Rushing to Hire Can Backfire

Does this sound like you? You have a great team but no bench strength? Each person is critical and if someone resigns it’s more than bad news, it’s catastrophic. Who’s going to do their work? How long will it take to find their replacement? What complaints are you going to hear from other team members? You don’t even want to think about it…you just want someone on board as soon as possible.

The thinking is understandable and what often happens is that you rush to hire. You hire the best person you see, not necessarily the best person for the organization. Sometimes in your gut you know you aren’t making the right decision but you simply can’t wait any longer to fill the position. I get it. Everyone who has ever been in a leadership role understands the desire to hire quickly. Too often, though, hiring quickly can backfire. One of my colleagues always say, hire slowly and fire quickly. Good advice, but what if you absolutely can’t wait?

Let’s talk about how it can backfire to rush to hiring. I’ll come back to ‘but what if you can’t wait’ later in the article. When we hire out of need we are likely to ignore out gut…that little voice that tells you they aren’t a good cultural fit or don’t have all the skills you need or something just nags at you. You’ll push it aside as not important or convince yourself that it will work out. More often than not, that thinking gets you into trouble down the road. Worse yet, when we are needy and feel like we’ve got to hire now, we aren’t paying attention to our gut. Our interviews focus on objective criteria and we masterfully ignore all the subjective parts that are often what makes or breaks a successful hire.

When our need to hire overshadows good sense, our interview style changes. Instead of digging deep to find out what the person can and cannot do and what they are all about, we ask surface questions, get the answers we want, and move on. Sometimes you get lucky and it works out. Most often, after the person is on board you find out they don’t have all the skills you need or their skill set isn’t as developed as you thought, or they need more hand-holding than you have time for…all the questions you didn’t ask because you really didn’t want to know the answers. What happens now? You either limp along with a person who can’t really perform at the level you need, with some false hope that will improve over time, or you take the plunge and look for someone else. I don’t have to explain to you how much time you have lost either way you handle it.

Interviewing is not a science, but when you feel the overpowering need to hire you will turn the process into a science. The interview will be filled with standard interview questions that they are most likely prepared for. You will miss nuances in their answers or body language or how long it takes them to respond to questions…many of the key elements in the interview process that help you determine fit and likelihood of success. In my interviews I often ask the same question, worded slightly differently, later in the interview to see whether I get a different response. When I feel the need to hire quickly, I am likely to skip this step and may miss a critical clue as to their personality or skills.

How else can hiring too quickly backfire? Have you ever met someone who couldn’t provide references for any number of reasons, maybe even legitimate reasons? Checking references is critical but if you feel this person sitting in front of you is your only choice maybe you skip this step. What might you have found out that helped you determine how to manage them more successfully or align your expectations of them realistically?

Onboarding a new critical hire may be ignored. You don’t have time to spend with them onboarding them for success, you just hope that they can swim. Or maybe your need is so great that your expectations of what you need from them are out of line with their abilities. You probably don’t even recognize it but often find yourself frustrated with them.

Hiring too quickly can backfire in so many ways, the most often result being they can’t perform to what you need for the position or they are the wrong cultural fit. But what if you really can’t wait to hire? Do you have to wait for the perfect person to show up even if it’s months and months? Of course not, I’m not suggesting you be miserable and the team workload becomes impossible. What I am saying is be aware and honest with yourself when you do hire someone. Accept that you are hiring someone with less skills or experience than ideal and don’t expect them to perform at a level they aren’t capable of. Don’t delude yourself into thinking their personality can change…it won’t. Acknowledge what is the reality and align your expectations accordingly. And perhaps, just perhaps, you continue to keep your eyes open for your next hire.

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