Did You Just Make a Bad Hire?

Hiring a new employee is as much an art as a science. There are often a clear set of skills that you can look for, but there’s also that elusive idea of “fit” and simply finding someone whose expectations are in alignment with what the organization has to offer.

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Hiring someone who is not a good fit or someone who causes problems is a nightmare scenario—not only has the hiring team wasted all that time, effort, and money only to have to start over but also there may be significant negative impacts on morale and productivity if a truly bad hire gets through.

Here are some of the signs of a bad hire:

  • Lack of presumed skills. It can take a while to discover that the new hire doesn’t actually have the full skill set that was claimed or perhaps not to the extent the hiring team had thought. This may be due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, unrealistic expectations, or even due to someone misrepresenting himself or herself during the hiring process. No matter the reason, it can mean that the organization either has to spend more on training or start over finding someone who is actually fit for the role. This problem can manifest in subtle ways, such as the new hire asking questions that someone who is far more junior should already know the answer to, or completing assignments or tasks in a way that doesn’t meet the basic requirements, or continually requiring more help than should be needed on his or her work.
  • Poor attitude or extreme arrogance. Sure, everyone has bad days. And there’s often a transition period where the new employee is getting his or her footing and learning expectations. But if the new person comes in with a negative attitude that never goes away, that can be a big red flag. Or if the new hire comes across as arrogant or otherwise overly difficult to work with, it may mean the person is not a good fit for the organization. If the new person comes in with nothing but complaints or problems, that can quickly sow negative morale issues with other employees—and unfortunately, this is true even if their criticisms are warranted. (A fresh set of eyes may have a good perspective, but if it’s presented with a constant stream of negativity, that becomes a problem.)
  • Conflicts with team members. Generally speaking, we all expect a new hire to put his or her best foot forward. If someone is getting into arguments or refusing to work cordially with team members, employers should be wary.
  • Not meeting even basic expectations. If the new hire is doing things like not showing basic courtesies or not showing up and working the expected hours or spending too much of the workday on personal matters, this is another red flag. Of course, there may be exceptions here and there, but when expectations are not being met on even the most basic things, it may mean a more serious conversation is needed right away to get on the same page before you have to terminate someone new.
  • Making too many basic mistakes or not adapting to this organization’s processes in a reasonable time frame. As we noted above, there will, of course, be an adjustment period in which someone new has to learn the way things are done at the new organization. But making basic mistakes or continually making the same mistakes after being trained (and perhaps retrained) can be a red flag. This can also present itself as an unwillingness to adapt. If the person had a similar role in the past, he or she may be unwilling to change his or her exact ways of working, which can be a deal breaker at a new organization.
  • Unrealistic expectations. If the new person expects to be promoted, get a raise, or be put on high-profile projects too quickly, it may be a sign that the person actually wasn’t a good fit in the first place.

What has been your experience? What other signs of a bad hire have you had to deal with?

In part 2 of this article, we’ll take a look at a few ways to try to avoid bad hires. Stay tuned!