Hiring

4 Excuses We Make To Ourselves When We Hire the Wrong People

Saying to ourselves "It's just temporary" or "He'll grow into the job" simply won't cut it.
4 Excuses We Make To Ourselves When We Hire the Wrong People
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Far too often -- even in loose labor markets -- we find ourselves hiring the wrong people. Once that's happened, we are often stuck with these people; or at least we tell ourselves we are. But that's not smart, because hiring the wrong people is bad for business and, worse, we’re complicit in the process.

Related: What Really Happens When You Hire the Wrong Candidate

None of us begins the process of recruiting intending to find the wrong person, but many of us find ourselves secretly knowing we are making a mistake, so we make excuses even as we extend offers to the wrong people. 

I have both hired the wrong people and been the wrong person hired, and both outcomes are more painful than passing a kidney stone or being in a bad marriage. Here are some of the most common things we tell ourselves to soothe the pain of hiring the wrong person or retaining the social maladroit we should fire.

"It’s just temporary."

Perhaps the most common excuse we tell ourselves is that we’ll hire someone until someone better comes along, not unlike what I imagine is the thought process of women who date me. 

Many employers make the mistake of thinking that they can hire a less-than-qualified person as a stop-gap measure until they find the unicorn: that uniquely qualified candidate who will work for a fraction of what he or she is worth, is ridiculously overly qualified and is giddy at the thought that you might deign to utter the words "You're hired!" 

But the notion of hiring someone until you find somebody better is like herpes, which I hear (as opposed to having personal, firsthand experience) sticks around forever, is incredibly painful and has repeated flare-ups just to remind you of the mistakes you’ve made.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Sure You Aren't Hiring the Wrong People for Your Startup

"The candidate will grow into the job."

Often, we hire someone who isn’t quite right for the position because he or she is under-qualified, yet we still have a good feeling and believe that we can develop this person into a good fit. That’s the organizational equivalent of when I was 6 and my mother would find a great deal on older kids' clothing or shoes, stashing the items until I grew into them. 

That was a sketchy proposition for my mom and it’s a sketchy proposition for companies. It’s not as though you can just stick a person in a closet for three years until he or she grows into the job. It's not as though you can think, "We'll put this person into a job for which he or she isn’t qualified to allow on-the-job learning."

Our intentions are good: We plan to team the new hire with more experienced workers or else carefully supervise and coach the employee ourselves until he or she is up to snuff. The problem is that that’s a lot of work, and usually we don’t follow through, so the only thing the worker grows into is the ass groove in his or her chair.

"He (or she) is better than no one."

Sometimes we are in such a frenzy for a “warm body” that we forget that the job requires more than a pulse. We get so absorbed in filling the position that we lose sight of the fact that it’s far easier to get by until we find a better fit than it is to fire someone who is the bad fit himself (or herself).

"His (or her) technical skills make up for any lack of interpersonal skills."

I was once coaching an executive who was pulling his hair out because two of his most technically gifted workers were openly feuding. One had the social skills of a constipated hyena and the other acted as if he had learned to deal with people from someone who had merely read a book about interpersonal skills.

These two openly screamed at each other in meetings and generally demoralized the rest of the workforce. Both were directors and had direct reports who despised them. The COO asked me what I thought he should do. My answer was quick and firm: Fire them both. 

“But they’re two of my best people!!” he protested. I told him that if he did not fire both, he would have to resign himself to having these two idiots hold his company hostage. I also advised that his idea to coach them and “give them one more chance” wouldn’t work: The reason was that these two had achieved "success" by bullying people and throwing tantrums.

So,a stern talking to would have about as much effect as having a witch cast a spell on them. Meanwhile, there would be a steady stream of people headed out the door. By not addressing dysfunctional behavior, you are endorsing it.

"This candidate will eventually learn to fit in."

I have interviewed my fair share of goofballs, from the candidate who admitted having lied on his resume to the candidate who, when I asked what questions he had, responded, “What if I don’t show up for work?”

I asked if he was asking what would happen if he was involved in some sort of an emergency. And he said, “No . . . if I just don’t show up or call or anything.” I also had a woman arrive 45 minutes late for our interview, slam her sweaty Big Gulp cup on my desk and make no apology nor offer any explanation for her tardiness.

The point is, I knew immediately that those candidates weren’t a good fit and I didn’t hire them, but many people make the mistake of not listening to their gut and hire such people who don’t  jibe with the rest of the team anyway.

Related: 3 Lessons Learned From Hiring the Wrong Person

In those cases, regret is the likely outcome.