How to avoid bad hires

Bad hires are the result of a broken hiring process.

¾ of employers say they’ve hired the wrong person for a position.

And to make matters worse, the average cost of a bad hire ranges from $17,000 to $240,000

Here are 7 ways to avoid bad hires:

A bad hiring decision can cost you in more ways you did not even think of.

– Lost productivity
– Impacted team morale
– Lower team performance
– Compromised work quality
– Onboarding & training time
– Training & recruitment costs
– Cost to recruit & train replacement

Your company’s success depends on finding and hiring the right talent to grow it.

Improving your hiring process can help you find more qualified candidates, fill your positions more quickly, and retain them.

Let’s dive in.

1/ Don’t Skip Reference Checks

Reference checks aren’t just a formality, they are needed.

It’s natural for candidates to present their best selves in interviews.

This makes it tricky to form a realistic assessment.

To form a rigorous assessment of a candidate, you need to evaluate their skills & experience from a 3rd-party lens.

It will help you:

– Verify the information
– Assess potential success
– Get more intel on a candidate’s skills, previous performance, knowledge, & work history

References should be of current and/or previous managers who are familiar with the candidate’s work performance.

Focus on knowledge, skills, and abilities required for your specific role.

Check out this great resource by @amandanat for questions to ask a reference:

2/ Write a Killer Job Description

Hiring great talent starts with attracting great talent.

Typical job descriptions are dull and just include a list of responsibilities.

The solution?

Put on your marketer’s hat.

Make yours stand out.

• Stay away from jargon
• Keep it simple and to the point
• Write down the success factors
• Get your brand’s personality to shine through
• Grab their attention > what messages will resonate most with the ideal candidate?
What do I mean by success factors?

Instead of creating a to-do list of tasks and responsibilities, focus on the end results the business needs from the candidate in order for them to “win” at your company.

3/ Set Clear Expectations with Success Factors

As you think about your next hire, consider the following:

It’s a year from now.

You’ve hired your dream candidate, and they’ve been on board for exactly a year. During this year they’ve crushed it.

Think through 6 questions:

• What is your, and the company’s, definition of “crushed it”?

• What have they accomplished, quarter by quarter, in their first 365 days with the company?

• What has the person delivered in the way of key results, and what has each of these key results meant for the trajectory and velocity of the company?

• What supposedly unsolvable problems have they solved in their role?

• What key function/infrastructure have they built to ensure the success of this role in the event that we promote them (or leave)?

• What has made them, at this point, so dear to the company that the higher-ups would do anything not to lose this person?

Ready. Set. Go!

4/ List the Competencies & Skills for Role

To avoid hiring someone that looks great on paper but flunks on the job, you need to look at both skills and competencies.

Yes, they are different and you need both.

Skills are the highly specific abilities that an employee needs to perform their job.

• Computer programming
• Active listening
• Copywriting

Competencies are a bit more blurry than skills.

Competencies are knowledge, behaviors, or tendencies that lead an individual to be successful in a given activity.

• Problem-solving
• Data-based decision-making
• Strategic planning
• Adaptability

5/ Prepare Questions & Exercises

Think through the right questions and exercises that will bring about insights into the skills and competencies you’re looking for.

It will give you a window into how they think and work.

Some sample questions.

• Tell me about a time you used a creative or out-of-the-box solution to fix a problem.
• Can you give an example of a new process or product you have implemented at work recently?

Critical thinking:
• Tell me about a time when you had to make a critical decision without having much data. How did you go about it?
If you’re hiring a growth marketer, ask them:

Let’s walk through the current sign-up flow for our company, what would you change? What would you test?

The same could be done for your landing pages and social media presence.

For the exercise/case study, give your candidates as much context, data, and see what they do with it.
6/ Design Interview Stages & DRIs

Each step of the hiring process should give you the signal you need to know whether their skills, values, and needs line up with your role

I) Qualifying call
II) First interview
III) Second interview
IV) Exercise
V) Third interview

I) Qualifying call: The recruiter has a 30-minute phone interview with the candidate to assess role fit.

The hiring manager should give the recruiter 3-5 qualifying questions for the role prior to the call.

II) First Interview: Conducted by the hiring manager. Assess the candidate’s fit with the needs of the role, skills, and competencies to do the job effectively.

Time: 45-60 minutes

Format: Zoom

III) Second Interview: Conducted by a teammate.
Can be a group interview if the role is cross-functional.
Assess key skills and if they can work/communicate well with peers + stakeholders.

Time: 30-60 minutes

Format: Zoom

IV) Exercise / Case study – Gain a better understanding of how the candidate thinks and works.

Expected time from candidate: 2-3 hours

Format: Varies, but probably Google Docs / Slides + Loom

V) Third Interview – Conducted by exec/team lead.
Final gut-check and culture fit as needed on candidates.

Time: 30-60 minutes

Format: Zoom

7/ Use Google’s Rule of 4

How many team members should be interviewing the new hire to avoid false positives and a toxic hire?

When evaluating a candidate, use Google’s Rule of 4.

Google found 4 interviews were enough to predict a new hire’s performance with 86% confidence.

The goal is to have an interview process that evaluates for these four criteria four times in aggregate across all interviews (some interviews will assess all four, others just some).

Here are 4 areas I learned from @kevanlee and adopted since:

• Role Knowledge – Is this person in the top 10% of people in their field?

Questions should be set and personalized by the hiring manager for evaluation.

• Critical Thinking – Are they a dynamic and flexible thinker? Can they think rigorously?

Are they able to see each side of a potential challenge or situation and think through the ideal solution?

• Communication – How well do they communicate (especially important in a remote environment)? Do they take initiative & responsibility?
• Cultural – Do they bring a positive cultural contribution to the company’s culture? Evaluate based on your company’s values.
TL;DR – Here’s how to avoid bad hires:

1/ Use Google’s Rule of 4
2/ Set Clear Expectations
3/ Don’t Skip Reference Checks
4/ Write a Killer Job Description
5/ Design Interview Stages & DRIs
6/ List Competencies & Skills for Role
7/ Thoroughly Prepare Questions & Exercises

That’s a wrap!

Took me several hours to organize my thoughts and learnings, hope that you found it useful as you look for your next hire.

• Follow me @samanthalcc for more content to grow your startup.
• RT the tweet below to share hiring best practices with your audience:

Follow: @samanthalcc



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