How to Avoid Bad Hires

The Harvard Business Review estimates that 80 percent of mis-hires are caused by bad hiring decisions. Hiring the wrong person can cost your company thousands of dollars. In fact, the latest statistics show that you could waste three to five times the amount of the employee’s salary simply by hiring and then having to replace an employee within a year of hiring them.

Let’s break it down. If you hire an employee at $40,000 per year and then have to replace them within the first year or so, it can cost you $120,000 or more to hire and re-train a new person. The obvious costs include advertising or other recruitment associated fees, and time spent hiring and training the new person.

But there are a number of hidden costs that come into play, such as a slowdown in the workflow in that person’s department. You may spend months training an employee only to lose them before the first year is out and then have to start the grueling process all over again. When there’s a big employee turnover in any company, morale suffers.

This makes it imperative for you to do it right the first time. Hire the right person from the get-go. Train and mentor them. Develop them into a valuable asset. It has been said repeatedly that your employees are the greatest corporate resource. When your employees are content, they produce better work more efficiently. When they’re unhappy, there is a snowball effect in the opposite direction.

So how can you improve your employee selection process? The process of interviewing and hiring the right person is both an art and a science. Let’s have a look…

It was Love at First Site

Two out of three hires prove to be a bad fit within the first year of the job. Professionals with the most success in this industry agree that often a hiring manager gets swept away by non-essential traits. Stick to your ‘must haves’ as far as skills and traits are concerned. Make sure the candidate possesses the necessary skills in order to produce the desired results in the role. And most importantly, listen to your gut!

For example, the candidate may be hilariously funny, charismatic or a friend of your cousin’s, but will they be the best person for the role? You must be clear on your needs in order to be unaffected by these bells and whistles.

To Avoid Bad Hires, Try Before You Buy

If possible, offer your prospective candidate a contract role first. In cases where they are gainfully employed and this isn’t an option, try a working interview. Give your candidate a simple assignment to check their skills. For example, have them write a full proposal on how they would approach their new position if hired.

Rework authors, Freid and Hansson suggest that you hire the best writer. Here are their reasons for this philosophy:

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

That’s because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

Writing is making a comeback all over our society. Look at how much people e-mail and text-message now rather than talk on the phone. Look at how much communication happens via instant messaging and blogging. Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.”

If your gut tells you this person could be good, but they didn’t interview well, give them a writing assignment. Maybe they are just not good on the spot. Even if they did interview well, GIVE THEM A WRITING ASSIGNMENT!

Avoid a Bad Hire By Going the Extra Mile

Most hiring managers do an OK job of checking references, but assuming the role of detective and going the extra mile could alleviate 80% of your talent acquisition and retention woes. By digging a bit more and having a thorough conversation with the candidate’s reference, you can often learn exactly what you need to in order to make a good decision.

Reference checking is often the last stop on the train that is leading to heaven or to hell. Don’t settle for textbook answers from your candidate’s references, aim to either confirm your greatest fears or your wildest dreams. Find the reference that will journey past the formalities and on to authenticity.

The Proof is in the Pudding

When it comes to skills and knowledge, verify, verify, verify. Ask for previous work samples. Clarify what they were actually responsible for verses what their ‘team’ was responsible for. We know you want to find the right candidate and end the grueling recruitment process, by giving the benefit of the doubt or jumping to your ideal conclusions will cost tremendously in the long run.

Along the same lines, make sure you ask open-ended situational questions during the interview rather than leading, close ended questions.


We are looking for someone who works well under pressure. Would you say you work well in this scenario?  of course they will say ‘YES!’

All Aboard!

If you accurately (and transparently) communicated your company culture during the interview process, the on-boarding experience will be smooth sailing because a certain level of congruency has already been established. Regardless, proper orientation, assimilation and technical training is required to ensure a successful transition.

Even Zappos, a company who’s company culture screams so loudly and clearly, has a 4-week cultural immersion program in place for every new employee – regardless of position. The version of this candidate that you experience on a daily basis and their ability to thrive in their new role will heavily depend on the environment that you place them in.

Give your new employee a proper introduction – have their desk ready (you would be surprised at how often this small step is overlooked); introduce them around the office; assign one of your best and brightest employees to train and mentor them; facilitate their ability to foster friendships, have fun, feel empowered, collaborate and always be growing and learning.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies that invest in the training of employees have managed to outperform the stock markets by up to 35 percent. The cost of cutting corners when it comes to talent acquisition and on-boarding is simply too high and the reward for doing it right is substantial. Excellent employees are not just found; they are created and molded by your consistent efforts to develop their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses.

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