To get an edge in the hunt for talent, many employers are using short-term contracts to evaluate job candidates before committing to hiring them full-time, a new survey finds.

Among the 600 finance and HR managers recently surveyed by Accountemps, 38 percent said they liked to bring in candidates on a temporary basis before making a hiring decision. Another 38 percent said an interview was the best way to judge an applicant, while only six percent said they relied on a resume or cover letter, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm reported.

Seventeen percent of respondents also stressed the importance of checking out an applicant's references.

"In today's economic environment, employers are taking extra measures to minimize the risk of making bad hiring decisions," Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said in a statement.

Messmer added that temporary and project assignments allow employers to better gauge a candidate's skills.