Making a bad hire is an expensive decision. Often we’re under pressure to hire that candidate even though they’re definitely not the best choice. Sometimes the best choices never come along.

No one is surprised when a rushed hire doesn’t work out weeks/months later. Not only that, a bad hire does far more damage than one thinks. Mis-hires cost the business far more than just salary. Projects get delayed and management time and effort is wasted to try to rescue the situation. A bad hire also saps team morale.

When you are using a recruiter in the process, there is performance pressure, they have a KPI that focuses on getting ‘bums into seats’ – if they are external, that’s how they get paid. If they’re internal that is often how they are measured in terms of success in the role.

If you’re doing the hiring as a manager you’re under pressure to fill the position before it gets forfeited. It’s all a bit of a vicious cycle.

In an outgoing position, I have often helped my employer in finding a replacement candidate. This used to be commonplace. Today perhaps not so much. The idea with the incumbent finding his or her own replacement is that they are one of the best points of reference on what the job entails. Most of my replacement hires have been good but one, in particular, proved to be a disaster for y former employer. So much so that I had to step in in a consulting role to rescue the situation. This is far from ideal.

I am not sure what the whole story was, but the individual concerned had all the makings of a superb replacement, he simply seemed to be a little erratic. This may have been attributable to some mental condition or substance abuse. It is also possible he was simply overwhelmed by the work as a whole.

Heading off missteps

My experience is that when you deal with prospective candidates you need to be open and upfront. You need to describe the factors that might help to establish a good “fit.”

The job descriptions should be honest and informative and yet still allow suitable candidates to get excited. The wrong candidates will hopefully self-select out of the process.

Beyond the job description, also aim to be as honest as possible about the company culture, the anticipated compensation, the expected hours of work, the primary job location, the overall goals and expectations of the job and the progressive levels of the screening process. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that end up surprising you, such as a candidate’s desire to bring their dog into work, or complaints about a new, longer commute. Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward – they’re unhappy about compensation and accepted an offer without fully understanding what it means. Each candidate’s story and motivations are unique, so make sure you’re creating the rapport and open lines of communication that will allow you to ask you exploratory questions that reveal the keys to candidate’s motivation alignment.

Sometimes, the smallest things end up a surprise. Often candidate screening and selection is pretty straightforward. When hiring for more complex or sophisticated positions, bear in mind that the brand of the company that you represent as a manager may not be as important to the candidate as you think.  Just because your company is a household brand, don’t assume that is sufficient to encourage a candidate to jump ship from where he is right now.

If you have experience with mis-hires or disaster hires then let me know I would be interested to hear how that worked out.


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Categories: CareerPersonality

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