Tired of gut hires and gut-wrenching fires? Require prospective field employees to “try out” for the job through a day, week, or month of paid work, followed by your decision (as owner, production manager, or foreman) as to whether to offer them the permanent position.

“It’s OK to say, ‘I’m going to pay you for the day,’” says Scott Simmonds, an insurance consultant whose clients include construction companies. Especially in the trades, he says, a résumé or interview can be misleading. “The whole thing becomes immaterial if they can’t use a saw to cut a straight line” — or show up on time, get along with co-workers, or act respectfully in people’s homes.

Simmonds’ philosophy is a variation on the “hire slow, fire fast” theme, and resonates in the slower economy. “Think of the costs of hiring an employee,” he says, including the possible impact on your safety record and insurance rates. Some of his clients have seen their workers’ comp rates drop considerably after adopting the try-out policy.

Be above-board with the audition approach, of course; clear it with your lawyer or accountant, and have the worker complete a W-2 form. But otherwise, think outside the hiring box, Simmonds says. “You don’t have to hire people the way you did 10 years ago.”