How to Avoid a Bad Hire: Tips from Every Stage of the Hiring Process

How to Avoid a Bad Hire: Tips from Every Stage of the Hiring Process

How expensive is a bad hire, really? In just dollars and cents, SHRM found that one hiring mistake can be worth up to five times that employees’ salary. Combine that with the fact that the Harvard Business Review concluded that 80% of employee turnover is attributed to poor hiring practices, one or two bad fits can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That doesn’t even take into account the hit to efficiency and morale that the team takes.

So how do you keep a bad hire from hurting your team? Root out bad fits early, and stay vigilant throughout the entire hiring process (and beyond) for the signs of toxic employees. Read on for tips from every stage of the hiring process:

Applications and Resumes

Totally unqualified candidates aside, hiring managers are often tempted to consider riskier candidates in order to save on hiring costs. There are times when it might pay off to take a chance on someone who isn’t entirely qualified- say you asked for 3 years of experience for a sales rep and a few of your candidates are fresh out of college- but for the most part, being highly selective about whose resumes stand out will keep you from bringing on a bad fit. If you have a good feeling about somebody who isn’t totally qualified, don’t hesitate call applicants about gaps in their experience or expertise- maybe they have a compelling reason to move onto the next round.

Don’t just do a 15 second scan of an applicant’s resume. Take a few minutes to look for the types of blatant lies that can cost you later. We all know that resumes are inflated, so compare the experience that applicants claim to have with their LinkedIn profile- especially if they claim any form of leadership. Further, ask to reach out to current and former supervisors instead of a list of references. They will give you more honest feedback about a person’s work ethic, attitude, and skill set. In the end, trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem quite right on a resume, it probably isn’t.

Take the time to review applicants on multiple social media accounts. Read more about this strategy here.

A referral program is another way to ensure that you’re getting high-quality applicants for your open position. Why? Because your current team has a stake in who they work with day-to-day, and don’t want to make their jobs harder by recommending someone who won’t work well with the team. Since referred candidates are already somewhat familiar with your company, they “get a much more honest perspective” of how you work- according to the WSJ’s guide on hiring, which means those who decide to move forward in the application process know the ins and outs of the company and position they’re applying for.

One Strategy we love: create a one-way video interview to gate the application process from spammy candidates. Ask general questions about applicants’ experience and qualifications that you can check against their resumes, and get an idea of cultural-fit before you take the step of bringing them in for an interview.


During the interview process, focus mainly on questions that revolve around culture, passion, and high-performance in order to weed out candidates that will clash with your company’s values and goals.

  • Culture: It’s hard to tell from a resume what a candidate’s best work culture really is. Resumes offer inflated versions of achievements, experience, and expertise. In order to determine whether or not a candidate is a good match for you, ask behavioral questions that get at the root of what motivates them to do a job well. (check out this infographic).

  • Passion: Chances are very good that the word “passionate” is somewhere on your applicant’s resume. It’s a buzzword so pervasive, that it has pretty much lost any real meaning for a hiring manager. However, you want employees that show genuine passion for your product/service. Ask situational interview questions that give candidates room for an emotional response. One question we love: “Describe a time when you felt as though you made a real impact on your last company. What happened and what were the effects?”

  • Performance: Especially when you’re hiring for contract-based projects or high-volume sales roles, past performance is a key indicator for quality of hire. Performance is different from statements like “hard working” and “self-motivated.” It’s quantifiable. Ask about KPIs at past roles, and whether or not the candidate exceeded them. If they grumble about how they didn’t meet a goal because of circumstances beyond their control, then that might be a red flag.

The First 90 Days

Onboarding a new employee can always cause friction in the workplace. There are new systems and software to be mastered, there are expectations and goals to be set, and there are social and cultural dynamics to figure out. It’s normal for your new hire to get frustrated from time to time. However, if they’re constantly complaining about your processes or causing morale to sink, there may be a larger problem.

Don’t let any issues that arise during the first few months fester. Consider establishing the first 90 days as a probationary period, and keep close eye on how your new employee is getting along with their work and peers. Carefully catalog any missteps and ask members of the department to do the same. If you determine that the problem is worse than a learning curve, take swift action.

First, sit down with the new employee and have a direct and honest conversation about both of your expectations coming into the job and where there seems to be a gap. Be clear about what actions would be necessary to remedy any issues, and gauge if they are willing to take those actions. If not, you’ll need to decide if they need to be reassigned or let go.

If you determine that you need to fire the bad hire, offering severance and outplacement services will help to ease the blow and demonstrate good faith from the company’s standpoint. Severance is not necessary, but if the problems with the hire are mainly cultural, it’s a good way to show that you take responsibility for the mistake and mean no ill will. A clear exception would be poor performance, or a breach of ethical conduct.

A bad hiring decision is painful for all parties. Learn to spot problems early on in your hiring process in order to avoid the cost and pain of having to replace toxic employees. If you take care of the problem quickly and professionally, it should have minimum impact on your employer brand.

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