3 questions to ask when your new hire sucks

2006-08-26 Memento mori Creative Commons License photo credit: [ henning ]

As a manager, it is a great relief to go through the hiring process and, after great deliberation, hire what you think is a great new person to help out your team.

Once in a while, though, that great new hire walks in the door on day one and doesn't look or sound like the great hire you thought. It's not just buyer's remorse; it is this sense that the person you interviewed doesn't resemble the person in front of you that should be doing the work.

It's crunch time. Either this will turn around quick -- or this bad hire will start giving you and your team heartburn. What to do?

My recommendation is to let this person go, sooner than later. But before you do that, here's three questions that need an answer:

1. Did you give clear goals and expectations?

Within the first week, you should outline what work expectations you have for the employee. That includes turn-around times, goals for the work, and administrivia such as how to do your particular status report and when to give it. Now, you're not going to get every expectation down. But you'll get most of them down.

When expectations aren't met, it's important to call out the new employee that the expectations are not being met. This does two things: first, it shows the person the manager is paying attention, and, second, it helps calibrate where the employee is in the work so both of you start to do some mind-melding on the level of work required.

Now, managers often suck at providing good expectations and goals -- no doubt about that. As a new employee, if your boss isn't providing these expectations, you need to go ask about them to make sure you don't get nailed about not meeting expectations even if none were provided (which also sucks...).

2. Do you offer a good on-boarding process?

When you start on a job, there is a huge amount of information to process. It's better to process this information in smaller chunks and with different people providing the information. One person can explain corporate organization. Another how the work gets done. Another on how your particular method is implemented in this organization.

If you don't have this sort of support, you need to offer it yourself or your new employee will never get to the rules of the road in your company. But if you do offer a good process and the new employee isn't getting it, it is further confirmation that this is a bad hire.

3. Do your current employees agree?

If you are in a trusted environment with your team, you can ask your team (individually) about the new hire. I did that today, for example, with an existing person on my project team about a new team member hired last week. Good feedback on the new hire as well. But if you get lots of negative feedback -- or the non-verbal reluctance of a person to describe how much your new hire sucks -- you should have all sorts of warning signs that this isn't a good hire. You don't do this in a group setting, of course, but you need to ask your team how the new person is doing, knowing all the biases your team has about the work.

The 800-pound elephant in the room

Here's the deal: for a manager to admit a mistake, either through poor interviewing or a job candidate who provided all the "right" answers but fails to translate the answers on the job, is very difficult. People are never wrong. Neither are companies. It requires a strong ego to say the job isn't going to work out. It requires freedom from fear of showing a mistake made by a manager to the management team. Can you admit a mistake? That's the 800-pound elephant in the room.

Look, there are great interviewers who lack great execution on the job. Just like there are poor interviewers that are great on the job. If you get a great interview and lousy on the job person, cut your losses or you'll end up covering up the mistake for a long, long time.

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Comments

  1. Pros says

     Number one is a critical point. Before even jumping to a conclusion that they suck. Go over #1 clear cut expectations and goals. Have them early on demonstrate how they are meeting that and if not why.  If the manager continues to set unclear goals and expectations or sucks at it, he will have a lot of employees that suck.

    I’m sure you agree?? 

  2. says

    I find that getting other employees’ feedback always helps. It definitely raises some warning flags if they don’t have very positive things to say.

  3. says

    (Continuing my comment since I accidentally posted the first one too quickly)

    You just have to make sure that you give people time to evaluate the new hire and not make decisions too hastily. You want people to know how the new hire works and how he or she is working out so any opinion they share will be based on actual experience.

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