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It’s happened at every company: you hire someone who seems like a great candidate, only to discover that the person is either a terrible fit for the position or for your corporate culture.

This situation is discouraging for HR professionals and managers – it makes them feel that they can’t trust their judgement, and they worry they’ll make the same mistake again. Don’t worry – just because you’ve made one misjudgment in hiring doesn’t mean the past has to repeat itself. Read on to learn about learning from bad (as well as your worst) hires.

Analyze What Went Wrong

The goal of this exercise is not to dwell on the past. Rather, you want to ask yourself what went wrong with a hire, and what could you do differently the next time.

Start at the beginning of the hiring process and examine all the events that led to hiring that person. What did the ad say? Did you check the candidate’s references? Were there any warning signs during the interview? Learning from the past helps you avoid a rerun.

Exit interviews are good. But an employee won’t always give you the whole story. They may be concerned that saying the wrong thing may cost them a reference, and they’ll leave on bad terms. An exit survey gives them a bit more freedom to say what they want, because they’re not sitting across from another human being.

If your office is currently using 360 reviews, you can look at their last review to see what their coworkers said about them. It’s possible this research can show you warning signs, like coworkers noticing an employee seems less engaged, more detached, or harder to work with. This feedback may even tell you why this has happened.

“So and so seemed very upset they didn’t get promoted, and started missing deadlines shortly thereafter,” for example.

Review the Onboarding Process

What does your business do when you hire someone new? Is there a welcoming and/or training process? If the answer to that question is “no,” that’s a problem.

Sometimes, a person doesn’t succeed at a job because he or she doesn’t receive the right training. And that’s not the employee’s fault – the company must take responsibility for that. Look at the onboarding process (if you have one) carefully to judge whether your firm is contributing to a new hire’s success.


Before you put an ad in the paper or online, ask yourself what skills and qualifications the right candidate needs in order to succeed at this job. There will be some core competencies or experience the person absolutely must have, and some that will be less important.

For example, if you’re looking for a computer programmer, that person should know certain programming languages. Yet, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of soft skills. Although programmers spend much of their day in front of computers, they still have to interact with other people (some of whom might be clients). Determine which skills and qualifications matter the most, and hire the person who has them.

Don’t Rush

You might need to fill that accounting position yesterday. It’s tempting to pick someone who more or less meets your needs just so that the work can get done. However, that’s how hiring mistakes are made.

While you shouldn’t spend months on the hiring process, you should also remember it’s not a race. You want to find a person who has the right skills and is a good cultural fit with the firm.

Write the Right Kind of Ad

An ad for a job can tell candidates a great deal about a business. Does the ad clearly describe the position and what the employer expects from new hires? Is it vague? Are there spelling and grammar mistakes?

A well-written ad is one of the best tools to attract top-quality talent. It weeds out people who aren’t qualified while drawing in those who would be a good fit.

Ask, “Was it our fault?”

It’s important to ask this question. Using the methods in the, “Analyze What Went Wrong” section, ask yourself if this bad hire was the company’s fault. Did we set them up for failure? Were they asked to do too much?

In any case, the last thing you ever want to do is just write them off as “a bad apple.” Whatever happened, it’s important to identify exactly what went wrong, why it happened, and make the required changes.

This makes it easier for the person who has to fill that position, and will help you with every hire you make after that.

Guest Post/Author Bio:

This article has been submitted by the team at Grapevine Evaluations. Grapevine is an online 360 degree feedback system designed for HR departments to easily create, manage and distribute employee evaluations for any sized organization.


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