What defines a good vs. bad hire?
While the title of this article might sound a little funny, every leader who’s built teams has had this experience and paid the price for it. Many of us have also had the experience of joining the wrong company or team. These situations are painful at best and many times can be avoided with a little extra work up front.
Let’s start with a definition of a bad hiring decision. We’ll simply define this as anything that leads to hiring someone that at BEST is no longer with the company or should not be with the company 3 months later due to a perceived bad match by the employee and/or employer. The “at worst” scenarios can significantly increase in pain for both parties.
We also have to identify some of the reasons why leaders make bad hires. Things like inexperience, rushing/poor planning, emergencies, fear, insecurity, ego, and especially lack of communication all can all cause a leader to make bad hiring decisions.
What things do leaders typically do wrong?
From the Employers side, why do bad hires happen? After hiring well over 2000 people and performing tens of thousands of exit interviews with companies and leaders looking for replacement hires and with candidates looking for new positions I’ve noticed several themes that can provide valuable insights into bad hiring practices. So, without further delay, here are several methods to increase your probability of making bad hires.
1. Not getting advice or making a decision alone
Leaders often feel alone and can be afraid of or not take the time to get the information from their team, customers, bosses, peers, etc. to ensure that they are making a good decision. Don’t seek out their valuable input if you want to not only potentially make a bad decision but also frustrate those you value.
2. Thinking short term need vs. long term need or being purely reactive
This is crucial to making bad hiring decisions. Whatever you do, don’t think about how a hire will affect your team or business long term. Purely going with your gut or discussing with your team and leaders can add significantly to ensuring a bad hire.
3. Not clearly defining the roles expectations and importance
This one can also add significant value in running towards making a bad hire. Investing the time up front to make sure you define, understand, and communicate what is needed for a role and what skills are important to the team, company, and for accomplishing missions and goals will aid in attracting the right people for your team and help your team and new employee have a positive integration and onboarding. Do not do this if you want to make a bad hire.
4. Trying to find candidates with the perfect skill set
We’ve had to have lots of difficult conversations with hiring managers that are laser focused on finding the perfect skill set for a position with no consideration for traits like good character, ethics, aptitude, intelligence, work ethic, teamwork, etc. Not focusing on the whole picture of a potential employee can only add to making a bad decision.
5. Having a poor hiring process
Not ensuring your hiring process is streamlined, effective, and appealing will typically lead the right candidates that you want to hire to consider other opportunities where they take their hiring process seriously. Inversely, it will allow candidates that are not in a spot to make great career decisions to flow through the process and get hired.
6. Not having interviewers aligned and communicating.
We see many companies that have a process where multiple people interview a potential hire and are not aligned or communicating on what the job’s responsibilities will be or what is actually needed for the position. Additionally those interviewing candidates are not communicating on why this position is important to them and the company. This leads to assumptions, conflicting goals and priorities, poor communication with candidates and ultimately a potential bad hire. To be clear, this bad hire is not the fault of the candidate, it’s the fault of the company, team, and ultimately the leader.
7. Paying too little
Setting a budget for a position based on what you want to pay for something vs the market rates for the skillset can cause a lot of pain in the hiring process as well as a potential bad hire that may appear to or say they can handle the position but are not at the level or ability required. Think of it this way. If you want to go to the store and buy a gallon of milk that costs $3.50, you will have a bad experience if you get to the register and expect to pay $2. The cashier will also have a bad experience. Setting realistic expectations on the comp range AND experience level needed for the position leads to a much better experience and potential result for both candidates and hiring managers. Don’t do this if you want to make a bad hire.
8. Over or under hiring
Not investing time with your leadership and team to establish the appropriate range of experience and abilities for a position can lead to a rough hiring experience for all involved. Trying to find the candidates that are beyond the level of experience needed and selling them on how they are going to grow at best leads to a mismatch on expectations. Trying to hire a candidate that is lacking significant experience and abilities to be successful in the position also leads down that path. The leaders and companies that focus on finding candidates that may not have the exact skill set but have the aptitude, drive, abilities, and training/experience and that are solutions minded tend to be better hires than those that know everything or have had all of the experience but lack the ability to look at things with fresh eyes and ask questions to make sure they are pointing in the right direction. The ones that have these positive traits tend to also stay with companies longer and experience higher job and company satisfaction as they are growing personally and professionally.
So how can you fix this?
GOOD NEWS!!! A lot of these things can be fixed with a much lower pain point than making bad hiring decisions. One of the biggest things you can do to help solve this is be intentional about having an environment that encourages and rewards great communication, especially when things are hard. I strongly recommend every leader read the book “Fierce Conversations”. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE!!!!
Don’t be afraid of asking a question or trying to understand something better. Don’t make assumptions on what someone else needs or what their pain point is. TALK WITH THEM. It’ll pay off. Another thing you can do is make sure you have a peer group within and outside of your organization that you intentionally meet with regularly. Both internal and external optics have significant value. The next thing is to have at least one well qualified mentor that can help make sure that you are growing as a leader and servant to your teams. The last thing I can say will add value is to make sure you take the time up front to gather the information on the business need, how to communicate it effectively internally and with potential candidates, and include why you and your team love working not only for the company but as a TEAM.
Who someone is working with is often times even more important to them than what company they are working for.
Josh McAfee is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Humans Doing. With over 26 years of recruiting and team-building experience, Josh has worked with startups, SMBs, and large companies to determine hiring needs, develop our recruiting strategies and processes, and connect top talent to fuel growth. In 2021, he became a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author with his book Measure Up: Mastering Your Career Search Like a Boss.
Humans Doing is an expert team of highly skilled recruiters specializing in filling critical tech and leadership positions for growing companies. Our greatest measure of success is the success of our clients and the candidates we place with them. We help people make great hiring and career decisions. Our team is ready to partner with you to find the right people for the right roles.