Contract-to-Hire doesn’t work

The interview process is broken, we all get that.  It’s just not all that possible to figure out in a few hours whether someone is a good employee.

One idea that people routinely pitch at me as contract-to-hire.  Instead of interviewing this person, let’s hire them for a few days, get much more of a sense of how they’ll work on real problems, see them over the course of days, and how they work in a much less artificial environment.

It’s a pretty compelling idea that utterly breaks when presented with reality.  The reality is:

  • If an applicant has a current job, it doesn’t work.  They can’t contract with you: they have a job.  They aren’t going to quit their job just to take your contract work, since your contract work is ultra-short term and explicitly isn’t even an informal guarantee of a full time job thereafter.
  • If your applicant has other job offers, it doesn’t work.  They aren’t going to turn down another full time job to take your contract work that, again, may or may not lead to a full time job.
  • If your applicant has a full interview schedule, it probably doesn’t work.  Are they going to suspend their interviewing in order to work around your few days of work?  Maybe.  If they are really excited about you and not very excited about their other interviews.  But if they’ve got another A-level interview coming at them?
  • And, frankly, most applicants are going to be off-put by the whole deal.  They want certainty.  Nobody likes job interviewing — the last thing they want is an interview that lasts a week.  And they want to feel valued.  Nobody likes someone to say, “You seem okay, but we want it to be ultra-easy to fire you for a few weeks.”

California, at least, is an at-will state.  It feels less humane, but is far more realistic, to hire someone and fast-fire them if they don’t work out, than to try contract-to-hire.


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