How to avoid being let down by a ‘bad’ hire

 In Thought Leadership

There are moments when the truth dawns on you. Yes, you’ve made a truly bad hire.  And now you feel let-down, disappointed and, possibly, a bit worried. I’ve seen this time and time again with business owners, friends and colleagues and I haven’t been immune to it personally!

Immediately you look for ways out. Ways to broker a separation without hurting feelings or legal fees.

This article isn’t going to tell you what to do when that moment comes because it will inevitably be messy and complicated. But where I hope I can help is in ensuring you don’t do it again.

Getting ahead of poor hiring decisions

Let’s take a client, a colleague, and a friend. As always, I will avoid giving any incriminating details!

Dawn, who runs a service business in New York said:

“I interviewed this guy to become a senior Sales Executive. He was brilliant at the interview. He sold himself to me so effectively that I couldn’t wait to unleash him on our sales pipeline. But as weeks became months, it was clear that although he could engage with people who approached him (our inbound sales), he was incapable of being proactive with our outbound sales. That was why I’d hired him.  Anyone can answer the phone. I wanted him to be doing the dialing.”

Freddie, who runs a wholesale company in Pennsylvania said:

“I needed an HR manager. Someone who could create a human platform for our brand. Someone who could take away the day-to-day stresses of managing a growing team. I hired someone who had all the credentials and who had managed a sizable team in a bigger business. But all that’s changed is that she now comes to me with issues rather than speaking to the team directly. Work should have become easier but it’s actually harder.”

Pratique, who runs a tech business in LA said:

“I was dazzled by a candidate for our client management position.  She had worked in bigger businesses than mine and appeared to be a master ofWe're ready to hire a new employee! technology, people and ideas.  But within weeks of her starting, I was aware of the gaps.  Careless errors.  An inability to learn to do things ‘our’ way.  I quickly became irritated and found myself avoiding her in the office and relieved when she started to work from home.”

None of these situations are unusual.  I’d be amazed if you hadn’t felt something similar to at least one of them.  And there are two points to note that may surprise you, even if you are still kicking yourself for the mess they made:

  1.       The vast majority of the most successful owner managers have done something very similar, and it comes down to poor management and / or an ineffective hiring process
  2.       As hard as it is to believe, it’s probably not your colleague’s fault

The truth is that very few people try to bluff themselves into a role. It may feel that way now but someone who is that strong at interviewing and whose resume was so compelling, is likely to be worth hiring.

Recruitment is a difficult process

The issue is many of us find the intense recruitment process a difficult one. We typically hire to fill a hole. To reduce our stress levels and to share the burden. And so, when someone appears to fit the bill, we can become a little too keen.

We might find ourselves asking leading questions: “I take it you are good at picking up the phone?” rather than asking objective based questions: “Please give me some examples of when you made some proactive sales calls”.

We can interpret answers to suit our needs: “I’m happy working with a CRM system” doesn’t actually mean that I have a flawless record when it comes to entering information into a CRM and I am a certified user of XYZ system. 

A little like lonely singletons on a first date, we begin to build the person sitting opposite us into the person we want them to be and this is VERY dangerous.

Hire with the end in mind

So, we need to recruit better. By starting with the end in mind, understanding what we need by working backwards and ultimately asking better questions in order to recruit the best person to fill that role…even if it takes longer. This is definitely the case of “short term pain for long term gain”.

But we shouldn’t stop at the recruitment stage. One of my biggest breakthroughs as a manager was when I read The E-Myth Revisited (see Takeaway below).  As a result, I asked every member of the team to sign a ‘Position Statement’. Please note – this isn’t a job description nor part of their legal contract. It’s an agreement about:

  1. the role they are taking on
  2. how this role is connected to the ultimate vision of the business (the Why)
  3. the activities they are taking responsibility for (the What)
  4. the standards set for work carried out in that role (the How)
  5. who they report to
  6. who they manage
  7. what success looks like
  8. how that success will be measured 

The Position Statement doesn’t remain static during the life of the employee either. If the employee is promoted or the role is modified a new Position Statement is agreed to.   And there are different statements for those in managerial roles.

For the salesperson example, it breaks down their time between speaking to existing clients and getting out on the road. It specifies the number of new deals that will constitute success. It ensures that your new colleague is entirely aligned with your expectations for the role from the start.

And don’t leave it too late. The time to share this document is at an interview. It’s more than a job description, it’s a statement of intent. It avoids blind faith and mismatched expectations.

It means that you have a clear recruitment process that overrides your (understandable) excitement and subjectivity on meeting someone who you like and want to hire,

Most importantly, it works. Some members of the team will surprise you in the right way. This process will, hopefully, ensure that you avoid the opposite!

Lorne Asks:

Have you read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It? There are some fascinating insights into recruitment and how to put in place processes to maximize your chances of making a great hire.

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