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Bounce Back From a Bad Hire: 10 Tips

Once you realize you've made a bad hire, don't get mired in regret. Instead, focus on what to do next.
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You get burned by a couple of bad hires and you can become trigger shy.  But, as with every mistake you make in building your business, view bad hires as great learning experiences so you can recruit more effectively in the future.

Here are some tips to help make your next hire successful.

1. Consider Your Source

Take a look at where your new talent typically comes from, how you are recruiting, and what works.  I mentioned in a previous article how I find Millennial talent through the Millenials already on my team.  It took much time, trial and error, and observation of the Millennial workforce to determine this was right.

What is the background of your most successful employees? Where did they go to school, who did they work for before, and what other similarities exist?  As an example, I have learned that industrial design students from specific schools are the best fit for our project based work.

2. Rank What Matters Most 

You build a long list of qualifications that an employee must meet when you put together a job posting or description, but have you taken the time to prioritize what's most important to you and your company?  Not every skill or qualification is of equal value and you should build a structured approach to complete your evaluation that takes these differences into account.

When I say rank order, I literally mean you should rank order each candidate's qualifications on a sheet of paper and make sure you don't skimp on the "must haves" in order to fill an empty seat.

3. Assign Candidates a Problem to Work on

Once you know a candidate has the chops--you've read his resume or reviewed his portfolio--what's important next is how he processes information and communicates with others.  I recommend you give him a hypothetical problem to work through to get insight into how he will approach a task once on board.

Depending on the position, consider giving candidates this problem as "homework" to bring along to the interview.  It will be useful because you'll understand the context of the problem he faces. By contrast, the examples in his portfolio are his best work, have probably been closely reviewed by others, and may not even be his own effort (if he's less than honest).

4. Find Out How Candidates Behaved Before

There are many interview tools that help you evaluate an individual's thinking style, behaviors, attitudes, or approaches to work and life--from past scenarios.  Much emphasis is placed on picking the "right" tool. What's more important is that you pick a tool and evaluate your current team before you can effectively evaluate any potential new members.  By looking at your current team's evaluation results, you can identify patterns of what you want to find in new team members to replicate or fill gaps.

5. Enlist Your Staff

I find entrepreneurs and small business owners will hand over most aspects of their business but hiring staff is one they just can't seem to give up.  As you move out of the day-to-day operations, inevitably others end up managing staff that you originally hired.  If you are not letting them hire their own staff, you should start doing so immediately. As your frontline staff evolves and improves the work, they'll be in a better position to find the right next hire.

6. Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly

You're always better off needing more employees than having the wrong ones.  Make sure you understand the local laws that govern when and how you can fire people, and don't delay.  If you doubt an individual, you have answered your own question.  Trust your instincts and make the change right away.

7. Consider Temp-to-Perm

Instead of jumping in to hire a candidate full time, consider bringing her on as a contractor or hourly employee.  This gives you both the chance to try each other out.

8. Try to Talk Him Out of the Job

I use this technique when I feel a candidate views my company through rose-colored glasses.  I tell him everything bad about the company--all the reasons why the job might not be a good fit, or the role won't be perfect.  Make the candidate sell you on why those things won't be a problem, and be sure he understands what he's getting into.

I find this particularly useful when it comes to business travel.  I love to travel for business or pleasure, but not everybody does, and depending on the work you are assigned at my company you could end up on the road 75% of the time.  Since I've had a few hires surprised (and upset) about how much they were required to travel, I make sure that point is front and center when they talk to new candidates.

9. Incent Them to Go

Zappos is the most famous for doing this.  The company offers newbies a $2,000 bonus to quit very early in their tenure.  From what I have read and heard from Tony Hsieh, Zappos' founder, only 2% to 3% take the deal, but it's a great way to test a new person's loyalty, and offer an escape hatch if the job really isn't right.

10. Do Post Mortems

Spend time with your team determining why a hire didn't work out.  Use this information to revisit your hiring practices or selection criteria and make sure there is a way to successfully put in place positive changes.




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