The Effects of a Bad Hiring Decision

In today’s fast-paced world, recruiting decisions need to be made at lightning speed, meaning that bad hires can happen if you’re not careful. Hiring is more than just making the headcount numbers; it’s the weakest point of productivity. Making the wrong decision can cause a host of knock on negative effects, including increased turnover, lost productivity, brand damage and risk of legal woes.

The good news

The good news is that these issues can be mitigated. But how does a bad hire happen in the first place and, most importantly, how can such an error be avoided?

Anatomy of a bad hire

A bad hire normally ends up looking something like this:

A position is open. There’s pressure to get it filled sooner than later. Candidates that may not be a fit (skill, culture, etc.) are presented to show the recruiter is working on the position. The manager agrees to start interviewing to get things moving. A candidate surfaces, and even though something is amiss (experience, background, maturity, team fit, etc.) or the background check doesn’t unearth a problem in time, the decision is made to hire someone less than ideal in order to get a warm body in the seat.  

Almost instantly, the mistake is evident. The bad hire creates friction and conflicts, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Their skills could be insufficient, meaning the role is technically unfilled regardless of the headcount sitting in the chair. The team suffers from picking up the unfinished work; the manager spends all their time trying to coach the individual or work around them. Productivity suffers and morale declines. Turnover begins and if the bad hire isn’t displaced appropriately, the company is wide open for wrongful dismissal and a host of other lawsuits.

A bad hiring decision raises questions about the decision-making abilities of all involved. Not only are you faced with a major issue and more positions to fill, you might find yourself looking for a new job.

Sound familiar? There are considerable statistics that support that bad hires are destructive, and the collateral damage suffered as a result of thoughtless hiring is even more worrisome. In a recent Robert Half survey, 39% of CFO’s said the single biggest impact of a poor hiring decision is lower staff morale, followed by lower productivity.

So, how do you deal with a bad hire?

First order of business is to rectify the situation by termination. Prolonging the decision only makes it worse. However, this doesn’t mean the decision isn’t thought through and all potential risks and issues are discussed and explored swiftly. Bringing legal counsel in on your choice is wise, but don’t delay in making the tough choice. It won’t get better and by the time things get worse they could be extremely damaging. Make sure you have the data to support your decision, don’t sugarcoat the message: make it succinct, factual and legally approved. How the employee feels the situation is handled will play a big part in the actions that follow. It is in your hands to minimize your legal exposure as much as possible.

Moving forward, respect your hiring process and efforts for due diligence, no matter how painful they may be in the interim. Always do your research and vet your candidate thoroughly. Find the right person, not just someone who could potential be ok.

Also, use your data. Gather information around your hiring process, get qualitative and quantitative data and view everything objectively. Look for weak spots, identify strengths and make adjustments where necessary. It’s best to know where you’ve made mistakes (or are about to make them) so the situation doesn’t repeat itself.

Don’t underestimate the importance of cultural fit and the assessments of the individuals who will interact with the hire. The more people that meet with the candidate, the higher the likelihood that you’ll find the person who everyone agrees is the right fit. Consensus is key.

Above all, be consistent and don’t cut corners, in the hiring process. Be clear on roles and expectations and work a well-designed process: take references, assess capabilities, run background checks, do your reference checks and take the time to do it right the first time… and every subsequent time after that.

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