Originally published on Inc Magazine’s Process Playbook column by Chris Ronzio
Feel like you wasted your time on a bad hire? Course-correct with these five questions and you’ll still come out on top.
I’ve made some bad hires. The truth is, I want to like everyone.
I want to sell every candidate on how great our business is in the same way that I want to sell every customer that shows an interest in our product. But, as I look back, the hiring mistakes I’ve made have translated into some of the best building blocks for our company culture.
It’s taught me a valuable lesson: Once the initial sting wears off from letting someone go, you should gather your remaining troops. Ask yourself and your colleagues these five questions:
1. Were there any red flags about the employee during the hiring process that seem obvious in retrospect?
Thinking back, did anything come off as strange to you in the interview process? Were there red flags or gut feelings about this employee that you suppressed?
Define those now with any of your team members that were also involved in the hiring process. Some companies will use scoring matrix to rank applicants in a variety of areas. What new scoring category could you define to avoid the same mistake again? Are there better questions to ask to get at the heart of those doubts?
2. Did the employee lack certain skills that you now see as required for success in the position?
If so, adjust your job description to pay particular attention to these skills. Then, craft interview questions that ask about where the candidate has achieved past successes in those areas. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results, but it sure helps.
For some positions, we’ve created test projects to actually test the applicant’s skills in a real scenario. If they are a designer, how about having them design something? If they are a customer support representative, how about sending them a few questions to write mock replies to? If they are a sales rep, how about asking them to record a product demo for you?
This try-before-you-buy approach can save a lot of heartache later.
3. Which core values were misaligned with your company that became more apparent over time?
Core values are an incredible hiring filter if you have them well defined at your company. If you don’t, consider a bad hire the perfect opportunity to create a set of core values.
What about this particular person made them feel like a bad fit? Make a list of those negative attributes. Then, review the list of negatives and turn them into the positive values that ring true at your company.
Did they show up late? Maybe “punctuality” is a core value. Did they always seem isolated from the rest of the group? That could mean “teamwork” is important for you. This exercise is also great to do with a few members of your team to ensure that you capture everything.
4. What results did the person not achieve that you can explicitly set an expectation for next time?
When you hire someone, you likely have some targets in mind for what you’d like them to achieve. Should they be managing five clients on their own within 90 days? Should they reach 100 percent of their sales quota by the end of month two? Should they bill a certain number of hours, or finish a particular project, or launch a new revenue stream?
These are all specific, measurable goals that should be communicated in the hiring process. So, if your new hire didn’t hit the goals that you expected, consider whether you explicitly communicated those goals to them. If not, refine your job description to include your expectations.
5. Is there anyone on the team that didn’t get to evaluate the person, but ended up playing a role in their departure?
Entrepreneurs like me often do everything possible to qualify a candidate (“please work here!”) instead of trying to disqualify the candidate (“why do you deserve to work here?”).
As the leader at the top, you might not have ever actually worked with the bad hire. So, who on your team should be added to the interview process to make sure that your next hire is a culture fit and a skills fit?
When you finally decide to fire someone, you’re usually the last one to know they aren’t a fit. This post-mortem process is therapeutic, and it turns what otherwise feels like a negative experience into one that reassures the rest of your team that you aren’t blind to all of the problems that they could see.
So act quick, and move on. Your team will thank you.