I hired the wrong person. 5 ways to ensure you don’t. 

See if you can relate to this story of a bad hire. I offer 5 ways to ensure you don’t make the same mistake I did.

The interview was set-up by Bob, the manager of the facility. As the district manager, I usually allow the manager to go through the resumes and pick out the ones he likes, then we do team interviews. Sometimes a manager from a sister facility joins us. This particular interview was with a worker who was well known by all of us, as he currently worked in our system as a subcontractor. Let’s call him Steve.
Steve, by all accounts was not a model employee. Bob knew it, I knew it and Steve sure enough knew it. He had been in trouble a few times, gotten caught taking extra long breaks and was deemed immature. He was young, around 21 or so, but old enough to know better. Despite all this, he was very likable and some of the current employees went to bat for him, which helped him get the interview. Even Bob, said he saw himself in Steve and wanted to give him a shot.

Steve was one of six people we interviewed for three spots. He landed at number four in my voting. His interview was not good and if he didn’t already work at our site, I wouldn’t have even considered hiring him. Bob had him at number two which by my count was very generous. I remember telling Bob that I didn’t think we should hire him and he vouched hard for this kid. Told me a long story about how he had a talk with him and thought he could help this guy. He said, “let me work with this kid, I see something in him.” I thought about this and said, who am I to stand in the way? Certainly I had been given chances to prove myself and this person could do the same. Ultimately, I allow my managers to remain autonomous and work independently, so I made my final recommendation. I said, if you really feel this strongly, then I will support you. After all, I am a good boss, right?

We hired Steve and about 14 months later, we fired him. He never matured and if anything, he got worse. Blatant disregard for others and vey counter productive. He never bought into our culture and actively worked to dismantle it. We worked him through the normal step discipline program and he basically climbed the notches in record time. Mistake after mistake. And they weren’t just dumb “aw shucks” mistakes, they were egregious and disrespectful. Even his co-workers began approaching management, at a represented site, saying “get this kid outta here.”

So here’s where I normally say, here are five things we did wrong and blah blah blah, and I give you a list. Not yet. Today’s lesson is pretty simple. Organizations need to hire well.

I should have never allowed this person to get hired. I wasted company time and resources, by going against my gut and giving this kid a shot. That may sound harsh, but it’s true.

Hiring well in an organization is important. You not only should be hiring for the current position, you need to hire for two positions above the one being interviewed for. If you don’t, your organization will never be able to effectively succession plan and prepare a bench. You need employees ready to go in case something happens and people who can’t progress should not be hired. That takes some fine tuning of your emotional intelligence. Hiring for character rather than technical capability should be the standard. You can teach anyone the technical part of the job, but teaching people skills…. Not so easy.

Ok, ok. I know you all like lists, so here it is. Hiring well requires you to;

1. Use your gut. If your gut is telling you that the person is not a good fit, just go with that. Plenty of folks looking for a job. There’s always a stack of applications somewhere.  It doesn’t matter how many people give thie person a “thumbs up”, use your instincts and personal experience.  They count for something, trust me.

2. Look toward the future. – Hire for two spots higher than the current open position. Conduct a pre-employment exam to weed out individuals that mentally won’t make the cut. Successful succession planning + good hires = confident and competent organization. That spells results.

3. Don’t give people chances. Chances cost money. Hire the best person for the job. – If a person deserves a chance, they will create a scenario where they interview well enough to be considered for the job. Looking back on it, when I thought I was “given a chance”, I actually earned it.

4. Character over technical competence. – Just because a person has a high level of skill, it doesn’t mean they will fit your organization. Which leads to my final point today.

5. Protect your house. – Hiring a cultural fit is arguably the most important aspect of the hiring process. Culture is the glue that holds people together. It sets the unwritten rules that shape the daily ebb and flow within the workplace. It’s such a deep part of the organization, you can feel when it’s “off”. As the saying goes, it only takes one bad apple.

These steps are paramount to hiring well. Steve would have never made it through the doors, if I had followed these rules. It was one of the biggest lessons in my career as a leader. Looking back on the amount of time and energy wasted, made me realize the one good thing about it. I am able to recount the story and share the experience here, so that you don’t make the same mistake. I did the research for you. How do you ensure you “hire well”?

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