Fixing a Bad Hire

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No one intentionally hires someone who can’t do the job or who just doesn’t mesh with the team. And yet it happens more often than we like to admit.  In fact,one survey found that 8 of ten companies had made a bad hire, with 22% of respondents admitting they'd made a bad hire that cost the organization over $50,000.

Photo by tishamp, Flickr

What can you do when the candidate with the amazing resume, who aced every interview and raised no red-flags during reference checks, turns out to be a non-starter on the job?

Well, first you have to find out about it.

Stay on Top of Onboarding

With the amount of time and energy it takes to source, interview and select the best candidates, it’s surprising how often actions and reactions are not monitored during the onboarding process.  Of course that may be hard to do if onboarding in your organization consists of filling out the payroll paperwork and handing the new hire a binder.  Effective onboarding may include everything from orientation sessions to completing a series online training modules to shadowing a colleague or supervisor for the first few weeks. Whatever your onboarding process, make sure that opportunities for observing and tracking the new hire’s actions and reactions are part of it.  

Watch for Telltale Signs

When we believe we’ve found and hired the right person, it’s not uncommon to immediately refocus on the next challenge with a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, that means we might miss the early signs of a bad hire. Here are just a few indicators that something could be amiss:

The new hire…

  • avoids or fails training assigned as part of the onboarding process.
  • does not complete (or botches) tasks assigned as part of the onboarding process.
  • demonstrates a significant change in appearance, conduct and/or attitude from what was demonstrated during interviews.
  • complains frequently about the job, the company, co-workers, etc.
  • makes unreasonable or inappropriate demands.
  • doesn’t seem able to manage the fundamentals of the job without help even after training and supervised practice.
  • produces poor quality work.
  • regularly misses deadlines.
  • comes into conflict with colleagues when required to interact.
  • triggers an increase in customer complaints.
  • repeatedly disregards company policies regarding start times, lunch breaks, etc.

If you think you may have a bad hire on your hands, you owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper. If possible, you want to determine why this person is failing. First, ask yourself some hard questions:

  1. Is it truly a bad hire, or did we drop the ball somehow?
  2. Are the skills we advertised and interviewed for the actual skills required to succeed in this position?
  3. Have we provided the necessary support and training to the new hire or did we drop them in at the deep end without a life vest?
  4. Did the new hire step into an unexpected culture clash?  
  5. Did our onboarding process exclude information about the “unwritten rules?”
  6. Have all instructions given to the new hire been clear and understood?
  7. Is there anything we did or didn’t do that might have set the new hire up for failure?

Once you’ve vetted your own process and are confident that the problem does not stem from poor hiring, ineffective guidance or a flawed onboarding process, here are a few more questions to consider:

  1. Does the new hire lack essential skills listed on the resume? If so, was there clear deception involved or is it just a matter of degree?
  2. Are you able (or willing) to provide additional training to address unexpected skills gaps?
  3. If you know the skills are present (i.e. you tested for them), is the new hire just not trying?
  4. Has a personal crisis come up that’s distracting the new hire?
  5. If the new hire lacks motivation or focus, is there anything you can do (or are willing to do) to change it?

Only you can decide when and where to draw the line on a bad hire.  It’s important to remember that the cost of replacing a bad hire is seldom as high as the cost of keeping one. In a Robert Half survey [1] of 270 CFOs, the single greatest cost of a poor hiring decision was identified (by 41% of respondents) as lower staff morale, followed by lost productivity (34%).  So, once you determine you’ve made a bad hire, move quickly to resolve identified concerns or help your bad hire move on to a better fit elsewhere. Don't let one bad hire damage the whole bunch. 


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[1] Survey developed by Robert Half, an international specialized staffing firm, and conducted by an independent research firm.  

Contingent Workers Pros and Cons - Part 2

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In our earlier post, Contingent Workers Pros and Cons - Part 1, we looked at the advantages a growing and increasingly qualified contingent workforce offers to employers. As a continuation of that discussion, today we consider some of the challenges associated with hiring more temporary, part-time and contract employees. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Disadvantages of Contingent Workers Reduced control: Employers have less control over contingent workers, especially independent contractors who are self-managed. They can accept or refuse work and typically set their own hours, so the employer has only the power of the paycheck in these relationships. The control of temporary …

Contingent Workforce Pros and Cons - Part 1

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The contingent workforce is made up of temporary workers, part-timers, interns, consultants, contractors and outsourced workers. And make no mistake, it’s growing. Photo by Michael Coghlan, Flickr According to the 2014 Global Analysis of the Contingent Workforce Index (CWI), “the United States and Canada stand out for having substantially large contingent workforces for the region [the Americas], at more than nine million people and 2.5 million people respectively…” Some estimates expect the growth to continue and predict as many as 64.9 million in the contingent workforce in the United States by 2020.[1] What does this trend mean for your …

Fighting the “Mommy Dead End”

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One of the toughest challenges to overcome when looking for work is the dreaded resume gap. A month or two, here and there among a lifetime of jobs is not uncommon and shouldn’t have a significant impact on job prospects—as long as it doesn’t represent a pattern of quitting (or being fired!). But longer gaps tend to awaken the skeptic in recruiters and employers. While a lengthy gap in employment can happen for a variety of reasons, one of the most common for women (though slowly becoming more common for men) is time out …

The Surprising Thing About Accommodation

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In the United States, for all age groups, the employment-population ratio for persons with a disability is less than half that of those with no disability.[1] U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flickr Employers often hesitate to hire disabled individuals and can be challenged by the need to accommodate employees who develop a disability while employed. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any employer with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment that enables a person with a disability …

7 Tips for Hiring Top Design Talent

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This posted orginally appeared on the LightCMS blog on Wed, September 10, 2014 Hiring is possibly the biggest growth opportunity for any web design company. The smaller the firm, the more each new person can contribute in terms of skill, contacts, professional image and team motivation. Of course, hiring a new person represents both potential income, possible risk and certain cost. If you want to make more money, you need to have more manpower to handle a greater amount of work. The catch, of course, is that hiring people also takes extra time, so small, busy firms tend to put …

The New Recruiter

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In our efforts to continually improve our hiring processes, we’re envisioning a new kind of recruiter: the Recruiting Marketer (RM). This isn't  someone who recruits marketers or markets to recruiters, but rather a person who recruits new talent using the tools and strategies typically considered the stuff of marketers. Recruiting, Wikimedia Commons Creating an Employer Brand As one of the earliest advocates of Social HR, we’ve always seen recruiting as marketing and recognized social networks as powerful recruiting tools. Employer branding has also been integral to our recruiting activities and success. As we move …

Did That Job Posting Say Salesman?

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We’ve recently shared a number of articles on achieving workplace diversity, our efforts to improve gender balance and some thoughts on pay equity, regardless of gender. The other day I came across a job posting that clearly demonstrates just how far short of ideal the current environment is. Here is a screen shot of the job posting in question. I’m ashamed to say that the company who posted it is in our own backyard. Right there, in the first paragraph, two sentences hit me in the face: “Have you never met a better salesman than …

The Case for Continuous Recruitment

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I’m always surprised by the intermittent way most companies recruit. Even those with designated internal recruiters seldom look for potential candidates except when they have an existing vacancy to fill or a hiring requisition in hand. Public Domain, Flikr And what’s wrong with that? Let’s consider it from the perspective of sales. Most sales people have an annual objective or sales quota to meet. Let’s say, for example, that you have a sales quota of $100,000 this year and $150,000 next year. In your planning process for the coming year, you might equate that …

Hiring Without Bias is Harder Than You Think

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In our recent series on Achieving Workplace Diversity, we examined how recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers can build certain practices into their process to support sourcing a more diverse mix of qualified candidates and ultimately reflecting greater diversity in their hiring. One of the challenges we didn’t address in the series is the impact of unconscious bias. Photo by Piutus, Flickr At each stage of the hiring process, a candidate (or a candidate’s resume) is subject to the filters and perceptions of those responsible for deciding who moves forward and who does not. Regardless of all …

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