5 Tips for Avoiding a Bad Hire

Hiring can be tough, and it can also be enjoyable! Here are a few of my tips for avoiding a bad hire.


#1 Get super clear on your absolute musts for the role. Before you do anything else, achieve 100% clarity on what success looks like for your role. This means writing a scorecard, which will ultimately become your job description. I cannot stress this enough - a job description should not just be an HR formality.  Rather, a good job description is a management tool that should be used consistently and often, starting with hiring. Lay out your musts in two areas: goals (what must get accomplished) and competencies (skill sets needed to accomplish those goals). If you’re hiring for a new role, make sure you take the time to really design it well by writing a scorecard and getting feedback from trusted sources on it. If you’re backfilling an existing role, resist the urge to simply use the previous job description. I guarantee that you’ll want to make some changes for any number of reasons. Also, the first step you can take in attracting candidates who are a fit for your role is to tell them exactly what it is and what success looks like. Don’t miss that opportunity!


#2 Avoid “bright, shiny object” syndrome. One common pitfall in hiring occurs when hiring managers “fall in love” with a candidate early on and can no longer look at that candidate objectively. When this happens, we miss crucial information because we are so distracted by all things bright and shiny about a candidate. Do not fall in love - stay objective and at a healthy distance. Resist the urge to throw data out the window. The best way to do this is to use your scorecard or job description to objectively assess candidates.


#3 Use your gut, but back it up with data. I used to tell managers that the gut has no place in hiring. Over the years I have learned that it is next to impossible to rule out our guts, as they are a part of who we are as people and have evolved with us for centuries. What I now believe is that it’s important for us to use our guts effectively in hiring.  Here’s how you do that: do not solely use your gut to make decisions on candidates. You should first and foremost use interview data (what you learn in interviews from candidates) to inform your decisions and candidate assessments. Your gut should only play a secondary role to help you further understand and test your preferences and decisions. The more you use on actual interview data, the better.


#4 Educate yourself on implicit bias, then challenge your bias constantly. We are all inherently biased - this is a fact. In hiring (and in life), we must work hard to train ourselves to challenge our own biases. And this is no easy feat. My best tip - avoid declining candidates because “they’re not a culture fit.” I encourage you to really deconstruct what you mean by that. Ask yourself “why?” until you get to an answer that is rooted in interview data and can be tied back to your scorecard.  If the answer is valid (I.e. you can tie it back to your scorecard), then it may be a reason to rule that candidate out. If not, I encourage you to dig deeper to understand what role bias may be playing.


#5 If a candidate seems too good to be true, they probably are. This is a super simple tip: There is no such thing as a perfect candidate or perfect hire.  If a candidate seems perfect for any reason, that is a red flag. Move cautiously ahead if you struggle to get any lessons learned, mistakes made, gap or growth areas from a candidate.


Want more tips? Sign up for my newsletter!


Happy hiring,