Avoiding the “Bad Hire”

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It’s common in all businesses, especially small and midsized operations, for managers and business owners keep unwanted staff on too long for all the wrong reasons. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or deal with the hassle of replacing them, or they may be worried about a lawsuit.

The truth is that too often managers hire the wrong people in the first place. Interviewing potential employees is tricky at best, and most managers aren’t trained in hiring procedures. Very few managers have been trained in effective interview techniques, and most business owners are unaware of the true cost of making a bad hire – which is potentially 3 times that employee’s salary.

To avoid bad hires, you need to avoid some common traps into which many hiring managers tend to fall. Here are a few tips on avoiding the most common pitfalls that lead to a bad hire:

1. Know what you are looking for before you begin

Be well prepared for the recruiting effort. Understand exactly what skills and experience you need for the position, and know how to recognize the characteristics of a top performer. One of the biggest challenges for companies looking to hire new employees is they don’t really think through the job criteria or how the new employee fits into the organization. You need to understand both the technical skills you are seeking as well as the intangibles that contribute to “fit.”

2. Interview for behavioral traits, not just skills and experience

When you interview, be sure you look for what’s beneath the specific skillset; who they are, what drives them, how and why they make decisions, how they interact with others. These traits are all as important as the positions they have held in the past, and they are more difficult to discover.

3. Hire for strengths, not lack of weakness

Nobody is perfect, and too often hiring managers look at candidates using a checklist that results in a hire for lack of weakness; whoever hits the most check boxes and looks less awful than the other candidates wins. Instead, look for strengths that match your criteria, and look for someone strong in those areas where you need strength. Remember that a good candidate with the right strengths can grow into a position, but if they lack the right characteristics to begin with, chances are they won’t pick them up once they are on the job.

4. Never hire for untapped potential

People never fully develop their potential and hiring based on what might be. It’s like buying land in the desert and hoping that global warming will increase the rainfall – the potential is there, but it’s not likely to happen.

5. Hire smart people

You can’t teach native intelligence. If they are smart enough to do the job, they can pick up the required skills. If they don’t have the right intellect, they can’t acquire it later.

6. Hire people that match your ethics

Just as you can’t teach intelligence, you also can’t teach someone to be a hard worker or honest if it’s not in their nature. People of questionable character won’t change over time. If their ethics don’t match those of the company, don’t hire them.

7. Never hire because “I like the look of this guy.”

Remember the old adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover? The same is true of an empty suit. A lot of executives are hired based on personal appeal or charisma, especially if you haven’t thought hard enough about the job criteria in the first place. Don’t be taken in by a pretty smile.