Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Don't Fall for the First Person to Walk Through the Door

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
If there's one thing about managing that I've learned to be true, it's that you know pretty quickly when a new hire is a mistake. You can probably figure it out in the first 30 days.

If you have a strong culture, you'll see the early signs of a poor fit. If you measure job performance on a regular basis, you'll be disappointed. If you listen to your people, they won't hesitate to let you know when a new hire is not working out.

And as good as you may be at interviewing, there are always those candidates who interview better. And you get sold. We've all been there. The more senior-level the hire, the more disruptive it will be to your organization if he's a bad fit.

So, what can you do to prevent a bad hire?

Here are some things that have worked for me:
  • Be very specific about the job description when advertising the job, whether it is an online search, or through a headhunter. You'll waste less time.

  • Once you identify a candidate, take your time in the interview process. Don't fall in love with the first candidate that you have good chemistry with. Hand-pick some colleagues in your company to interview the candidate as well. Coordinate it so that your line of questioning doesn't overlap. We have found that when you hire slowly, you find out most -- if not all -- of what you need to know about the candidate. Conduct the first round of interviews in your office. Then the second round should be in a more social setting. A restaurant, coffee shop, cocktails, a ballgame. You'd be amazed at how much you learn by how the candidate interacts with a waitress.

  • Be strategic in your line of questioning. Most interviewers don't fully prepare for a meeting with a job candidate. If you did, you'd learn what you need to know a lot sooner. Consider it like account planning, where the right questions lead to a unique insight.

  • Don't ask for the usual three references. You know who they're gonna give you: colleagues that have become friends. Instead, ask for 15 names you can call -- former supervisors, peers, and those that have worked under them. How many people can produce 15 people (yes, 15) that will say something good about them? Simple: the truly talented ones.

  • Use your professional network to check out the candidate. I've found Linked-In to be a valuable tool in some instances, where I've reached out to people not provided by the candidate.
Hopefully the above tips will help you make smarter hires. But even if one incompetent one slips through your vetting, do yourself and your company a favor and fire that person FAST. As much as you hope things will improve, chances are, they will only get worse. And that person will become a cancer in your organization.

Happy hunting!
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