9 Steps to Avoiding a Bad Hire

Leora Baumgarten —  March 26, 2012 — 5 Comments

avoid a bad hireEvery owner or manager knows that making a bad hire can be costly and can leave you feeling nervous about hiring again. Smaller companies often have less experience hiring and don’t have dedicated staff knowledgeable in current recruiting and hiring practices. Adding to the hiring jitters, the impact of employee number 10 (or even number 100) is far greater than the impact of employee number 10,000. Hiring is a risky and nerve racking part of being in business.

There a number of ways to reduce the risks and improve the probability that you’ll bring the right person on board.

Here’s how to hire right and avoid making a bad hire:

1)    Write a job description

Focus on the key duties, responsibilities, authorities, and reporting relationships. Be realistic – don’t design a job that requires you to find a “flying mermaid.” Mermaids are rare enough but when you add in the skill of flying – well — you could be looking for a long time.

2)    Build a compensation plan

What can the company realistically afford? Is it possible to find the talent you desire at the compensation plan you can afford? If the answer to the second question is NO – go back to step 1 and re-think the job description.

3)    Meet with all the stakeholders

Is everyone in agreement about the key details of the position? If not, work it out now. Don’t wait for interviews to realize that stakeholders have different ideas about key accountabilities.

4)    Advertise the open position

Writing attractive advertisement that sells the company and the position will help you attract the best candidates. We also recommend creating an EVP, or an Employee Value Proposition, which will help you craft a great offer. Online job boards are some of the best methods of recruitment advertising available. Social media is also being used to attract talent.

5)    Screen the applicants

This is probably the most painful part of the hiring process! Let’s say you get 300 resumes and spend just 5 minutes reviewing each one…it will take you 25 hours to review them all! Is 5 minutes really long enough to know who is worth following up with? Have a reliable, reproducible process to identity top talent. Assign someone who is responsible for initial screening. We recommended using a screening tool or Applicant Tracking System to help you easily identify the best available talent.

6)    Interview – listening is key

Have an interview plan and prepare questions relevant to the job in advance. During the interview, have the candidate talk as much as possible. Never ask yes/no questions and always ask follow up questions. Who’s conducting the interview? What are the criteria you will use to help make your decision?

7)    Do reference checks and appropriate background checks and skills tests

Don’t be shy! Ask people who are in your network that might know the candidates, call past employers, administer skill tests and perform background checks.

8)    Invite your top candidates for a second visit – maybe even a meal

Why? First impressions are great, but in the second interview you can get to know the candidate. Meeting over a meal is more casual and might provide additional insights. You can also discuss specific issues that you learned from reference checks, tests and background checks.

Don’t be surprised if your top candidates also interview you – they want to make sure your company is a great fit for them as well. Remember that the best hires are excited to come on board – give them something to be excited about!

9) Negotiate with your top candidate

Expect to negotiate salary, benefits, vacation etc. with your top candidates. The goal is to come to an amicable agreement that is the starting point for an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.

Final Thoughts

Don’t settle for a candidate who you don’t feel confident about. If the candidate makes you uneasy for any reason, trust your gut. Move along to the runner-up and explore other qualified people in the pool. Always have a back-up plan!

What do you do to avoid a bad hire? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Leora Baumgarten


Leora is Vice President of NewHire and a pro when it comes to hiring & recruiting for SMBs. When not at the office, you can find her swimming in Lake Michigan or spending time with her family in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Connect with her on Google+.

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5 responses to 9 Steps to Avoiding a Bad Hire

  1. Sue Brown, HR Consultant, ML Brown & Associates March 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Nice article, Leora. I especially like the “flying mermaid”!
    Sue Brown

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