Startups have found a hot not new human resources trend to fit their fast-growth lifestyle: making job candidates work on contract for a week to months before they decide to hire them. But startups have a really good reason for leaning on adult internships. They're just trying to protect their all-important "culture."

The New York Times identified four younger companies and one established one that employ this practice: Weebly (raised more than $35 million), Joor (raised more than $20 million), Entelo (raised $3.7 million), FantasySalesTeam (raised $640,000) and WordPress, the biggest name in blogging. The Times does not give out the exact salary for these marathon job interviews, except for WordPress, which pays $25/hour for a shorter two to six week period. At Entelo its a "solid consulting rate" for two to four weeks of part-time work on nights and weekends.

The Times does not mention benefits at all. The word culture, however, shows up three times. In the case of Weebly CEO David Rusenko, it's not just to protect culture, it is the culture:

"Now we're at about 150 employees, and just about every single one of them has gone through a trial week," Mr. Rusenko said. "It's turned into a cornerstone of our culture."

During trial weeks, Weebly brings candidates into the office to work on a well-defined project. "We tell people to take a vacation, and we pay them," he said. That way, if it does not work out, "you have one less week of vacation, but the next time you take a vacation it can be a nicer one."

Any vacation sounds nicer than what Weebly wants you to do with your week off:

The process is intense. Candidates get about three weeks of work to complete in a week — and not much guidance. "It's 'Here's your desk and some people you should know,' " Mr. Rusenko said.

Mona Bijoor, the CEO of Joor, offers a little more hand-holding:

They started on the same day, got two days of training and did 30 days of contract work. At the end of the trial, three were hired as full-time workers, Ms. Bijoor said: "And they're all rock stars."

The trial was so successful, in fact, that the company formalized a "temp-to-perm" hiring process. Roughly half of Joor's 50 current employees started on a temporary contract.

Much like actual rock stars, there is little guarantee of success, especially when at the end of the game you're judged on something as vague as culture fit:

"One bad seed can really have an impact on your culture," said Mona Bijoor, founder and chief executive of Joor, a company based in New York that created a wholesale marketplace to connect retailers and brands.

In the meantime, candidates have to be financially able to give up the job they do have and other opportunity costs, living on this unknown amount they are paid.

At Joor, prospective employees are hired on a temporary contract for three months, over which time they are given 30-day milestones. If they reach those milestones, they stay on. "If we realize it's not a good fit, we'll end the relationship before that," Ms. Bijoor said, noting that candidates are generally eager to test the waters before committing to a job and that they are treated legally as employees even during the trial period.

The insistence that candidates are eager for this kind of agreement is used in other extended tryouts, like Shyp's "Biz Dev Competition":

We've received an unbelievable amount of interest from business development professionals to join our team. We were thrilled by the response and wanted to find a way to empower most and reward the best, thus we're launching this competition. The competition is designed to reward performance while giving you all the tools you'll need to be successful.


  • Must be currently based in San Francisco
  • Timeline: 1 to 3 months depending on success
  • Progress tracking through salesforce1 app
  • Weekly activity, pipeline and revenue targets
  • Compensation: $100 per day plus commission for each new user who completes a pickup.

A hundred bucks a day plus commission would be extraordinary for an intern—not so much when you compare it to the salaries of people who work in business development at tech companies. Shyp has raised $12.1 million in the past year.

Weren't exorbitant venture capital rounds supposed to go towards hiring?

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[Image via The Daily Retort]