How to recover from a bad hiring decision

bad hiring decision how to recover

If you’ve made a bad hiring decision, here’s an experience you may be familiar with. You search and search, and finally hire someone to fill a vital role at your company. During the interview process, your new hire stood out from the rest. They had a great résumé, winning personality, and the skill set you want.

However, after only a few weeks, you can tell something’s not quite right. Your new employee isn’t getting along with coworkers, and his or her performance is mediocre at best. And about those skills? It turns out that their level of proficiency isn’t as advanced as you initially thought, and now your other employees are feeling the extra pressure. Instead of solving problems, your new employee is the problem.

You’ve made a bad hiring decision. Now what?

Coming to this conclusion can be hard for an organization, because hiring and onboarding someone is costly. Some estimates say the average U.S. employer spends around $4,000 and 52 days to hire a new worker. When you feel that you’ve hired the wrong person, it can be a real blow to your confidence in your hiring abilities, and it’s not good for your finances either. How can you recover? Recognizing you’ve made a mistake, and taking swift action to fix it, are important first steps.

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t act quickly when this happens. Instead, they let poor performance slide, hoping the problem will get better over time. It rarely does. Keeping a bad hire on too long becomes a drain on team morale and overall productivity. It’s not good for the new employee either since they are likely struggling. Ultimately, both parties benefit when the new hire finds a position that’s a better fit.

Take these five steps to recover from a bad hiring decision, and help keep it from happening again.

1. Determine why it’s a bad hire

Before doing anything, get a full understanding of why the employee isn’t working out. Is it an organization fit issue or a gap in their skills? Did the employee misrepresent their level of experience? All of the above? Or, maybe you made a rushed decision and overlooked potential red flags. Whatever the reason, once you determine the cause of the problem, you’ll know whether it’s fixable, or if termination is the best route to take.

2. Consider reassignment as an option

Let’s say the employee in question is actually well-suited for the job but is having problems using a key piece of equipment or software that’s critical in your business. Those skills can usually be learned. Or, if an employee isn’t the best fit for the position but possesses strengths that are necessary for other roles within the company, don’t be too quick to dismiss them. Instead, you should consider reassigning them to another position.

You don’t want to lose someone who is the right culture fit and a solid team player, especially if they have the skills needed to excel in a different position. These qualities can be hard to find in today’s competitive job market. “Bad hires” could become great employees if they have genuine potential and if training them for a new role costs less than restarting the hiring process. If you do decide to give a bad hire a second chance, clearly communicate your expectations. One way to do this is through a detailed performance improvement plan that lays out measurable goals and a timeline to meet them. In addition to the performance improvement plan, make sure to document all coaching and progress discussions, as well as disciplinary actions. These documents show that you’ve made an effort to help your employee be successful, and may help decrease legal liability for your company.

3. Refer to your company values

The decision to keep or fire a bad hire should be made on a case-by-case basis. When in doubt, think about the bigger picture. Refer to your company’s mission, vision, and values. They form the foundation of your organization’s culture and serve as the blueprint for the direction it’s going. If the employee’s behavior and skills are not aligned with what your company is all about, they’re not a good fit.

Be professional and courteous, and always do as much as you can to help any employees you have to let go. Taking the high road benefits them and you: When employees leave with a good impression of your company, they’re more likely to send you referrals for job candidates or business prospects down the road.

4. Know when it’s just not going to work out

There will be instances when bad hires are just not salvageable, period. If you’ve given them every chance to succeed and ruled out reassigning them to a different role, it’s time to think about cutting your losses.

Here are a few scenarios where termination may be the only solution:

  • The employee completely misrepresented his or her skills.
  • The employee has excellent skills but is a terrible team player.
  • The employee consistently shows disrespect and lack of commitment to the organization by not following basic company policies, despite repeated warnings.
  • Investing in the employee would cost more money and take more time than your company can afford.

5. Avoid future bad hires

Even the worst hiring mistakes aren’t a total loss if you learn from them and use the knowledge gained to make better hiring decisions moving in the future. Take a close look at what happened and why it happened to avoid making the same mistakes again.

A good place to start is your recruiting and interviewing processes. Where are you trying to find people? What questions are you asking job candidates? Maybe they’re not specific enough to identify areas of concern. And are the people who are asking the questions sufficiently trained in interviewing? Asking the right questions can help detect potentially problematic behaviors or attitudes and whether job candidates really have the skills they say they do.

Next, make sure you clearly communicate job descriptions with job candidates. List your expectations for the role in detail while reaffirming your organizational culture. Job candidates should know you’re looking for the total package: an employee with the required skills, and someone who is also in tune with your company’s culture, mission, and values.

If you notice a new hire is lacking culture fit or certain skills, don’t wait longer than 30 to 45 days to offer feedback. Give them the opportunity to do something about it. Recognizing you’ve made a bad hire is a painful realization. But if you act quickly and wisely, you can make the best of a bad situation and avoid making future hiring mistakes.

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