4 Signs You've Made a Bad Hire

Matthew Tarpey


The hiring process can be long and arduous, but despite all the work you put into finding and hiring the best candidate, sometimes you just get it wrong. And, given the time and effort you’ve already invested, it can be difficult to admit or even see when you’ve got a bad hire on your hands. Here are four warning signs to watch out for: 

1. They Want a Promotion Right Away. A candidate or a new employee who is curious about career growth opportunities is generally a good thing – ambitious people with eyes toward the future can be a great asset to any team. However, when someone is almost immediately looking for that next step up the ladder without taking the time to master their current position, you may have a bad hire on your hands.

2. They Require a Lot of Help. The first few weeks on a new job are often a rush of new names, information and procedures – enough to make anyone need to ask questions. One difference between good and bad hires is how quickly they absorb this information and acclimate themselves to day-to-day life in the workplace. A good hire can usually be fairly well settled within a month or two. A bad hire may take longer – if they get settled at all.

3. They’re All Talk. An employee with big ideas can be an exciting addition to any team. Often a new point of view or a bold new direction can boost morale and help spur everyone to be more engaged and satisfied with their work. But coming up with an idea is one thing, actually following through on it is another. It can be easy to be blinded by a new hire’s energy in brainstorms, but don’t lose sight of their tangible contributions as well. If they aren’t willing to put in the work to bring their ideas to fruition, it may be a bad hire.

4. They Aren’t Focused at Work. The modern workplace has no lack of distractions. The fact that so much of many worker’s days are spent online opens up countless articles, videos and social media updates clamoring for attention. So, while some distraction may be unavoidable, if a new hire spends a noticeable amount of on-the-clock time on their phone or on Facebook, consider it a red flag. As noted above, there’s a lot to process in the first few weeks of a new job. How an employee chooses to focus their time and energy during that settling-in period is a big indicator of what kind of worker they’ll be. If they’re choosing distractions over learning more about the company or getting to know their new teammates, they may not be very serious about this job.

How to Deal With a Bad Hire

If it’s starting to seem like you may have made a bad hire, it’s important to deal with the issue promptly. As Rosemary Haefner has pointed out, bad hires can be costly to a business, and the longer you let the situation fester, the more expensive it gets.

There are essentially two ways you can deal with a bad hire. Often the best one to start with is discussing the problems with the employee. Make it clear that you take these issues seriously, but also work with them on a plan to improve their performance. It may be that the employee was having trouble reaching out or asking for help, and that scheduling more frequent check-ins may be necessary to get them settled in their position.

The other is simply letting them go. This is a fairly extreme recourse, and best reserved as a last resort, although if the employee’s behavior and output are bad enough, it may be warranted.

The most important thing to do before moving forward with this option is to check with your company’s legal or HR teams to make sure you understand your rights in this situation as well as the employee’s rights. Bolster your case by keeping records of infractions such as tardiness, turning in subpar or overdue work, and any meetings you had with them to discuss and attempt to remedy these or other problems.

Pretty much every employer makes a bad hire from time to time. For more on the frequency and costs of bad hires, and for some tips on how to avoid making bad hires in the future, check out:

How Much is That Bad Hire Costing Your Business?



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