point of the paid audition!
Assess progress each week
Leaving assessment to the end of the paid audition is a recipe for disaster. The hiring manager won’t be able to recall everything that happened during the last 6 to 10 weeks. There is also a good chance that the candidate may also move off task through a lack of guidance. The bigger issue here is that the candidate will get an insight into how the business is run. If you’re not serious about performance now, will that change in the future?
Set up a weekly conversation to exchange ideas, coach your candidate and assess performance.
Pay for the candidate’s time
Time is your most valuable asset. The same is true for each candidate. Pay them an agreed hourly rate for an agreed amount of time. In the case of a sales audition, this might include a commission.
It’s a mistake to agree to audition for free. It simply doesn’t represent a fair exchange of value and this lack of incentive impacts motivation.