You had one job. And you’ve hired the wrong person!

Finding, attracting and recruiting a new senior manager can be a time consuming, costly, frustrating and gruelling process for a variety of reasons. The person you want to hire might not be interested in your opportunity. Maybe even though they would be perfect, they are too expensive for your business. Maybe that perfect person was set to join, but changed their mind. Maybe you thought you’d found the right individual, but your colleagues (or boss) didn’t like them. The scenarios are endless and mostly, not very good for your stress levels…

There are a number of papers written about the costs of hiring, and it is often concluded as a multiple of the salary the new hire commands. Suffice to say, if you add up the cost of your time and your colleagues’ time spent on the process, add to that the opportunity cost (as in: what could you have achieved in that time when you were busy shifting through CVs and sitting in interviews that weren’t going anywhere), plus the time spent designing and then managing an induction programme, you’ll soon come to an often eye watering amount that is invested in getting the right person on board.

Once the new hire is on board you’ll see the very best of them in their first three months. The all-important time when the individual is in their honeymoon period, wants to make the very best of impressions, is eager to convince everyone that the company has made the right decision in getting them on board and when they are developing relationships across the business.

Everyone involved in the hiring process sighs a sigh of relief, good job done, everyone is happy. Except … when there are times that you are surprised by some of the new hire’s behaviour. Perhaps you notice a lack of EQ (or even IQ), maybe you feel that they are not quite as experienced as they had led you to believe (damn, you should have taken those references after all…!).

Now what?

Is this the time to hit the ejector button? Can we salvage the situation? Can we re-direct them and find an alternative position in the company where they’ll be more effective?

There is no golden bullet here. This is where your leadership qualities will have to come to the fore. First things first, you need to raise your concerns with the person, you then need to flag the situation with your boss, along with a plan of action. The action can vary from a straight dismissal, to giving the person access to an executive coach, further training or different responsibilities. However, hoping that the person might improve with time, without addressing the problem, is not a strategy. Remember, you’ll see the best of a person in their first three months, it is unlikely it will get better at month 4, 5 or 6…!

Should you decide to let them go, then whatever number you calculated as the cost of recruitment, has just more than doubled.

Not only will you have to do it all again, you have now done damage in your department. There is a cost to the time that you haven’t had a successful manager – opportunity cost, probably a cost in morale and certainly a reputational cost. More than likely, your reputation.

It is now absolutely paramount that you prevent a hiring mishap from happening again. We’re all allowed one mistake, but two…?

Before immediately embarking on the next recruitment drive, let’s just reflect what you might change in order to guarantee a successful outcome. Again, no golden bullet here, however elements to consider:

  • How wide did we cast our net to find this person (can an executive search consultant widen the search? Do they have a larger network?)
  • Are we following through with potential candidates, who on first approach say that they are happy where they are? Are we exploring whether they might be even happier in your business?
  • Is the interview process as effective as it can be? Are those doing the interviewing trained to do so, or does it turn out to be a bit of a chat? Should we set outcome objectives for interviews? Should we have a set questionnaire? (personally, I’m not a fan of this).
  • How many people within our organisation do we get involved in the process, a variety of opinions can be helpful (but it can also be very annoying).
  • Should we see the last two people on the short list in a social environment, should they do a presentation, should we ask them what they think of the recruitment process so far?
  • Should we ask a handful of previous peers and bosses what they thought of the individual you’re about to make an offer? The answer is yes, without exception.
  • Should we ask them to set their objectives for their first three months, or at least agree the objectives you want to set them? Again, absolutely yes! If anything, it will give you an indication of their level of ambition.

The bottom line is that we all make mistakes, albeit rarely as costly as a wrong hire.

As it so happens, we are pretty good at this whole recruitment malarkey, only had one mis-hire on behalf of a client in 25 years … so you might want to give me a ring. I’ll happily share my advice.

Maarten Jonckers