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How to Prevent a Bad Hire (And What to Do if You Need to Let One Go)

  • Posted by Jordan Posell
  • February 10, 2018

It’s a scenario that unfortunately too many entrepreneurs have faced in their career: the hire they spent so much time grooming for a specific role is not working out. Not only has time and money been lost but there’s also the added wrinkle of employee morale being lowered as a result of this HR goof.

However, there are lessons to be learned from failure. To prevent a future bad hire, you must first know how to vet and hire job candidates effectively. Among

HR services for startups

, this is a top priority. Here’s how:

Look beyond the resume

Yes, that MBA from Harvard, coupled with those ten years at Google or Apple are luminous credentials but…dig deeper during the interview: Does the candidate seem to have the personality and attitude to blend effortlessly with the team and generate rapport? Or does he or she project a temperament diametrically opposed to your company values and/or current employees?

Also, gauge their enthusiasm level: Does it seem genuine or forced? If you’re hiring for a sales position, a candidate with infectious enthusiasm could be a better fit for the position than one who seems far more withdrawn.

Further, how does the candidate act when he or she is discussing past jobs? Note their body language and facial expressions: Are they eager and positive or evasive? If the latter, try to ascertain why using diplomatic language. Remember that your role is to find the best fit for the position you’re interviewing for not to put anyone on the spot, particularly if a past job had an unfavorable outcome that was not the candidate’s fault (i.e. an economic-related layoff).


Be honest and precise with your job descriptions

If you’re looking for someone who is detailed-oriented and methodical for a researcher position, then it’s imperative you list those traits as desired requirements. Similarly, if you’re hiring for a sales rep that requires an outgoing personality, then it behooves you do the same. Don’t sugar coat job responsibilities or requirements in order to attract candidates.

Be clear about how much experience you’re looking for: Do you want someone newly graduated from college for an entry-level position? Or is the position for someone mid-career or a far more senior role? Specify how many years of experience candidates should have for the position before they think of applying for it.  

And, avoid industry jargon. Use language that’s precise and unambiguous so that your candidates are clear on the details of the role.

Tweak your interviewing skills

Be attentive and gracious when interviewing applicants even if it’s obvious from the initial screening they may not be qualified or the right fit for the role.

Also, examine your attitude during the interviewing process. Most candidates, even if they’re extremely qualified, are already nervous. Why compound applicant anxiety by acting bored or rushing the interview?

And, whatever you do, don’t bombard the applicant with trite questions that all of us have heard a million times before. Examples include “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?” Or “What’s your worst trait?”

Yawn. Not only do these “gems” aggravate potential applicants because they’re so cliched but they also show a profound lack of imagination from the interviewer’s perspective. Frame unique questions that will draw out thoughtful answers. For instance, ask the applicant how he or she would react in a particular work situation. His or her response could be eye-opening and might be what you need to decide if the candidate would be ideal for the position.

Finally, don’t dominate the interview with your own descriptions of the position or thoughts about where the industry is headed. Often, it pays to sit back quietly and listen. The more opportunity you give your interviewee to talk, the more they will reveal about themselves.


Consider hiring a recruiter

Sometimes you might be better off outsourcing your

HR services for startups

to an experienced and skilled third-party that has the chops and know how to cut through the mountainous pile of resumes and find the right person for a job. Make sure the recruiter

either specializes in your industry or has a keen understanding of the nuances of the job you want to fill. Because they’re familiar with the kind of business you have, their recommendations of candidates should be trusted.

If you can afford it, this could be a great tactic to preventing a bad hire.

Now suppose you’ve done all of the above and still, the hire is not working out according to expectation. What do you need to do to let the employee go in a professional way that won’t tarnish your reputation and brand in the process?

The following are a few key best practices that should be gold-plated for

HR services for startups

Do not engage in personal attacks

. Treat your outgoing employee with dignity and respect. Remember, this person you’re terminating is a human being, not a disembodied dollar sign or statistic. Try to empathize: How would you like to be treated if this were happening to you?

Effective Communication.

It’s important the managers effectively communicate with their employees. This ensures that any issues, challenges, and improvements have been discussed.

Make sure you heed all legalities beforehand

. If you terminate an employee without due cause or if you do it in a manner that runs afoul of labor regulations, you may risk opening up yourself to a lawsuit. Such a dire scenario could have negative repercussions on the survival of your startup. To avoid this, consult a labor law attorney to make sure you are complying with all laws and doing everything above board. 

Hiring the right team for your startup can be a make-or-break step, growing your business from a one-person shop to a thriving organization. Following the above tips should help you improve your hiring process and find that perfect alchemy as you build your rockstar team.

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