My worst hire ever

My worst hire

Hiring a new recruit can be costly, in fact the Charted Institute for Personnel Development estimates that it costs up to £6,125 to fill a vacancy. And hiring the wrong person can turn out to be even more expensive. A tribunal or the infamous ‘compromise agreement’ can run into thousands of pounds, and so it’s good to fix any issues right away and to learn from past mistakes.

Three recruiters share their past mistakes so you don’t have to make them! Names have been omitted to spare blushes.


Beware overqualified candidates who ‘coast’

“I hired a video producer, and found he didn’t live up to the personal recommendation that the recruitment decision was based on. This guy was hugely overqualified for the role, and I took it from the recommendation that he would bring skills and experience to the job. Instead, the employee spent time on ‘personal things’. In a start-up you need someone who is all hands on deck. Having someone doing personal stuff all the time is a waste of time and money.”

Lesson learnt. Do not rely overly on recommendations of employees who may be doing their mate a favour. Overqualified candidates may not all be problem employees though, and if someone is returning to work after a career break, they may be eager to prove themselves in the workplace again. But someone moving sideways without good justification may be looking for an easy ride.


Address mistakes immediately

“The company I was working for hired a senior sales guy I knew was wrong. The CEO knew he might have a problem at the very start, but he waited for a year to sort it out. It cost a fortune to get rid of that person – and by the time they did, he had fired a number of the better people within the organisation. That episode caused about 10 years’ damage to the business.”

Lesson learnt: Once you realise you’ve made a mistake, act fast. The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation. Speak to the employee and make behaviour and performance targets clear, or they could cause lasting damage to your business.


Don’t rely on paper evidence

My worst hire was a journalist recruited to work on the launch of a major community website for government workers. On paper, the person looked fantastic and had worked as a practitioner. The journalism experience was sketchy but they had contributed articles to a national newspaper, so again, on paper looked impressive.

It was immediately clear I had made a mistake recruiting them. The person reported for duty but talked to no one, was stand-offish and uncooperative. It was an awkward situation made worse by the lack of line management in place during the launch. The situation dragged on past the probation date and was only resolved by a redundancy payout a year later.

Lesson learnt: If it’s a team job, make sure you have hard evidence that the candidate is a team player. Don’t be wowed by paper credentials.


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