Some people are just naturally good at selling themselves.
But, as any disappointed hiring manager can tell you, candidates who rock job interviews don’t necessarily always go on to become stellar employees.
That’s a problem the folks at web-hosting service Weebly had in mind when they began hiring employees eight years ago.
“When we started the company, we felt like hiring was broken,” CEO and cofounder David Rusenko told Business Insider. “We looked at a bunch of résumés and we said, ‘We can’t learn anything about these people from their résumés.’ It’s like, what can you really learn about a person from a one-sheet résumé?”
So, Weebly decided to shake up the process. After the usual rounds of interviews, they asked their first employee, current product design lead Justin Uyemura, to stop by for a trial week. They paid him his market value for the work and made their decision after the trial concluded.
“After working with him for a week, we said, ‘This guy’s amazing,'” Rusenko says. “It was just so clear that this was the right person.”
The ‘trial week’ method became the company’s official mode of vetting candidates after that. First, applicants begin a typical hiring process. Then, at the point where most other companies would make a job offer, Weebly asks them to come in and work for a week, and pays them market value for their work. If candidates are holding down another job and can’t come in for a whole week, an alternative schedule is drawn up.
“This is not a socialisation exercise,” Rusenko says. “This is not a chance to come in and see if you’re a cultural fit. It’s really about hitting the ground running.”
He describes the week as “intense.” Applicants are given a standard project to work on, based on their area of expertise.
“It’s really a great opportunity to show your work, instead of having to just sell yourself in an interview, which a lot of people find very difficult,” he told Business Insider. “Some people are really good interviewers and they’re not good at their job. Some people are good at interviewing and good at their job. Some people are good at their job but they’re not good at interviewing. It’s a real competitive advantage for us because it allows us to get a lot more data on people and find people who are not good at interviewing but do fantastic work.”
Around 75% of prospective employees get an offer to join the 300-person team at the end of the week. The rest are dismissed.
On the Friday afternoon of the trial week, candidates give their project presentation to a small group. Candidates who seem like a good fit tend to get an offer about an hour or so later.
So, what goes wrong with the remaining 25% of candidates? Rusenko says that they tend to fall into two categories. The first group consists of skilled interviewers who simply aren’t effective workers. The second batch features people who violate Weebly’s “no a–holes rule.”
“A–holes can hide it in interviews, but for whatever reason, they cannot hide it for a whole week,” he says. “I don’t know why, but it all comes out within a week.”
Rusenko credits the trial week with saving the company from having to fire people down the line and getting saddled with employees that don’t fit. He notes that it also boosts the company’s culture of respect and helps new people integrate into teams.
“I do think the trial week has helped build this incredible culture where people are incredibly respectful and honest and ultimately trust each other,” he says. “You really get to chat and get to know candidates as people. When they show up on their first day, it’s like you already know them. “
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