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A bad hire can scupper a team. Here's how to avoid making one

Shaun Thomson
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Consider upping your probation period to six months (Source: Getty)

Every department has one – that person who everybody knows is as suited to their role as full fat cream to a Weight Watchers diet. But as annoying as it is to be working with someone like this, spare a thought for the poor manager who has to try and performance manage someone that just wasn’t right from the very beginning.

Prevention is always better than cure, and businesses would be well advised to put in processes to stop bad hires in their tracks and save the wasted time, and demoralisation, of both parties.

Reward and develop

The worse case scenario for managers is that one of your best team members leaves, and then the replacement you get just isn’t up for the task. Imagine how much easier it would be if you didn’t have to hire for that role in the first place? The easiest way to avoid bad hires is to avoid the necessity to hire in the first place.

It is well evidenced that staff rarely leave for money; they usually leave because they don’t feel valued. With that in mind, it’s important to implement an effective communications system, such as monthly one-on-ones with line managers and senior executive mentoring, which makes staff feel that their efforts are recognised and worthwhile.

It is also important to have a clear development path for everyone in the business, which includes information on where the employee wants to be in the short, mid and long term, and how the business is supporting them in these ambitions – with clear objectives and milestones to reward improvements.

Promote internally

When you hire internally the person has already been pre-vetted to ensure that they are a good fit with the company and culture. You know the applicant and how their strengths and weaknesses are suited for the role. Another benefit of this route is that it has a positive impact on morale as staff can see that the business prioritises existing staff and is committed to developing them through the company.

The role that then needs to be filled externally is the more junior position, which minimises the risk and impact to the business.

Always be interviewing

It stands to reason that, when a business is desperate to fill a role, it will inevitably make concessions on quality, which is usually how a bad hire slips in. This can be avoided by having a bank of great applicants on standby.

Before ever making an offer, it is worth considering psychometric testing. This is because in an interview setting it can be very hard to distinguish between candidates that say they can do a job well and those that actually will do it well in practice.

Psychometric tests give insight into what questions should be asked in final interviews, and what areas need to be probed. They will also outline the attitude and personality of a candidate, which should always be a priority in the recruitment process. After all, skills can be taught, but a change in attitude is considerably more difficult to achieve.

Finally, consider extending the initial probation period to six months. Most people can hide their true colours for three months if you throw some holiday in. But in six months, you can be absolutely sure that you have a star in the making. If not, you can say goodbye with minimal aggravation.

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