Everyone knows the steep costs associated with a bad hire: slower productivity, extra training expenses, hit to company morale, and the list goes on (and on). But if you're the one who was responsible for that bad hire, or if you advocated for that person in the hiring stages, then this can be an especially tough pill to swallow. How did this person fool the organization, but more to the point, how did they fool you?
Well, don't despair. Bad apples, though unfortunate, sometimes slip through the hiring process. While it's not the ideal outcome, it becomes a teachable moment, allowing you and your team to learn some valuable lessons moving forward. Use this experience to your advantage and reflect on the following ideas the next time you find yourself with a poor hire:
Did the individual's pre-employment assessments match up with the job?
We strongly advocate for the use of pre-employment assessments to both screen out and match up employees with the best-fitting positions. But an assessment is only useful if it's related to the job at hand. Think of the competencies that your bad hire is, well, bad at. Were those competencies tested in the pre-hire stage? If so, how did your bad hire score? Were you willing to overlook some lower scores because you liked other factors of his or her application? This can be a valuable reminder to trust in your assessment results.
If you discover that the poor hire is weak in areas that aren't even tested in the assessment, use this as motivation to either update the assessment being used or to potentially tweak the scoring profile. Of course, you'll want to collect more evidence than just one bad hire before you reinvent your assessment process, but it's an excellent time to start keeping track of those anomalies and pinpoint any patterns. After all, jobs evolve, and it's possible that you'll want to add in some new competency areas over time.
What did the team think?
Looking back on the hiring process, were there warning signs that this superstar would turn into a super dud? When the prospective employee met the team, what was the vibe? Did anyone have any trepidations? Does your team have the internal rapport to be comfortable voicing these types of concerns? If not, consider setting up an online anonymous feedback poll during your hiring rounds. This could give your employees the safe chance to voice concerns so that future bad applicants don't turn into bad hires.
Research shows that referrals are typically the best source for finding qualified new hires. This is because your team knows what it takes to do that job, and wouldn't be willing to risk their reputation on a risky recommendation. All vacancies cannot be filled this way, but your team members can use this general skill throughout the hiring process.
How can you, specifically, mitigate the fallout?
So, the damage is done. Rather than focus on the negative or wallow in your frustrations, take action! Use this bad hire as a way to improve on your leadership, delegation, and interpersonal skills. If you're stuck with them anyway, then be willing and motivated to mitigate the damage. Pinpoint a specific behavior or competency that the new employee is struggling with: whether it be time management, interpersonal skills, or lack of initiative - make it your mission to help them improve. You can make that bad hire a better hire, and you might even strengthen your own skillset at the same time. At the very least, this is an excellent exercise in patience, growth, and accepting responsibility.
No one wants a bad hire. But if you get one, use the experience to your advantage. You and your team could even emerge stronger as a result.
But even better, what are some steps you can take to avoid making that bad hire in the first place?