One of the costliest mistakes one can make in business is to hire the wrong person for a specific job. Most people will nod their head in agreement with this, and yet even though it’s “common knowledge”, this mistake happens a lot, even with seasoned leaders doing the hiring!
Let’s look at a few reasons why this happens, and what costs this represents to you and your organization. I’ll then offer up a few of my favorite hiring guidelines, so hopefully this mistake doesn’t happen on your watch – at least not often.
Here are a few common causes for hiring the wrong person:
- You or your organization are hungry (or downright anxious) to fill that job opening, so you don’t dig deeply enough into a candidate’s personal or career motivators, or their manner of getting work done. Later, when it’s discovered there isn’t quite a fit and they ultimately quit or are let go, you realize which questions you forgot to ask during the interviewing process, or what you either assumed or overlooked!
- Sometimes, you might ask all the right questions, but you or one of the decisionmakers go into some form of rationalization about one or more of the “not what I wanted to hear” answers that the candidate gives. It’s possible that you’ll even sense that all is NOT QUITE WELL with the candidate’s fit, but you minimize your awareness in order to go ahead and fill the position. Metaphorically, you put on Rose-Colored Glasses either because you really like the candidate, or because there’s a lack of other prime candidates on the horizon.
- Similarly, there’s the “warm body syndrome”. That’s when there’s pressure to get a position filled and you know somebody who could do certain parts of the job. Rather than comparing the person closely with the full position profile, you offer them the job and skip out on screening other candidates. Later, you notice that you’re having to reshape the job to fit that ‘warm body’ employee, because the person doesn’t possess various characteristics that the actual role requires. You realize you’re only getting mediocre results, not the excellence you’d hoped for.
What are the costs to you or your business from hiring the wrong person?
Direct financial impact: Think of all the costs involved in the on-boarding period, such as:
- Company Orientation costs (typically several employees’ wages plus materials costs)
- Time and expenses setting up benefits, email accounts, business cards, equipment and software, making introductions into project assignments with clients and co-workers; general coaching and on-boarding activities
- The “wrong person’s” wages and benefits during their short-lived tenure
- Lost Opportunity Time – It’s often said that it takes about six months for a person to start really performing in a new position. Why so long? Even with strong expertise, an individual is still learning the company culture, the key players, and how things are done in your organization. During that ramp up time, (even if it’s shorter than six months), the organization invests in coaching the person as they learn the ropes. If you’d hired the right person, by six months in you’d be recouping your investment. When someone doesn’t work out, you’ve lost team members’ time investment, since the recruiting process begins all over again. The lost opportunity costs include both employees’ time and the lack of business results which could otherwise have been achieved if you’d hired (and kept) the right person.
- What else could you (or your colleagues) have been doing with that time, had the right person come on-board initially?
- What business results could that person have achieved if they’d worked out?
Loss of momentum and co-worker morale – when the wrong person inevitably goes away, the projects they were working on typically stall or take a step backwards. Other team members may feel discouraged and deflated, and become frustrated or impatient.
Lost knowledge when the person leaves – often people leave suddenly when it’s not working out. They take that knowledge with them regarding the projects and the people part of their assignments. Transitioning all their insight is often sketchy at best.
Loss of esteem with clients or co-workers – as an employer, it can reflect poorly on you when people leave either on their own – for rosier opportunities – or because you made a poor decision and had to let them go.
You might have to invest a chunk of time in performance management, covering your bases if you’re letting the person go. It’s no secret that these types of legal or contractual matters can get squirrely — even downright ugly. Then you really have a project on your hands, and substantial business costs too!
A few guidelines:
One of my favorite sayings in business is: Go slow so you can go fast. Here that means analyze thoroughly anything as important and time-consuming as hiring a new team member! Take your time rather than rushing and making a costly mistake. A few things to be sure of:
- Write up a full job profile if one doesn’t already exist. Be sure to include not only what experience and expertise the person needs to have (which is the Job Description), but also, how the job is best executed. How will the person need to operate in your environment to be successful? How much autonomy, and how much control or decision-making power will they have? How would you describe the required communication and conflict skills, and how important are those types of characteristics in the role?
- Write up a full list of questions that should be answered during the screening and recruiting process to prepare for number 1 above.
- Have one or more “neutral parties” involved in the recruitment process to flesh out possible concerns. If you have rose-colored glasses on, you want someone else on the team who doesn’t!
- Beware of hiring the first person who walks in the door because you’re anxious to fill the slot.
- Make a list of what pops up as red or even pink flags with your candidates. Write them down and discuss with others, weighing their full importance to avoid rationalizing.
- If the candidate you prefer keeps waffling or being vague, consider that a pink or red flag!
- Sleep on it before you make a final decision. Listen to your intuition!
- If you do realize the person is not going to work out, determine how to cut your losses early to minimize Lost Opportunity Costs.
Remember, even experienced leaders make hiring mistakes from time to time. Hopefully by keeping the above reminders handy, you’ll be on the road to making the best hiring decisions every time!
©2018 Marie Moran