Business Management – How to ‘test drive’ staff

Old 2 Comments on Business Management – How to ‘test drive’ staff 36

This is another installment of my Business Management posts, geared towards those of us who are business owners and/or consultants.

I’ve seen a lot of staff come and go. I own businesses that rely on the skilled as well as the non-skilled employment sector. So, how do we find the right staff ?

I’ll be honest here. As an employer, as someone who hires, fires, promotes and works with employees, I can tell you that there is no ‘golden rule’ to hiring people. You can’t always rely just on a resume. You can’t always judge a individual’s personality from an interview. You can’t always consider your due-diligence done by calling references. In a lot of cases, you just need to try employees out and see what happens.

The most popular position I interview for is my entry-level technician. Usually, staff that get hired into this position either get fired pretty quickly, or they show true initiative and move on to my more senior positions. When I’m looking to fill this entry-level job, I’m usually not looking for a whole lot of experience. We have excellent training programs that can teach pretty much anyone with the right attitude what they need to know. This comes down to what I am looking for, and that’s attitude. I need someone with the right mind set, the right drive, who really wants to be in this industry.

I can leaf through resumes, select the ones I like and interview those candidates. But really, I don’t know how that person is actually going to work out until I’ve hired them and they’re doing the job. Sometimes I get lucky a few times in a row, and sometimes it seems like all I can hire is useless, lazy people. So, how do we mitigate this ?

Personally, I’ve found a pretty simple way. Most of the worry with hiring the wrong staffer is wasted wages. Lost money. There is of course lost time as well, but it’s mostly the actual wages that just go out the door for nothing. So, one of the techniques I’ve begun using is hiring everyone at near-minimum wage for the first 30 days. This isn’t limited to my entry-level position. ANY individual I hire starts at near-minimum wage for 30 days. If that person can show up to work on-time, not miss any shifts, show initiative and genuine interest, then after 30 days we sit down and discuss what the wage will increase to.

Now I don’t want you sitting there thinking I’m some capitalistic jackass who’s taking advantage of my staff. That’s not the case at all. Any of my staff will gladly express their happiness with the overall compensation package my company offers them. And every single one of them will have gone through that 30 day near-minimum wage period. I’ve found that this method is one that I can count on to weed out employees that I don’t want. And it does it in a way that really won’t cost my business a lot of money.

Remember, you can do as much due-diligence as you want to, but you really won’t know how an employee acts and integrates with your environment until you try them out. I’ve been both pleasantly surprised, and absolutely dumbfounded. There’s just no way to know for sure beforehand.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

Related Articles


  1. David Lormor July 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    This is an interesting approach, but how do you approach your offers in a manner that doesn’t drive away talent? For example, when I looking for my first private sector job outside of my time with the Army, I would have scoffed at a minimum wage offer…I’d like to consider myself at least semi-talented, -productive, etc…how do you ensure you’re not overlooking a significant portion of the talent pool by using such an “introductory period?”

    • Martin Lehner July 19, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      To be very honest with you, I’ve never had a single “fully qualified” person apply. Technologists are impossible to find in Canada. Our federal government estimates that we’re in need of about 250,000 skilled workers for the technology sector, and we’re unable to fill that with our local population, so we’ve turned to immigration. On a larger scale, it’s forecast that by the year 2030, 100% of ALL skilled job vacancies will be filled by immigration, simply because we don’t have the local population to support our economy.

      For my own business, I had to develop a training program for staff, which includes subsidizing some education and working with them on ‘on-the-job training’.

      So to answer your question, you have to define what ‘talent’ means. For me, it means an attitude and a willingness to learn, as opposed to someone coming in and having every single skill already in place.

Leave a comment

Back to Top