There is no doubt that recruiting and hiring the right employee is a challenging endeavor. It takes a great deal of time, energy and resources to find the perfect candidate for the job. And yet, all too often, candidates who look great on paper and “ace” their interview end up being a poor fit for your company’s culture. There’s nothing worse than having someone in a key position within the organization turn out to be a bad hire; a bad hire can quickly turn toxic and impact the performance and the morale of the broader team.

“86% of employers say they’ve hired the wrong person for a position,” reports Career Builder.

Every new hire you onboard makes a lasting impact on your organization’s culture and resources. So, what’s the key to weeding out the wrong person for the job? Investing in workforce assessments that not only factor in a candidate’s ability to perform on the job but also determine their cultural fit. These assessments detect the presence of soft skills that align with your company’s culture and can set the foundation for effective leadership and high performance across your organization. Some soft skill examples to consider are: emotional intelligence, relationship building, critical thinking, empathy, mentorship and the ability to drive and lead change.

“77% of CEOs view underdeveloped soft skills as the largest threat to today’s business,” reports PwC.

Given the high costs of bad hires and employee turnover, companies are starting to leverage techniques that allow them to “test drive” potential candidates. As it currently stands, the traditional job interview tends to focus solely on determining whether candidates have the technical expertise required for the job, but only really provide a cursory glance at the likelihood of candidate success in the job. Meanwhile, critical soft skills are overlooked entirely.

So, how do you get the full picture of the candidate you’re interviewing? Here are a few popular techniques that can help you assess soft skills before making a hiring commitment:

Contract to hire. In an effort to suss out a candidate’s abilities and potential successes, recruiters can offer positions on a contract basis prior to extending a full-time offer. Assuming the contract work doesn’t violate their current employment agreements, prospective hires can be given short term projects to work on after hours. This trial period can last for a couple of weeks with candidates often being compensated at a typical contractor rate for their work.

On the other hand, unemployed candidates can be hired on a temporary contract with specific milestones to measure their time with the company and help chart wins and growth.

Job shadowing. Introducing a “job shadow” as the final stage in the interview process before an employment offer is extended can help candidates get a taste for the job. During the job shadow, candidates are invited to spend time with potential peers in a similar role. Through this informal experience, employers and current employees are given the opportunity to assess a culture fit by asking key questions as well as observing candidate behavior.

Observation days. Veterinary and other healthcare-related fields were the first out of the gate with “observation days” to visit the workplace, but it has since become mainstream. Although similar to job shadowing, observation days are broader in scope and invite candidates to look at the business as a whole instead of just zeroing in on a single role. Candidates are often asked to come in for several hours to observe, enabling both the candidates and the team to assess whether the potential hire is a fit within the culture of the organization.

In-situation interview. Made popular by Pret a Manger in the UK, the in-situation interview pays candidates for a day’s work in the role that they’re pursuing. This gives the employer the opportunity to observe the candidate in the workplace while assessing their skills, their inclination to teamwork and ability to gel with the team. At the end of the day, there is a vote to determine if an offer will be extended.

All of the techniques cited above enable an organization to evaluate candidates on the job versus within the controlled environment of the interview. While there are certain costs associated with each approach, the ROI is greater than the cost of a test drive. And, ultimately, the end goals are to reduce your risk of hiring a candidate who doesn’t fit with the culture of your organization, aid in retention and perpetuate the culture you have sought so hard to develop and maintain.

We’ve all heard the old adage: hire slow, fire fast. And, while taking a slow, measured approach to hiring can seem counterintuitive if your business demands that vacancies be filled quickly, ensuring you have the right candidate in place by following a thoughtful, rigorous assessment will help save you time and money in the long run.

How does your company determine if a potential hire is a good fit? Share your insights and learnings with us or hear some of ours! Just send us an email at:

Lori’s highly diversified, 20-year-long resume might make the rest of us feel lazy, if we weren’t all working our butts off, but there’s no one better at uncovering marketing solutions for complex businesses than ‘the hardest working woman in the ad biz.’