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People & Team


What happens when you think you’ve hired the wrong person?

Hired the wrong person
Looking at the cultural fit helps reduce bad hires.

If you discover you have hired the wrong person should you cut ties or take time to mould them into the worker you need?

The interview went well and you’re delighted that the best candidate has accepted the job. However, fast forward a couple of months and you discover your new employee is failing to hit targets or get on with the team and clients.

Should you accept your losses, persevere and think of strategies to turn the wrong hire into the right one?

Testing employees during their probation period

Mark Waite, co-founder of Chepstow based Cohesive Communications recently realised he had hired the wrong person when taking on a junior recruit.

“He previously worked as an intern at the company, so when an opportunity for a full-time role came up we thought he would be perfect,” said Waite. “He had a great CV, the necessary academic skills and was confident, articulate and outgoing. But as soon as he joined and engaged with clients and the rest of the team there was a clear problem. He was not enjoying himself and didn’t look motivated or interested.”

Waite explained the recruit was expected to work closely with clients to create engaging, exciting content.

“Everything was too transactional. He didn’t invest his time and didn’t seem interested or curious about what our clients were doing and saying,” Waite said.

The team held performance reviews and had a number of conversations about targets and expectations before putting him on a performance improvement programme.

“We set out measurable objectives. We also talked about his attitude and what we could do to help him succeed,” Waite explained.

With the recruit’s performance still not improving two months into the probation period the decision was made to let him go.

“We are a small boutique business and culture is critical. Large organisations can maybe carry passengers, but we can’t. You have to think of the common good and do the right thing by the business,” Waite said. “It really saddened me. But I had to determine when the optimum time was when I would say ‘you have had your chance to step-up’ and end it before we put the business at risk. I feel three months was enough time to demonstrate his capabilities.”

Waite called the recruit into a meeting to inform him of his decision. “He also realised that it wasn’t working out. We gave him a due notice period and pointed him in the direction of companies I thought he would enjoy working for,” he said.

Finding culture fit with new staff

Hired the wrong person - Dave Chaplin
Chaplin faced problems because a new employee wasn’t right for the position.

Dave Chaplin, chief executive and founder of online contracting authority ContractorCalculator, has a mixed experience of hiring. Some recruits haven’t taken the chances they’re offered, positions may not suit them and there can be personality clashes in smaller teams.

“When I hired my first programmer it worked out well, but I’d already had experience hiring and managing them before. Our second programmer was then recommended by the first. Again, it worked out well. But hiring my first business development manager didn’t work out,” Chaplin said.

Although describing the manager as a “nice person” Chaplin found that they couldn’t close sales and didn’t work hard enough. They also didn’t fit with the company’s proactive culture.

“They were probably better suited to account management than sales,” he explained. “We tried some mentoring and objection handling training to help deliver sales leads but they didn’t yield better results.

“I took over the sales side of things again and it all picked up. I don’t know exactly why either – which is frustrating. This is the classic entrepreneur’s puzzle – how to bottle the process, so it can be passed successfully onto others and create room for expansion,” he said.

The business development manager was let go after three months in the role. Chaplin said he broke the news in a diplomatic way.

Implementing processes to help avoid hiring the wrong person

“It was a shame but it’s important to draw a line under it and then try again. Try not to beat yourself up about making a bad hire. We all do it,” he explained.

However, Chaplin appears to take some blame on himself. He said he met the business development manager at an event and they got on well. But the role didn’t suit the candidate, who was preferred to do account management. He added he will try an agency next time.

Ashley Ellis, head of ecommerce at Wilmslow based Assured Pharmacy, is also adjusting his recruitment policies after a failed hire.

How detailed is your employee review process?

Clearly defined set of objectives and KPIs that are regularly reviewed and updated

Quarterly cycle whereby progress and development needs are addressed

A few key objectives to meet each year

I don’t have a review process

“We recruited a new PR and outreach employee. We needed them to be a self-starter and secure us coverage in various media outlets and websites,” Ellis recalled. “From his CV it seemed that he had gained this experience in previous roles, but it was clear after two weeks that he didn’t have the qualities we needed.”

Ellis said the new recruit’s core communication skills, initiative and ability to take “different tones” with clients were lacking.

“We had many conversations with him about his ways of working and methodology and how perhaps we could replicate what had worked for him in previous roles,” Ellis added. “We gave him a chance to prove himself but when we saw that it was taking up too much of my time and affecting our campaigns we let him go. He was out of his depth.”

Ellis said he missed some red flags on the man’s CV such as career gaps. The team plans to be more thorough about checking career experience and thinking about how the person will fit into the office.

You might not have hired the wrong person

Sometimes it is worth persevering with a new hire you are uncertain about. Waite of Cohesive Communications remembers an employee who transferred over from financial services about 14 years ago.

“He was a little bit too formal and analytical when he needed to be creative. His work just wasn’t clicking as we wanted,” Waite recalled. “What he did have though in the early stages was a great attitude and willingness to learn. He was enthusiastic and bold and that fitted our culture.”

Waite said there was a great deal of learning on the job needed but he and his management team also provided huge guidance and support.

“We kept saying to him ‘let your creativity go’. We told him over and over not to worry about making a mistake. That no-one would laugh at his ideas and although it took time he absorbed the learning and let his curiosity take over. Now he is one of the most creative people I know!” He said.

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