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AZ Big Media Here’s how executives can learn from bad hires

Adding the right people to a team is critical to the success of a business. All executives know this, which is why they want to recruit well. Hiring the right people grows a business, creates a lasting culture, and helps a leader be more successful. A perfect hiring record is the goal of any senior executive; however, this is an impossible goal and even the best businessmen hire the wrong people. You will make hiring mistakes and make bad hires no matter what process you put in place, so it’s better to learn from those mistakes than allow them to hurt your business. An employee with an amazing CV can fail in the real world and the best you can do is ask yourself why it happened and how can we fix it?


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I’ve seen countless executives make hiring mistakes in my 20 years of executive coaching and all the greats viewed their mistakes as learning opportunities. Here are some reasons companies hire the wrong people and how leaders can avoid their mistakes.

Degrees are not everything

There are plenty of potential new hires out there who look amazing on paper. They work at a top company, a degree from one of the best universities, and an unbeatable skill set. You have found your new employee and the CV confirms it. The problem with this mindset is that you gravitated toward this candidate before you even really got to know them.

Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive consultant and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations.

A resume isn’t everything, and employment with a successful company, even a long-term job, is not an indicator of work ethic and competence. Poor talent can stay with big companies for a long time due to many big companies’ aversion to laying people off. When the resume is your one and only indicator of success, executives miss out on negative signs related to socialization, motivation, and character. Hiring an unprofessional person who destroys morale can be just as bad for your business as hiring someone who lacks the skills to do a job.

Executives who want to avoid this scenario should never make too much noise before the interview. Credentials are the start of the process, and you can better control them by putting systems in place such as an interview panel. Ask the candidate to interview several members of your team individually and as a group. This will allow you to get different opinions on a potential new hire. Other members of your team can see something that you don’t.

Don’t overemphasize team fit

Credentials aren’t the only area leaders tend to focus on too much. Many executives will hire an employee based on their personality and fit with the team. They think if the prospect already has the culture, they can teach the skill set. It’s beneficial to hire people who can easily socialize, but that skill set becomes irrelevant when you realize they can’t handle their work, meet deadlines, or solve problems during a crisis.

Avoid hiring unqualified people by asking yourself important questions. What are the most important things you need for this role? Which qualities are essential and which are just an added advantage? Interview questions should highlight the qualities you are looking for.

Have other team members test the candidate on a job vernacular by interviewing them. If the potential employee says they know something on their resume, do an assessment of that skill to confirm it. Doing these things ensures the candidate has the skills to succeed and prevents you from hiring someone just because you like them.

If you like a candidate, that means you need to interview them more. Don’t hire someone right away based on a first impression. Slowing down and making sure a candidate has the skills to do the job will help your business in the long run. Take your time and enlist the help of people you trust to give their opinion on a new recruit.

Emergency hires rarely work

Running a business can be chaotic, and leaders are constantly putting out fires. The unexpected departure of a long-time employee or a major new company can cause many executives to scramble to hire new people. Hiring someone out of desperation for workers often leads to worse results than being understaffed.

Quickly hiring an underqualified worker for an important position will increase the legal risk of an employment lawsuit and can decimate team morale. A team unhappy with hiring a bad leader will create conflict that will increase staff turnover and lead to production delays.

The negative effect of a bad hire increases the higher they are in the company. Waiting to fill a needed position also has its drawbacks, so you need to weigh the pros and cons of hiring someone quickly. In my experience, the potential results of a bad hire usually outweigh the expectation of the right person.

If you have to hire someone, quickly think about how important the position is and can you afford to hire the wrong person. You can often risk getting the wrong entry-level positions, but it’s hard to retrain someone else into your highest positions.

Create an emergency succession plan for all your senior positions. This succession plan identifies qualified people who can do the job until you find a long-term replacement. Training and planning are helpful because they fill knowledge gaps when bringing in a new hire quickly.

Creating a succession plan requires you to assess your team members and determine what leadership positions they could fill in the event of an emergency opening. In my experience, many employees are eager for the chance to learn new skills. The cross-training involved in creating a succession plan can increase employee loyalty and motivation as the employee learns executive skills. It is a mutually beneficial scenario for both parties.

Hiring the best people is essential to a successful leader, but even the best will hire the wrong people. Learn from your mistakes by pointing out what went wrong in the hiring process and continue on your path to business and leadership growth.

Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive consultant and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations. She’s also a licensed psychologist who brings 20 years of behind-the-scenes conversations to her recommendations for workplace wellness and profitability. She is the author of Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life.

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