When the Perfect Candidate Turns Out To Be an Imperfect Fit

“Selection Decisions are often about as accurate as a coin flip” Inc.com

What if we told you that one of the most important business processes and procedures for success also has a 50% failure rate. No, we’re not talking about the stock market or buying real estate; think more human capital.

Recruitment is the single greatest risk point for any major corporation.  Especially in today’s modern hiring culture, employers are finding that the modern pool of candidates requires more than a steady paycheck and guarantee of benefits to ensure success.  A poor hiring choice can be costly and time-consuming and is often cited as one of the largest concerns for companies big and small.

The failure of keeping good hires, however, isn’t solely on the individual or company at hand. Each player has a solid role in the success of each other.  The employer has to set clear goals and expectations and ask key questions during the hiring process to ensure the candidate is a good fit. Employees must do the same, by setting both short and long term expectations that allow them to achieve maximum longevity and success.

It is important not just for companies to keep and maintain strong hires for their immediate growth but also for their long term future growth. Given the current climate of social media, one false move and your company may be blasted all across Twitter.  If you think making a bad hiring decision impacts your bottom line, wait until your reputation is in shatters when that same employee sends out a mass email that ends up circulated across social media platforms.

All is not gloom and doom, however, as there are many steps companies can take during the hiring process to help improve both their decision making and overall retention rate.  Here we delve into what it takes to make great initial decisions when it comes to recruitment and what employers can do when the perfect candidate turns out to be an imperfect fit.

Let’s Talk Prevention

The best way to head off trouble from the outset is to take preventative measures.  In short, don’t let failed hires contribute to negative perceptions of your company.  Utilize a few simple steps to help eliminate risk and save yourself hassle in the long run.

  1.     Interview Process

All hiring decisions begin in the interview room.  Employers should ensure they are asking the right questions for the individual role at hand.  Are you focusing solely on a candidate’s resume and experience while ignoring their character and it’s potential flaws?  Ask educated and insightful questions that help you fully understand your potential new hire before they are in the door and don’t be afraid to conduct more than one interview to flush out potential red flags.

  1.     Integrating New Hires

For years the typical onboarding model has focused on the 30-60-90 day model of candidate integration.  After the initial probation period, new employees will often only have contact with their managers or supervisors when an issue arises or during their annual review process.  

To ensure successful integration, be sure to be a company culture where supervisors check-in often to help gauge the status of new employees.  A weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly regular check up will not only help your new hire’s onboarding, but it also is critical for ensuring all levels of the management chain understand the full scope of daily business activities and short and long term goals.

  1.     Be Proactive

Another easy to prevent but frequently occurring problem is the failure to troubleshoot issues in a candidate’s performance.  If problems are appearing in the department or delays or other complaints are rolling in it’s best to delve right in and address before things get out of hand.  Often times new employees can have learning curves or may be used to their prior company’s method of doing business. Addressing any issues in a proactive manner can not only avoid disruptions but it can also allow you to retain otherwise quality candidates who may need minor guidance.   

Job Dissatisfaction

Now that we’ve dolled out our ounce of prevention, it’s time to talk about one of the most common reasons great candidates turn out to be not so great employees once they’re in the door.  Job dissatisfaction ranks near the top of new and long term employees’ top reasons for exiting a role. Want to avoid your company being added to the statistic? Here are a few common causes and tips for prevention.

  1.  Being Underpaid – Money may not be everything but being fairly compensated for your work certainly helps keep you happy in the 9-5 daily grind.  Employers should perform regular market checks to ensure your rate of pay is in line with industry trends and reward those employees who go above and beyond with corresponding pay bumps.
  2. Lack of Management – Another common area of strife is a feeling of lack of guidance with your supervisory staff.  Have a recent hire that doesn’t seem to be getting much done? Investigate whether they are receiving enough education and direction as to their role and the expectations of daily assignments.

  3.  Aptitude – Every job typically has a minimum set of requirements needed to perform up to standards.  While initial interview screenings should pick up on many of these skills and abilities, some time nuances may slip through the cracks.  Start by ensuring your interview process is best designed to help identify those with the resources needed to perform the job. Once that is nailed down, don’t be afraid to supply special one on one training or continuing education to those employees who otherwise should be excelling.
  1.  Attitude – In the insightful Leadership IQ study, coachability and motivation were among the most frequently cited reasons for failure among otherwise solid new hires.  Positive attitudes also had a high rate of correlation when it came high-performers. Add these results up and you have a strong connection between attitude and a candidate’s propensity to fail or succeed once they’re in the door.

    If you find a new employee who’s attitude and motivation are lacking it’s best to address potential causes of the problem.  In those regular check-in’s that we mentioned earlier, ask your hire how they are adjusting to the new role and if there are any changes that may make them more fulfilled in their daily duties.  A word of warning; if you suspect an employee may be having personal or home life issues, approach the topic cautiously and with a hefty dose of consultation from your HR department.

  2. Team Dynamics – From time to time, you may run across an otherwise great employee that just doesn’t work well with existing team members.  It may be personality clashes, or perhaps one person is well qualified but not a great people person.

    As always, avoiding the situation at the outset is ideal.  Be sure to invite multiple levels of current employees into the interview process to help identify and head off potential mismatches.  For existing teams, focus on creating a positive environment and encourage team building both in and out of the office. This multi-prong approach will help set your new hire up for success and can grow and maintain positive working and professional relationships.

Time to Cut Ties?

Despite your best efforts, there may come a time when that fantastic new hire might not be the goldilocks fits you envisioned.  In the case of that unfortunate scenario, one of the most important steps you can take to minimizing damage and protecting company culture and brand is a successful and graceful offboarding.  When all else fails, there are numerous steps employers can take to help make the transition a smooth and painless process for all involved.

  1. Timing and Access – Absent a major event that makes firing an immediate need, try to time notice to your employee in a thoughtful manner.  Avoid letting someone go at 4pm on a Friday afternoon which can give the impression you’ve sapped as much work out as possible.  Earlier in the week and day will give the ex-candidate time to adjust to their new unemployed status and also allows you to communicate the change to remaining employees rather than giving them the weekend to stew about what the firing means for their own long term job prospects.
  1. Severance Package – If the breakup between employee and employer will be happening on amicable terms, consider offering a severance package to help ease the burden from the sudden loss of a job.  Allowing benefits to continue for several weeks or until the end of the month is also not only a thoughtful gesture but may be required by law in certain cities or states. Whatever the terms, be clear in your communication to the employee when letting them off the hook to avoid any surprises and avoid burning bridges or sullying your employer reputation.
  2. Notice to Remaining Team Members – It’s not only the fired employee who is impacted by the decision to offboard.  Existing team members will also have a sense of confusion and perhaps even question their personal job stability in the event of an unexpected departure.

    Managers should get ahead of any potential problems by sitting the team down and discussing the firing in frank and professional terms.  While some information may not be able to be shared due to HR concerns, communicating that their previous co-worker wasn’t the right fit or that the remaining employers can rest assured they won’t be next will come over much better than discovering an empty desk without any explanation.

  1. Respect the Employee and Process – While it’s never exactly “fun” for anyone involved in the firing process, in order to protect your company brand and reputation, (and, let’s face it, to just be a good person) you should remember to remain respectful of the departing talent.  Avoid burning bridges or degrading your former employee by spreading confidential information about the reasons behind the offboarding. Share the minimum detail needed to assuage remaining employee fears and do what you can to remain on good terms with everyone involved in the process.
  1. Acknowledge Contribution – Sure, this employment opportunity may not have worked out, but that doesn’t mean the entire relationship was a bad apple.  News alert: employees are human too. The perfect candidate may turn out to be an imperfect fit, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t contribute while they were with your company.  Offer a thank you and do what you can to soften the blow. Not only will your reputation as a manager and broader corporate brand benefit, you’ll also help make someone else’s day just a tad bit less horrible.

Last Words

Whether its an employment or personal relationship, no one starts out thinking that everything will head south.  Careful screening of candidates and a successful onboarding and training program can help up your percentage of success for retaining new hires.  In the unfortunate event that things don’t quite work out, quick and thoughtful action is best to help mitigate the negative outcomes on all parties involved.  Last but not least, if you’re on the exiting end of a bad employment relationship, remember that one company’s imperfect fit may be the best thing to ever happen to another.  Your “just right” match is out there!

Article Updated from the Original on January 11, 2019