There is an old but true saying, “The best candidate doesn’t always get the job.” If you have ever made a bad hiring decision, don’t worry you are in good company. All leaders and managers select bad hires even if they don’t know it. The difference is, really great leaders recognize their mistake and fire faster. All hiring managers are sure to make bad hiring decisions, because they made a decision based on situational questions, content on a resume and mostly by their emotions or more notably referred to as “their gut feeling.” Selecting a bad hire is understandable; but accepting it and not doing anything about it will cost an organization greatly.
There are several beliefs and opinions on how to hire the right person or how to better identify the best candidates and they range from interviewing skills to aptitude tests, as well as situational scenarios. However, at the end of the day nothing can truly ensure success. There are, however, three things a leader can do to help ensure they have the right people on their team.
Interview before you have an opening
Build your bench. This means managers should not wait to hire until they have an opening, rather they should prepare for an opening. Many bad hiring decisions are made because of the urgent need for a person to fill an open spot and they don’t have the time to properly interview candidates to ensure the best candidate is chosen. Building the bench is also a great way to allow a leader to hold their current employees accountable to high achievement. Much like in sports where professional athletes must perform every year to keep their jobs (in some cases everyday), due to draft day coming every year and the fact that there are many players looking to get that job.
In business we should hold ourselves to the same standard. A leader owes it to the entire team to always be looking to add higher-caliber employees to their teams and employees should expect it. This is not a loyalty issue; loyalty should not be based on tenure, it should be based on contribution. Everybody wants to be a part of a winning team and leaders of great teams recruit to hire better people, not to replace those that left.
Action item: Regardless of your budget restraints, actual open head count or current success; conduct one interview per month for the rest of 2012-and let your team know you are.
Don’t hire a victim
No skill or experience can outweigh the bad effects of a victim. No matter the track record, years of experience or how well the interview went, under no circumstances should a leader who desires to build top teams and hold people accountable hire a person with ‘victim disease.’ A person with ‘victim disease’ believes it is always someone else’s fault when they fail or run into obstacles. They often believe they work harder than everybody else and that their former managers and/or co-workers did things wrong. Keep in mind, this means that most likely their future manager and/or co-worker will do everything wrong as well. This person never takes personal responsibility for failures or when they do, they have an excuse that points to something or someone else. Most importantly, a person with ‘victim disease’ rarely knows they have it.
Leaders need to ask questions during an interview or conversation to find it. There are many such questions out there, but here are a couple of them:
• “Have you ever been part of a project that failed but it wasn’t your fault?”
• “Tell me about your least favorite and then favorite supervisor.”
• “Why were they your favorite or least favorite?”
There is no one answer that will tell the hiring manager that the applicant is a victim, but the feeling and energy they give while answering the questions usually will tell the interviewer. Side note: a person with ‘victim disease’ gets passed over when they don’t get a job or promotion they wanted, but a person without victim disease understands that at that time a different person was chosen because the hiring manager felt the other person was a better fit and they are working toward becoming the right fit as well and can tell you what specifically they are working on.
Action item: Prior to interviewing, know the attributes and skills you are looking to hire and more importantly what attributes you are looking to avoid.
Fire faster: The only thing worse than a bad hire is keeping one
As stated, all leaders make bad hiring decisions. The key to not letting it destroy the success in your team is not always in the hiring, but in the firing. This does not mean to throw new hires to the wolves and see if they can survive, rather to give new hires the tools necessary to succeed and hold them accountable to the right attitude and activities. Many companies have probationary periods where the applicant can be terminated without all of red HR tape. Regardless if there is a probationary period or not, it is the leader’s job to work within the rules and laws to make sure all bad hires don’t become long-term bad employees.
What is fast? That is up to the leader and organization to decide, but some would say that 30 days is pretty fast. Once a leader indentifies that a new employee is not doing the right activities or does not have the right attitude, they need to address it with the employee immediately. Be sure to ask the employee their perspective and give clear expectations as to what it will take in the near future to remain in the organization. Remember a bad hire does not mean they are bad people, sometimes it just means they are not a right fit for the position or organization. Doing the right thing is rarely easy but always right, for all parties.
Action item: Spend time with new employees and pay attention to their activities, attitude, and results and take the necessary action.
Not every hire is the right hire and not every job is the right job, but accepting a bad decision is wrong-for everyone involved. A leader does a disservice to the team, the organization, and the “bad hire” by not taking immediate action.