Hire for Fit… Lessons learned through a career of miss-hires

Posted May 26, 2016 in Latest News & Insights, Leadership

You hire for skills, you fire for lack of fit. It’s a lesson that I was told about leadership early on in my career and continually seem to ignore. I lived through hiring missteps recently on my team three times in the past year alone. I’m sure I’m not the only leader out there that has a penchant for repeating missteps in hiring so it got me wondering, why is it that we often ignore our gut or ‘facts’ and instead move forward with suboptimal hires. Here are a few of my own reflections based on by twenty-five year hiring career…

  • Your strength becomes your liability… one of my strengths is unwavering optimism. Whether it’s related to my business (always awesome!), my clients (totally the BEST!) or my ability to navigate tough situations (who doesn’t love a challenge!), being optimistic has been a huge asset to me as an entrepreneur. As a hiring manager though, it’s a bit of a curse. Instead of heeding red flags in assessments or from references, I can find a way to talk myself into things by deluding myself into believing I can make it work. What are your strengths that may actually trip you up in the hiring process?
  • Great talent is hard to find… often we look to hire people when we’re really stuck and need the help. Instead of continuously scanning for great talent, we can find ourselves behind the eightball and then scrambling to fill key roles. The whole interview process can be anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, so it’s no wonder that it’s tough to go back to the drawing board. I know I’ve avoided it and ‘settled’ for someone who was ‘good enough’ but not ‘great’. How do you keep an active talent funnel?
  • Don’t make it personal… sometimes people come to you as ‘friends of friends’. One organization I worked at actually gave people a bonus for recommending friends and colleagues. If you’re a high empathy person (ahem, I may resemble that remark), it may be difficult to separate business from personal and you may tolerate mediocre or poor performance because of the value you place on your other relationships. Ultimately, this is a detriment to you and the person you’re tolerating. Who’s feelings are you avoiding hurting?
  • Poor fit will kill your culture… each time our team sheds an individual who was a poor fit, the shift in the dynamic is palpable. Where we would find ourselves ‘stuck’ or ‘grinding’ to get through issues and work, when the person in question leaves, we pick up momentum and move faster. Even when we’re short staffed. In my experience, the right people can get three to four times the amount of work done than the effect a poor fit has on your team and culture. Who’s slowing down your team?

What are some of your lessons from hiring missteps? I’d love to hear them. And be sure to check out our latest Mentoring Matters features where members of our community share their perspectives on how to solve some of your toughest leadership problems.

Happy leading!


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