Don’t Let Them Make Bad Hires

As an organization that’s handled hundreds of HR situations for small businesses over the years, we’ve seen our fair share of hirings, firings, and everything between. Often, businesses reach out to us for help when they’ve just been through or are about to face a challenging employee termination.

In our experience, the best way to avoid having to fire employees is to focus your energy on hiring the right ones. To do this successfully, you’ll need to get leadership and management invested in improving your hiring process.

This process may take some educating and convincing, so here are three strategies we’ve found to be helpful.

1. Raise awareness about the impact to the bottom line

If you can find the data points within your own organization to prove your case, more power to you. If you can’t, that’s OK, too. Various studies have quantified the cost of a bad hiring decision can range from $12,500 to more than $50,000. Those numbers are significant, but they don’t tell the whole story.

A bad hire can negatively affect the rest of a team’s productivity and morale. These may seem like relatively small effects, but over time they add up to a less engaged and less productive workforce.

An important point to keep in mind is that you can’t just remove a bad hire from a team and expect it to “return to normal.” First, there’s the question of following necessary disciplinary and termination procedures. But it’s also important to acknowledge that the bad hire may have altered the dynamics of the team or introduced and spread bad work habits. In many cases, managers have to work with the remaining team to get back to “normal” before they’re able to replace the problematic employee.

2. Remind leaders that ‘Haste makes waste’

Managers and executives typically want hiring done fast. They may put pressure on recruiting staff to get a position filled ASAP when the recruiter would prefer to move more slowly, check more references, and find the right fit.

∼∼∼∼∼
 But too slow a process can cost you top candidates.
See “Why You Need to Make Hiring a One-Day Affair.”
∼∼∼∼∼

The tricky but essential work HR professionals must do here is to push back against unreasonable demands. That can start with highlighting the costs of a bad hire. Other key points to emphasize:

  • High-level candidates are busy — While new college grads may have all the time in the world to interview, higher-level candidates are likely working around an existing full-time schedule. Being patient can pay off when they bring their experience to your company.
  • Sample projects take time — Sample projects are a great way to get a feel for how a candidate tackles challenges and solves problems, which is invaluable in recruiting. But they also slow down the hiring process. Help leadership understand the value of real-world work examples as a way to gauge a candidate’s capabilities, communication style, and interest in the opportunity.
  • “Good enough” may not be good enough — Managers may be eager to get someone (anyone!) onboard to tackle a new project. But settling for a candidate who’s “good enough” – who checks the boxes, but doesn’t wow you – could mean trouble down the road. As with dating and marriage, something that’s mildly off-putting in the early stages will be infinitely amplified once you’re committed to this person.

3. Highlight the potential damage to your company’s reputation

Lowered morale in the office is one thing. A bad hire in a customer-facing role is another. If your leadership is skeptical about the impact a hit to morale could have, remind them that employees who deal with clients and customers could cause serious reputational damage to the entire business. In the age of online reviews and social media rants, a single bad encounter could cause noticeable financial damage.

Article Continues Below

Keep in mind that customer-facing roles aren’t just in sales and the call center. Anyone working on your website or social media has the potential to impact the way your potential and current customers engage with and perceive your brand.

Guide leaders toward investments that prevent bad hires

As we mentioned earlier, it may take some doing to convince your leadership to invest time and resources in revamping your hiring and interviewing process – but it’s well worth your effort. Here are some strategies that we’ve found can help get you where you want to be:

  • Identify top employees and the qualities that make them great (e.g., skill level, motivation, cultural fit, engagement). Screen for these traits when filling empty positions.
  • Include more stakeholders in the interview process. Managers don’t always have a detailed understanding of a position’s day-to-day responsibilities, but peers might, making them better suited to determining whether a candidate is a fit.
  • Survey current employees. Ask them which traits they think are most important to succeed at your company. The boots-on-the-ground perspective is often different from the view from the C-suite.

Obviously, none of these things can transform overnight. But if you lead the charge, they can help bring positive, sustainable change to the whole business.

Bob Cerone is the founder and CEO of Cognos HR, a Chicago-based PEO and HR consulting firm that specializes in serving small and midsize businesses. He is an active mentor for leaders of early-stage companies and the Midwest Leadership Chair for the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO).

Topics