From Geoff’s Desk: The Cost of a Bad Hire

Let’s face it. Bad hires happen. No one likes them, but there they are. CareerBuilder conducted a survey of employers to determine how bad hires happen, how much they cost, and what made a bad hire, well bad.

The survey reported that bad hires happen because many employers feel rushed to fill a vacancy, others didn’t know enough about the candidates and still more didn’t follow through with the back ground checks. Being rushed is a fact of business, if the position is critical you need to fill it fast. My bet is this isn’t the reason why a hire can turn bad, it is simply an explanation. Even if the hiring process has to be rushed, the employees hired don’t have to be bad. Learn about the candidate, do more than one interview, take the finalists to lunch, check out their LinkedIn profile, contact any connection you have in common. In short, do your homework; it can be quicker than you think.

So what does a bad hire cost? How does $25,000 to $50,000 (or more) sound? That’s the range most common in the CareerBuilder survey. The costs add up quick, lost training/retraining, lost time, lost productivity, damage to internal and external relationships and we haven’t even added in wages and benefits or lost opportunities yet. The trap I think many employers get themselves into is purely a dollars and cents equation, but they fail to put a value on the rest of the team. If you have a bad hire and you’re not doing anything about it, you risk losing a star employee – watch out.

What makes a bad hire bad? The characteristics most commonly cited were:

  1. Failure to produce quality work
  2. Failure to work well with others
  3. Negative attitudes
  4. Attendance problems
  5. Customer/client complaints
  6. Failure to meet deadlines

What strikes me about that list is that most of the characteristics are non-work product related. It says that many bad hires weren’t bad simply because the employee couldn’t do the work assigned (though that did top the list), it says that most often it was things like “not playing well with others” or negative attitude that was the problem. Chances are good you can train an employee for a specific skill set, but you sure can’t train someone to have a good attitude.

Having a recruiter can certainly help, but one that just opens their desk draw and passes you a handful of resumes without learning about you or your business’s culture is not going to provide you with an employee who will be a good fit. You’ve got to do your homework, make phone calls, get the candidate out of the formal interview environment and into a more social setting, and by all means, do a background check.

Yes, it can be hard work to find a good employee, but the joy of a good hire will last much longer than the memory of the hiring process. Good luck!


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