10 Handy Tips for a Successful Trial Shift

Well done – you’ve bagged yourself a trial shift! This is often an indicator that you’ve impressed the employer during the hiring process, whether that’s with a stellar cover letter or a memorable interview.

Now it’s your chance to shine… but how can you ensure you stand out from the rest? We’ve compiled this list of tips for a successful trial shift to help you along the way.

But first, some of the basics…

What is a trial shift?

While a trial shift is a good sign that the employer likes you, it’s not a done deal just yet.

The job trial lets your (potential) future manager see you in action, and it’s a common part of the hiring process in the hospitality industry. 

The supervisor won’t just be noting how well you handle the general responsibilities of the role – they’ll also be seeing how you deal with any issues that arise, whether you stay calm in certain situations, and how you work with the rest of the team.

All of this will help them determine whether you’re a good fit for the role.

Do you get paid for a trial shift?

Are trial shifts paid? How long is a trial shift? Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to either of these questions.

Some companies will willingly pay you for the work you carry out on a trial shift, while most class it as a few hours of voluntary work where you get to showcase your skills.

There’s no legal requirement for businesses to pay individuals for a work trial, but the government has laid out some guidance on trial shift pay here

How long is a trial shift?

You might be hesitant to ask about getting paid for a job trial – or any of the expenses involved, such as travelling to the shift – and that’s understandable.

However, if you feel like you should be being paid for your time according to the guidance above, don’t be afraid to ask the employer. 

How long can an unpaid trial shift be?

Again, there’s no legal limit on how long an unpaid trial shift can be, but you’ll probably know if you’re being asked to do more than your fair share of unpaid work.

Generally, a company isn’t obliged to pay you for a few hours of work if it’s for the purpose of seeing your skills in action. However, if you’re asked to work the equivalent of a full shift, or even multiple days of shifts, it’s fair to expect some pay for your time – usually the national minimum wage. 

Sadly, some companies take advantage of individuals by getting them to do free work on a supposed ‘trial shift’. If you think you’re being taken for a ride, politely tell the employer that you’re not willing to work these long shifts for no money.

Is a trial shift a good sign?

A trial shift can indeed be a positive sign, and truthfully, gives you your time to shine and to clear any potential reservations your employer may have.

The whole purpose of a trial shift is to assess how well you’d fit within that company environment/culture and if the job is particularly intense, how well you’d perform under pressure.

So embrace the trial shift as a chance to show the potential employer just how good you really are!

Top tips for a great trial shift

Now onto the good stuff. Below are our ten tips for smashing your trial shift and making a brilliant impression on your supervisor, manager and other team members.

1. Do some company research.

Before starting your work trial, do some research into the company and the type of qualities you should bring to the trial shift.

If your job trial is at a well-known company, perhaps one with multiple branches, this is usually made easier with a quick Google search. However, you may still be able to glean some information on smaller, independent companies or even better, ask someone who used to / still does work there.

This will give you better knowledge of the company culture and what they expect from their employees, allowing you to really shine a spotlight on your own relevant skills. 

2. Eat breakfast

This might sound like a minor thing, but many people dismiss the power of a good breakfast before trial shifts.

Eating breakfast helps to boost your energy levels and improve your ability to concentrate – both important things when you’re starting a work trial!

It will also mean you’re not distracted by hunger during the morning, which could affect your performance and leave an inferior impression on the people you’re working with.

Eat breakfast to ensure you can show off your full capabilities to the team!

3. Dress to impress

Imagine that you already have the job – think about what you’d wear on your first day of work, then wear it to your trial shift.

Even if you think you’ll be given a uniform to change into, it’s still important to look the part when you walk through the door. 

Smart casual is usually the way to go but if you’re unsure, sending an email to the employer about the dress code doesn’t hurt. It also shows them that you’re conscientious and eager to make a great first impression!

Dress to Impress for a Trial Shift

4. Arrive early

Leave the house with plenty of time to travel to the place of work, especially if you’ve never been there before. You don’t want to be feeling stressed before your trial shift has even started! 

Arriving a bit earlier also allows you to make proper introductions with the manager or other employees before the shift, go to the toilet, change into your uniform if necessary, and perhaps give yourself a pep talk before taking to the floor.

It demonstrates that you’re organised and punctual.

5. Get friendly with the team

Introduce yourself to everyone you’ll be working with that day and be a general beam of sunshine. Show interest in the other employees by asking them questions about their role at the company and engaging in conversation when appropriate.

These people may be your future work family, so start off on the right foot by making yourself likeable and pleasant to be around. That always helps.

If the other team members like you, they’re more likely to provide positive feedback about you to the employer and vouch for you getting the job.

6. Smile!

You might be ticking all the boxes when it comes to the technicalities of the job, but this won’t matter if you look like you’d rather be anywhere else. A few smiles can make all of the difference. It conveys you as the friendly, amiable person that we’re going to assume you are, and it will help you fit in well with the rest of the team. 

If you’re completing a trial shift for a customer-facing role, a warm demeanour is pretty much essential and will certainly increase your chances of success!

7. Don't be idle

The truth is that employers are looking to get their money’s worth out of any person they hire. That means they don’t want to onboard someone who is going to stand around doing the bare minimum all day.

Use your initiative and look for things to do when there’s a lull in your day. If nothing is immediately obvious, ask another team member. This will help you come across as proactive and eager to help out.

8. Be confident!

And if you aren’t, fake it ‘til you make it!

Oozing an air of confidence makes you appear more competent and will help if your trial shift requires you to engage with customers.

Stand up tall, and speak clearly and loudly enough for people to hear you. If you encounter a problem, be cool and use your initiative or calmly ask another member of staff what the next steps should be.

However, don’t overdo it. There’s a balance between comfortable confidence and obnoxiousness. Remember, it’s your trial shift – a level of humbleness is expected.

9. Enjoy yourself

Try to enjoy your experience, even if you’re feeling nervous. Your enjoyment will shine through and help you relax into the role, improving your performance.

Exude enthusiasm and an appreciation for being there – it’ll be evident to your team members, manager and any customers.

If the job trial wasn’t meant to be this time, at least you can say you had a good time!

10. Say thank you

The power of a simple ‘thank you’ shouldn’t be underestimated.

At the end of your trial shift, thank the shift manager for taking the time to show you the ropes, as well as the team members for making you feel welcome.

Employers often ask their team what they thought of a trial shift candidate, so leaving a good taste in their mouth may work well in your favour!

If you haven’t heard from the employer by the end of the day, send them a quick ‘thank you’ email to show your appreciation for the job trial and emphasise how much you enjoyed your time working for them.

Again, this leaves a good final impression.

Finding your next big role

The guidance above should help you complete an excellent trial shift that propels you towards your next exciting role. 

If you’re currently on the hunt for a new job, take a look at some of the jobs we’re actively headhunting for. You never know, you might end up landing your dream job!

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