A bad hire can really make you see what’s important in your team

Avoiding bad hires 100 percent of the time would probably be a dream come true in HR. Not to mention the teams that have to live with that person just not working out. Decades of optimizing recruitment processes have certainly gone a long way, but is it actually possible never again to hire the wrong person?

Article by Martin Paludan.

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Not according to Joel Shapiro, president at JMS Technical Solutions. Joel have been working with recruitment for more than a decade, which is probably why he stresses that avoiding the bad hire 100% of the time is impossible:  

  • It is actually becoming increasingly difficult to avoid bad hires. The labour market is tight with a growing skill gap. Competition for talent is becoming tougher, and organizations are settling for average candidates for positions that some years ago would only have been considered for an elite few.

But in Joel’s experience, this certain lack eliteness actually very rarely makes for a bad hire. This is supported by a study conducted by Leadership IP which reveals that only 11% of bad hires are actually due to a lack in technical skills.  

So what does make a bad hire? And, more importantly, what can we learn from it, when we are working to get the right candidates in the future?

What’s in a bad hire?   

So the lack of expert proficiency in every desired skill rarely makes someone a bad hire. This makes perfect sense, since skills are relatively easily tested and documented. It is also typically highly prioritized, when we go look for a new member for our team, and even if some skills are missing, strong collaboration and further training can often make up for it.

It’s the tricky bit about personality - the fact that people tend to have quite different ones - which according to Joel results in the vast majority of bad hires:

  • Companies need to be aware of who they are hiring, not just what skills they are getting. Often organizations will look at the hiring process from a problem solving perspective. As in, can this candidate solve this current problem? Skills are obviously important, but the question should also be if this person can thrive, grow and contribute to the team over the next year… and that’s far more difficult to answer.

This is where not just getting to know the personality and core values of the candidate, but also those of your team can quickly become a very good investment.

The bad hire can teach you about your values

Joel emphasizes the importance of organizations trying to understand that a bad hire doesn’t usually means that the person you hired is inherently “bad”. Simply calling it a “wrong” hire actually might be more precise in most instances:

  • Culture and values differ greatly from organization to organization, and even from team to team. So while that person might not work well together with you and your colleagues, he or she might thrive in another organization or even somewhere else in your organization.


So taking the time and effort in analyzing why that person failed in the position, might quickly prove a valuable investment, as it will give us a much better starting position for our next hire.

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Show me those values

Once you’ve done the job of determining the values in your team, you can set up a recruiting process where you methodically screen for them - just as you would for skills. The job interview, as well as various personality tests, remain viable tools, but doing usually says even more about values than just… well, saying.

Joel explains that he and JMS Technical Solutions are using a platform called Grit Seed, where candidates solve tasks. Not for the sake of showing how fast or how well these tasks are performed, but how candidates react to increasingly difficult tasks:

  • Combined with the other elements of scouting, this can provide a better impression of the candidate. Not just how they see themselves, or how we perceive them, but how they would actually go about working and collaborating. There are a number of platforms on the market already, and I think we will definitely start to see a more widespread use of them in the years to come.

Are you interested in learning more about the culture and values that drive your organization? Understanding them better, or perhaps change them all together?  Consider joining Joel for the culture & change conference track the Boye 19 Brooklyn Conference on May 7-9