Reducing the Chances of a Bad Hiring Decision

If you've ever hired the wrong person within your business, you'll know it's stressful, costly and can completely change the dynamic in an otherwise great team, causing maximum disruption and resentment.

Most of us, even professionals, will have made this mistake at one time or another.

But there are several steps you can take to avoid making the same mistake twice, reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person.

Understanding What you Need

Whether you're creating a new role or refilling one that already exists, the first part of the process is to review the job and person specifications, making sure they are fit for purpose. Things change and your specifications should change accordingly with time.

What is the purpose of the position, who does it report into, what technical skills and personal attributes are required? What remuneration package are you offering and is it attractive?

Which requirements are essential and which are desirable? And are your expectations reasonable?

It's time to get realistic before you move past this point.

If you want someone with everything, you're more than likely already expecting too much. And if you want everything and you're not offering a package that's attractive to that 'ideal' person, then you're wasting your time.

A Rigorous Interview Process

A nice general chat to see whether someone 'fits' within your business and 'running through their CV', is OK as part of the interview process. Done alone, it's asking for trouble.

Ask yourself how you made previous hiring mistakes and it's likely that you were lulled into a false sense of security because you instantly liked those people.

Maybe they were well-presented, had a firm handshake, a big smile and were easy to talk to. Maybe you shared history or had the same interests. And because of this you failed to be impartial and looked for reasons to hire, overlooking the red flags, instead of gathering facts.

To avoid this pitfall, ask the same questions of everyone and document the answers for review after the event. Take a trusted colleague into the interview to take those notes and observe. They will likely help you stay focused as well as making sure those notes taken are full, reliable and reviewed afterwards to ensure you hire only the most capable person for the job.

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Don't rely upon academic qualifications alone or you may be disappointed.

"But he said he had advanced use of Excel. He doesn't and he lied".

Did he?

Because 'advanced Excel', to many, is subjective. If you're the 'go to' person in the department for Excel you'll believe you are an expert and, if asked, would honestly say you were an expert.

It's better to ask, "Have you used Look Ups, Macros and Pivot Tables?"

Once you start talking specifics, drill down below the surface, it will soon become much clearer how much the applicant really knows. And, better still, use an online test.

The same can be said for good use of the English language. The CV and cover letter might be great but what about testing this area of expertise by creating conversation as part of the application process.

In this example, where good, written business English is required, I will send out a very short questionnaire in the body of an email to those on my long list. The response is where many applicants let their guards down and their day to day use of the written language becomes clear. Spelling, grammar, context, courtesy, professionalism, promptness, ability and willingness to answer a question clearly and fully become very clear indeed.

Hiring a salesperson? Well, anyone claiming to be a successful salesperson, who always 'smashes targets', should be able to back that up with evidence of the bonuses and commission they earned by producing payslips.

Again, consider bringing another person into the interview process, someone who is an expert in that field you want to test. They can prepare a set of relevant, probing questions to delve deeper.

For example, if you're hiring a company accountant, you'll want someone who has not only learned the technical side but understands what they have learned and can apply their knowledge day-to-day.

In this example, if you don't want to use the current incumbent in the process, or don't have one, you could ask your external accountant to step in. Trust me, they will want you to get this hire right or they will be unpicking the mess. At great cost to you.

Referencing and qualification checks

Taken verbally, references are very powerful indeed.

Firstly, people do embellish their CV's, so confirming dates, reasons for leaving and whether the candidate is respectable and trustworthy should be a minimum. But getting into a conversation with a past line manager will tell you so much more.

"Oh, I'm so pleased Sarah's found a new job, she was great and we were really sorry to see her go", versus clamming up and reluctance to answer your questions, which suggests there were issues of some nature that need clarifying.

Past employers are more likely to be free with their feedback if it's not in writing and it's often what people don't say that's the most telling!

Concerns don't need to be a reason to withdraw the offer but will help you to understand strengths and weaknesses. Areas where your new employee will need additional training or support.

In addition, if someone claims to have a qualification that is relevant to the job or you are relying upon, check it.

Induction and Onboarding

Your responsibilities do not end once the job offer has gone out and been accepted. Far from it.

If you want your new employee to arrive for work feeling supported and engaged, keep in contact through any notice period that they serve.

Plan their early days, weeks and months whether that be the first day, showing them where they'll be working, the toilets, what time the sandwich delivery van arrives, right through to explaining their training, your expectations of them and regular check-ins.

This is a whole subject in itself, but employers who have the revolving door of people coming into the business and leaving after a few months, in our experience, do nothing more than here's your desk, here's your login, see you in three months when you're probationary period's up.

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.