Taking techies for a test run

Before you make an important IT investment, most of you try before you buy. Requesting an evaluation copy or demo unit helps you decide whether a product is suited to your environment. Staffing is a critical investment too, so you may want to give some thought to putting potential employees through a trial run.

A survey from IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology shows this is a useful way of assessing skills of prospective hires. According to the results, 63% of CIOs said it's valuable to have a prospective employee work on a project or contract basis as a means of evaluation for full-time employment within their IT departments.

"Interviews and reference checks alone don't always provide a complete picture of an individual's on-the-job performance," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Project assignments allow managers to make a firsthand assessment of not only technology expertise but also the individual's interpersonal skills, which aren't always evident from his or her work history."

Evaluating IT pros on a contract or short-term basis can help you avoid the bad apples and reduce the productivity costs associated with hiring mistakes. As Lee notes, the practice is also useful in determining if you have a full-time staffing need or the job can be handled by a combination of project pros and existing employees.

Conducted by an independent research firm on behalf of Robert Half Technology, the survey is based on responses from more than 1,400 CIOs working for U.S. firms with at least 100 employees. Here's how respondents rated the value of putting candidates through a test run:

  • Very valuable: 16%
  • Somewhat valuable: 47%
  • Not at all valuable: 35%

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