How To Know When You’ve Got A Hiring Decision Wrong

Jul 31, 2018 1 Min Read


LET’S face it. When we get hiring decisions wrong, the consequences can be painful. Lost time, money and productivity, together with low morale and damaged relationships, are among the most common impacts I see.

The decisions you make about who to appoint to each role, matter not only to the individual’s success but also to the performance of your business as a whole.

Whether recruiting from within or outside your organisation, bringing in talented people with culturally aligned values and behaviours underpins your ability to achieve great results through your team. Appointing people who are capable brings strength to their role and influences the success of others around them.

The probation period: Using it to your advantage

Have you hired someone, only to find out (soon after their probationary period) that they aren’t meeting expectations? All too often, leaders miss the valuable opportunity employment probation provides to continue the assessment process and validate hiring decisions.

Consider your recruitment process complete only at the end of the employee’s probation. Take deliberate steps throughout the early stages of employment to continue your assessment of each person’s suitability to their role and your team.

RELATED ARTICLE: Common Mistakes In The Hiring Process

When it comes to new hires, there are two essential questions you need to ask yourself and other members of your leadership team:

1) Do they behave in ways that we need and want them to?
2) Can they perform the tasks of the role to the standard we expect?

What to look for during the probation period

Contemplate what happens when you hire people who bring strong technical skills but an inability to communicate effectively, i.e., they have the ability to do the job but struggle to perform or fit in.

The simple reality you need to face is this: the value anyone adds, no matter how knowledgeable or skilled they may be, is ultimately determined by how well they apply themselves through successful behaviour.

Observe the extent to which your new team member’s approach aligns with what your business values most. If you have defined business values, reflect on how their attitudes and behaviours stack up to each.

For example, creating a workplace environment that inspires and enables innovation demands an open-minded approach from every member of your team. Recognise when a new team member brings an overly directive or aggressive approach that undermines healthy robust debate.

Critically assess people’s ability to build healthy relationships with their colleagues, customers and service providers. Pay particular attention to their tendency to behave with respect and decency and earn the trust of the people they work with.

Make sure they hold themselves accountable to high standards of conduct and performance.

Fairly assessing someone’s ability to perform starts with setting clear expectations and then providing the necessary coaching support.

After providing the clarity and guidance they need, evaluate whether the team member is able to quickly assume responsibility and operate with appropriate levels of autonomy? Are they able to make sound judgement calls and ask for help when needed? Do they have the ability to learn what you need them to, in the time frame required?

READ: 7 Types Of People You Should Avoid Hiring If You Want Your Business To Succeed

How to mitigate a bad hiring decision

If the new hire does not meet expectations during the probationary period, here are some steps you can take:

Engage in honest conversations early. Provide truthful insight to the concerns you hold and help your new team member understand the ways in which they need to improve. Don’t hold your feedback till the end of the probationary period – give them an opportunity to work on it to meet your expectations.

Don’t kid yourself. Being overly optimistic about someone’s ability to improve is unhelpful. Recognise when training or coaching is worth investing in, but also understand when the time has come for them to move on.

Take the action you need to. When it becomes evident that despite best efforts the person simply isn’t up to the job, part ways respectfully. Avoiding the issue will only prolong the detrimental impact a poor performer can have on your team and business.

Learn from the experience. Reflect on how the hiring decision was reached and what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes next time. Invest in your leadership team’s ability to accurately assess candidates, in particular, their capabilities and cultural alignment with your business.


Karen Gately, a founder of HR Consultancy Ryan Gately, is a leadership and people-management specialist. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Getting the Best from People (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people.

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