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Recruiting & Hiring

Bad hire or bad job fit?

illustration of three arms giving the thumbs-down sign to a confused employee

Topics covered in this article

We all know that making a bad hire can be an expensive mistake in terms of money, time, and relationships. But what if your hiring decision really was right, and the “bad hire” could have become a successful employee?

After all, there was some reason why the employee was offered a job. So what can you do? Option one is to simply say goodbye to the employee and start the job search over again. If there was a serious ethical or performance problem, you probably need to do just that.

But a firing has consequences: It can be hard on your staff and your company’s reputation. It doesn’t look good if there seems to be a lot of churn at your company.

It can also be expensive, because you’re likely to make the same mistake if you don’t look at your hiring practices and fix any problems there. It’s also a mistake if the new hire’s talent could be used somewhere else in your organization.

1. Review the job description

Then ask yourself these questions: Was the new employee asked to do what they were hired to do, or did the job change suddenly? Was the new hire asked to do unexpected tasks and take on responsibilities unplanned for? Do the requirements on the job description really reflect what is needed to do the job effectively?

Have you conducted an audit of this job? Should you have others in your organization or in your industry give you feedback on the description? Does your team need to re-evaluate its immediate and long-term needs? Are some requirements weeding out people you could train?

If you’re going to re-hire for the position usiing PXT Select, perhaps the Performance Model you used needs customization. Do your organization’s requirements differ from the standard model? Does the position require a bit more verbal reasoning? Less sociability, etc? PXT Select models can be modified to your specifications.

Were you only looking at people who scored very high and not making use of the suggested interview questions? Did you rely on the assessment results for more than a third of your hiring decision?

If you think the employee could still succeed in the position, take a look at the Coaching Report. Review the management tips and try these before firing or moving the problematic hire. Make sure the employee understands what they need to change and how they will be judged.

2. Review onboarding and culture

Oftentimes it’s not the new employee’s fault at all, but weak or nonexistent training, onboarding or mentoring:

  • Was the new hire given all they needed to be successful right away?
  • ​Do they know where to find resources?
  • Do they understand internal lingo?
  • Were they given more information about their co-workers than just their names and titles?
  • Do they understand the mission of the team on which they work?
  • Did they get necessary training in a timely manner?
  • Do they understand your organization’s culture?
  • Did at least one person on the team take them “under their wing” until they got settled in?
  • Is it clear what behaviors are and are not acceptable, how team members and bosses prefer to communicate, what success looks like for individuals and the team?
  • Are you getting negative feedback from other team members? 

Try running the Team Report, which can provide valuable insights for onboarding, coaching, and relationship building. Does the new hire score outside the rest of the team’s range for any behaviors?

Using this report makes it easier for teams to discuss behaviors they expect and accept and those they find more challenging. Differences can be especially hard both for the new hire and for the team. But these differences can also make the team more creative and productive.

3. Review the manager

Maybe the “bad hire” wasn’t the employee so much as it was a bad manager.

  • Was there a personality mismatch here?
  • Does this manager have a history of poor staff performance or disgruntled workers?
  • Could the manager possibly coach the new hire to greater performance? Or could the two of them work on a development plan together?

Review the Manager-Employee Report. Focusing on behavioral traits, this report compares the individual’s results to the manager’s results in both easy-to-understand graph and narrative form. Are there differences here that could be causing a problem? Could recognizing and discussing these differences help the two work better together?

4. Consider the talents of the new hire

Is it worth keeping this employee, but moving them to a different job? Do you have other openings or needs this person’s talents could fill?

Compare the problematic hire against other positions. Once someone takes a PXT Select assessment, you can compare them against any of the positions in the Performance Library by running a Multiple Positions Report. If they score well for any open positions, suggest or offer a move as an alternative to being let go.

5. Make changes to your recruitment or selection procedures

If this person was hired because they were the best of those who applied—but was still not good enough—then you should really take a look at your recruitment efforts and try new tactics.

If you got a good pool of applicants, but probably selected the wrong person, then look at how you made your selection.

If you weren’t happy with your applicants, consider alternate ways of recruiting or different posting placements.

Making bad hiring decisions can be embarrassing, costly, and emotional. Most organizations will eventually have to suffer through it, if they haven’t already. So the bottom line is, if you need to fire someone, do it quickly and respectfully.

But if the hiring decision itself was off course, you need to correct it before the next hire. Work with your HR department and use the PXT Select reports available to you to help improve your selection process—and keep your bad hires to a minimum.

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