Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People?

As we celebrate the Labor Day holiday it only seems fitting that we talk about a work-related topic: “Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People?”. At some point in your career you will ask this question. Either you will have hired the wrong person, or you will be working for the wrong person or YOU ARE the wrong person. As a headhunter, I live smack-dab in the middle of the hiring process on a daily basis. I see best practices, worst practices and everything in between. Before becoming a headhunter, I worked in the transportation industry for many years. And, I must raise my hand and confess that I have hired the wrong person, worked for the wrong person and been the wrong person.

A good portion of my work involves helping people recover from bad hiring decisions, both companies and candidates. I also spend a good deal of time trying to keep companies and candidates from making bad hiring decisions. Bad hires are bad for my business. And even if I am not the one who makes the decision to hire someone and I’m not the someone who makes the decision to accept the offer; everyone still likes to blame the headhunter when it turns out badly.

So I have thought long and hard about this “hiring the wrong people” question. And I have come up with a simple answer: Companies hire the wrong people because they don’t know how to hire the right people. Sometimes they get lucky and hire the right person by accident. And depending on their process, they may make more good hires than bad hires. And sometimes, even when you hire the “right person” it doesn’t work out. But that’s another conversation. This one is about HIRING THE RIGHT PERSON as often as possible.

Back in May of 2014 I wrote a couple of blogs about hiring and pointed out that there were five primary factors to consider: 1)Talent, 2)Skill, 3)Work Ethic, 4) Attitude and 5) Experience. In those articles, I noted the difference between talent and skill. I also made a point about the value of “relevant and meaningful” experience. I also stated that testing and assessments, if done correctly, are very worthwhile. But if done incorrectly, they unnecessarily shrink the pool of qualified and capable candidates.

So back to the question, Why Do Companies Hire the Wrong People? It’s simple: They do not thoroughly evaluate and verify the five primary factors which determine fit for the position. If any one of these is lacking, it will likely turn into a bad hire. Too many companies decide that a candidate is an “A player” because of their experience and their interview skills. If a candidate has a strong resume, some good references and interviews well , that’s good enough for some companies. It’s assumed that the candidate possesses the requisite talent, skills, work ethic and attitude to be successful or….well, they would not be successful. And clearly they have been successful, right?

You want to hire the right person for the job? Figure out the requirements in terms of talent, skill, work ethic, attitude and experience. Hire against those requirements, evaluate and verify as much as possible. And don’t get blinded by A+ experience and polished interview skills. Candidly, in most cases you’re better off with someone who is a “B” in all five categories than you are with a person who is an “A” in four and an “F” in one. If you can avoid hiring that person who is clearly lacking in one or more of these five critical areas, you most likely will not hire the wrong person.

Too many companies want to hire “the best” person. So when they find someone who is an exceptionally strong match on what they consider to be the most important requirements for the position, they are willing to overlook a gap or weakness in what they consider to be an issue of lesser importance. My question is always this: When it comes to Talent, Skill, Work Ethic, Attitude and Experience; which one of those are you willing to sacrifice? How good would the candidate have to be to make up for falling short in one of these five areas? In my opinion you’re better off with someone who is “good enough” in all five than you are with someone who is a superstar in four and seriously lacking in one. The exception to that would be “skill” in positions where you can train the person for skill. If I can get them up to speed on skills, then I’ll take the superstar every time. But the farther you move up into the organization, the more you need to be hiring people who “check off” all five boxes.

You want to avoid hiring the wrong people? Hire the right people.

"I used to think business was 50 percent having the right people. Now I think it's 80 percent."
-Kevin P. Ryan

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