How to deal with a bad hire

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you hire someone who seems like a good fit only to find out that they don’t suit the role after all. Of course, this is a situation we would all rather avoid in the first place (see our blogposts on hiring with your head and recruiting outside the tickboxes). Nonetheless, there can be times when you do everything right and still end up with a bad hire.

There are a few signs to look out for that the person you hired is not the great fit you thought they were, and it’s important to identify these before you make your next move. A few red flags to be aware of include:

-          Asking for help all the time. It’s normal for a new hire to need some time to get used to a new working environment and, if they’re keen to impress, they will probably ask a lot of questions at the beginning. But at a certain point it becomes a concern, particularly if the questions make you start to feel like you’re doing their job for them. Asking for pointers here and there shouldn’t ring alarm bells by itself, but if they ask questions more than they find solutions, it could be a worry.

-          Using work-time to check personal social media. This one is pretty self-explanatory; if your hire is constantly checking Facebook and Instagram, they are inevitably going to be distracted from their work, and they won’t give their best performance. This is a bad sign, especially if it happens a lot immediately after you hired them – if they get this distracted at the time they should be most keen to make a good impression, what will they be like once they’ve gotten used to working for you?

-          Immediately taking time off. This suggests a lack of commitment to the role they’ve been hired to do – obviously not a trait you want in a new employee. If an employee won’t even take some time to settle into their new role before they start taking time off (unless this is something that has been discussed prior to hiring them) then it is a sign that they are not that invested in the job.

These are just a handful of red flags to keep an eye out for (a more comprehensive list can be found here). But once you’ve identified a bad hire, what do you do next?

Well, there are a few ways to deal with it. The first, and most agreeable for all parties involved, is to try and help your new employee adapt to your expectations. A gentle push in the right direction could be enough to turn that bad hire back into the promising individual who won you over in the interview. Sometimes all it takes is a little communication – you can let them know where they are failing to meet expectations, and offer some advice on how they can up their game. A conversation can help you draw the line between someone who has just made a mistake or two, and someone who really is a bad hire and who won’t commit to improving their performance. If they’ve made a genuine mistake, you can help them to learn and grow from it by telling them where they’ve gone wrong. If they prove to be unwilling or unable to learn, then there are other steps you can take.

One option, to avoid having to fire people, is to assign them to a different role they may be more suited to. Perhaps they did not have the skills for the position you initially hired them to fill, but this doesn’t mean they have nothing at all to offer your company! If there is another area in your company that could benefit from them, don’t feel like you can’t give them a different role.

If they really aren’t a good fit with your company in any way, then the best thing to do is to let them go. To make this as smooth and painless as possible for all parties involved, there are a few things to consider:

-          Take responsibility. While the person you hired may seem like a completely different person from the one you met at the interview stage, it was, ultimately, still your decision to hire them. So when telling them that they have turned out to be incompatible with your company, it is important to be able to admit you made a mistake when you hired them.

-          Apologise. By apologising, you will decrease the chance of hard feelings. Not only will this take into consideration the feelings of the person you have to let go, it will also prevent them from telling people negative things about you, which could damage your company’s reputation.

-          Learn from it. Think about what exactly made them a bad hire, and then you will know what to look out for – and avoid – in future hires. It may be factors you never even considered previously, giving you a new perspective to bring to future interviews you carry out.

Hopefully it won’t come to this – no one wants to have to fire a new employee. But if it does, at least the process can be smooth and quick, so that you can find a new, better suited person as soon as possible.