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First of all: what is a work trial?

A work trial is a process where candidates complete a project that closely mirrors tasks they would handle in the role they are applying for. These trials range from at-home assignments to collaborative projects with existing employees.

Want to dive deeper on work trials and how they could benefit your recruitment process? Check out our podcast episode on work trials in recruitment.

Purpose and benefits of work trials

Work trials provide valuable insights into a candidate’s skills and performance. They also help assess cultural fit and commitment, offering a two-way evaluation for both the candidate and the company.

As James Hawkins, co-founder and CEO of PostHog, shared:

“It makes it obvious who to hire. It is frequently surprising how someone performs relative to what we thought in the interviews about their skills.”

Additionally, Matias Woloski, co-founder and CTO of Auth0, emphasized the importance of commitment in startups:

“It did mean that we might miss out on some people who couldn’t make the time for it – but because at a startup, commitment is very important, it was a good filter.”

Cons of work trials

Despite their benefits, work trials can be time-consuming for both candidates and the hiring team. Some trials involve multiple team members and presentations, requiring significant administrative work to simulate a normal working environment effectively.

Especially for agency or outsourced recruitment teams, the time & collaboration that may be required to pull off a successful work trial in the recruitment process is something to keep in mind.

Ask yourself: is this a role in which the candidate needs to be up & running on day 1? Is there a hard-and-fast skillset that a candidate MUST have in order to do this job well? If so, a work trial may be worth it — even if it’s time-consuming.

If not, perhaps there is a better way to access the insights/information that you need to feel confident recommending the candidate — whether simply through conversations with them, references, and so on.

Key considerations

Thinking of incorporating a work trial into your interview/hiring process? Great! You may find it to be highly effective at making some confusing decisions a bit simpler — but there are a few important things to consider before you start.

Examples of work trials

Gumroad: Gumroad hires candidates as contractors for 4 to 6 weeks, assigning them tasks marked as “good for trialers” from their roadmap. Candidates get access to internal tools like GitHub, Figma, Notion, and Slack.

Linear: Linear also pays candidates as contract employees but for a shorter duration of 3 to 5 days. Candidates work with their future team and access the company’s codebase and tools. A supporting project team, including a recruiter, the hiring manager, and teammates, assists the candidate.

Refine Labs: Refine Labs uses a two-part trial approach:


Work trials are a powerful tool in recruitment, providing deep insights into a candidate’s abilities and fit within the company. While they require significant investment in terms of time and resources, their benefits in identifying the right talent and ensuring mutual fit can be invaluable. As companies grow, adapting and refining the work trial process can help maintain its effectiveness and relevance.

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