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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - Recruitment expert on what to do if you make the wrong hire?

Success and Leadership

Recruitment expert on what to do if you make the wrong hire?

Roxanne Calder

The search for talent has become a hen’s teeth exercise. The process is exhausting and costly. Is it any wonder our hopes run high when presented with a slither of skills and a thimble of talent? Our mind’s cry is, ‘yes, that can work!’. The exhilaration of finally filling the vacancy, removing the pressure and stress and alleviating the workload is too much to resist. How quickly can they start?

Then you discover you hired the wrong person. The stress is back, and you are plagued with worry. Poor hiring decisions are not just issues in today’s workplace. Pre-pandemic and the skills squeeze, employers faced similar issues. In 2017, one survey found 74% of employers had made the wrong hire. It just feels more acute today. The ease to fill a vacancy is exponentially harder, and the repercussions more significant.

You followed all the expert advice, especially the ‘move with speed and compromise’. As an experienced recruiter, I believe these recommendations still stand. It is the parts in between that need finessing.

How to avoid hiring the wrong candidate 

  1. Check your frame of reference and be aware of the mind’s tricks. Under pressure, we can enter interviews with a desperate hope, ‘please let this candidate be the one’. Shrouded by the daunting reality of what it means to continue with an unfilled vacancy, your mind may be skewed from good judgment. Know what the negotiables and non-negotiables are beforehand, and use them as your rational checklist.
  2. Don’t ignore the signs and signals. Running late for interviews, tardy communication, difficulty attaining references or educational transcripts and lacklustre responses are early indicators of potential attitudinal issues.  Compromise and latitude is the advice I often give. However, boundaries and standards are of equal importance. Listen to the reasons and observe the communication style. How would you feel if this was your employee?
  3. Don’t accept vague answers. Probe until you feel comfortable with the responses. Equally, vague answers don’t necessarily mean a skills deficit. It may be that the interviewee doesn’t know how to answer your interview questions. Either way, asking more questions uncovers any skill gaps and capabilities, reducing the likelihood of poor hiring decisions with the dual advantage of not rejecting the wrong candidate.
  4. Focus on soft skills. In a market short on skills and experience, we look to compromise. Yet have we allowed enough time for our new hires to upskill? Soft skills such as conscientiousness, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness help predict the likelihood of success.

Remedying a poor hire 

  1. Provide sufficient training and support. In 2022, the main priority of Human Resource departments was recruitment, increasing to 37% of their time versus 16%, in 2021. Yet, training remained at only 7% for both years. Hiring new employees with identified skills gaps and no training guarantees a new hire disaster. Try additional training before any other steps. That gem candidate you met at the interview is likely still there. The potential adverse behaviours may be due to deteriorating confidence and self-esteem, not incapability or a poor attitude.
  2. Have the conversation, even if it is uncomfortable. The situation is not ideal, and your employee is likely feeling the same. Outline the issues clearly, with examples and deliver the message non-emotionally. Ask for transparency in responses. It might be possible to retrieve the situation, which is really the best scenario.
  3. Performance management. After reviewing the situation, have an action plan with clear goals and expectations. Document it for both parties and diarise a future time to review performance.
  4. Performance warnings. These are given in writing and must identify the relevant performance concern. The warning cannot be a general call for improvement or encouragement to do so. It must be tangible. Adequate time needs to be provided for your employee to improve their performance. There is no legislative requirement specifying a certain number of written warnings. However, industrial tribunals have upheld unfair dismissal cases where an employee has not had a reasonable time to respond to performance concerns.

Our employment arena today is a work in progress. We need patience and determination as much as the skills to navigate the new trends. One thing is for certain, hiring mistakes don’t just sit with the candidate. The onus sits more with us, the employers. Apply extra due diligence and awareness, with the necessary pace and compromise. And if the situation eventuates with a wrong hire, be mindful of everyone’s fragility. Exiting an organisation the right way, with self-esteem intact is a must; benefits your business, your departing employee and society.


Written by Roxanne Calder.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Success and Leadership - Recruitment expert on what to do if you make the wrong hire?
Roxanne Calder
Roxanne Calder, the author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future’ (Major Street $29.95), is the founder and managing director of EST10 – one of Sydney’s most successful administration recruitment agencies. Roxanne is passionate about uncovering people’s potential and watching their careers soar.


Roxanne Calder is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.