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How to Use a Trial Period to Test Drive a New Assistant Role

Test drive

After all of the information collecting during the interview period, sometimes that’s not quite enough.

Maybe you are in a situation where you know your potential employer is deciding between you and one other candidate or perhaps you or the person you would be supporting are still on the fence about the fit. In these situations, you could offer up a trial period.

I’ve done this in a couple of roles and it helped both sides immensely to know that the fit was indeed a good one.

Trial periods are great for assistants to consider for several reasons:

  • You will get a realistic perspective of what a “typical” day would be like. It’s easy for a job to be painted in a different light than what you’d actually experience.

  • You will have a clearer understanding of your possible future employer’s personality, temperament, communication style, and work style, to name a few. This will help to know if this is a person you really want to enter into a partnership with.

  • Your employer will not only learn more about your traits as well but how strong you perform. It’s one thing to tell someone about how you are the best of the best, but to show them is another.

  • You will have a better idea of what your coworkers and those reporting to you would be like.

  • You will get a clearer view of the company culture or the atmosphere of the home, depending on the environment the role takes place in.

  • Once you have nailed the trial, you will have even more leverage in asking for the top end of your salary requirements since they will already be sold on your abilities and fit.

If you go through a staffing agency this might be a regular practice. When I was a House Manager and we were increasing our team of assistants, all of the local agencies we worked with required a trial period before a permanent position was finalized. If a trial period is something you would prefer during your job hunt, I recommend speaking with agencies in your area to see which one has set practices in place for this so you can see if going through one of them might be the best way to go about your search.

How does a trial period work?

A trial period can be done in a few ways. You could make this a set time period, such as one week, where you work part-time or full-time in the role with a fixed start and end time each day. This is helpful for really immersing yourself in as many aspects of the role as you can. You could also ask for a set number of trial tasks which you could complete by an agreed upon date. If you have more limited availability this is a great option since sometimes the tasks might be able to be completed virtually.

As far as compensation for your work during this time goes, I’ve always done paid trial periods, but I’ve heard of others that have done this unpaid. You have to feel out what is appropriate for the uniqueness of your particular situation.

Details to iron out before starting the trial period

Before you start the trial period, ensure the end date is clear. During my first trial period experience, I didn’t get this nailed down and regretted leaving this up in the air. Luckily I received an offer after a week but it’s less stressful when you know an exact date.

I also recommend asking your potential employer what they’re looking for and how you’ll be evaluated. No two assistant jobs are ever the same so it will help your chances of succeeding if you know this information. Furthermore, you could ask for scheduled check-ins during the trial so you can get feedback along the way and tweak your approach to better fit their preferences and expectations accordingly.

Lastly, if you are doing a paid trial period, ensure your compensation is ironed out in advance. Don’t go into this time having zero idea of what you would be paid. If you agree to work at a lower rate, ensure it’s clear that you have discounted your pay requirement and that if the period results in a job offer, your final pay will be discussed at that time. Having a more accurate idea of the workload and expectations can actually help you to negotiate a higher starting pay since there will be more evidence to support your request.

Tips for when your trial period starts

If you are going onsite for this trial, make sure you are on time and prepared. You need to show that you are taking this temporary time period seriously. As far as being prepared goes, find out if there’s anything you will need to bring in advance. Some examples might be bringing an ID or your own laptop; the point is to make sure there are no delays in getting the trial time underway. The period will fly by so maximizing the effectiveness of your time is crucial.

Make sure you maintain your positive presence. If there are others you will be interacting with, remain polite, friendly and upbeat. Don’t participate in gossip or complain. The goal is to show that you will be positively adding to the mood of your new work environment if you decide to stay in the role permanently. (See this article for related tips: Manners Matter)

If you are in an environment with others, try to get to know as many people as possible and build positive relationships. You could ask other employees to lunch, see if there are any shadowing opportunities or simply introduce yourself to new faces. You never know whose option your potential employer will ask for, so increase your chances of it being an excellent one.

Own up to errors that happen during this time. Mistakes happen to everyone when they are new to a role. The important thing is to show that you not only take ownership when you make a mistake but also are open to feedback and take notes on how to improve for better future performance.

Lastly, show that you are trying to learn as much as possible about the role. Gather as many preferences as you can about the person you’d be supporting, get general advice from people already working there and try to learn as many basics about the job you’d be performing as possible. Not only will this help you to hit the ground running if the position ends up working out, but you will also be demonstrating active engagement and initiative, which are items you can highlight after your trial period is up.


A trial period is a great way to test the waters in a position you are serious about. Although it keeps you in job-limbo a bit longer, you will be able to more confidentially know if you are stepping into an assistant role that is an optimal fit. Although trial periods are not always necessary, it’s a great option to keep in your back pocket for rare situations.

Have you ever done a trial period? Please share your experience in the comments below!

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