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Hiring mistakes will happen. Correct them early.

By Paul Sandusky, Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Ceridian

Whether you’re in Talent Acquisition or a business unit leader, if you work for a growing company you’re going to hire a lot of people. If you have a good recruiting process most of the hires will be strong. But you will make some mistakes. It is simply inevitable. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Do two things: one, learn from your mistakes so you don’t make them again, and two, correct your mistakes early. Today I’d like to talk about the latter because my experience is that this is the tougher of the two.

Correcting your mistakes is tough because what we’re really talking about is exiting someone from the organization and let’s face it that’s never easy and never fun. It is really one of the toughest things we do as leaders. Sure, on occasion a mistake can be corrected by finding someone a different role within the company and when that happens it feels amazing! Generally though, correcting a mistake involves exiting the individual from the organization.

Over the course of twenty years I have hired a lot of people as both a business unit leader and a talent acquisition leader. I’m very proud of my track record. But I definitely made a few mistakes. This is what I learned: trust my first instinct, don’t wait, and treat exiting employees with the utmost respect.

Trust that your first instinct is almost always the right one. All too often inexperienced managers convince themselves they need a lot of time to form an opinion of a new hire.   Alternatively, that their opinion will change over time. My experience is that your first instinct – and I’m talking about the first 30 days – is the right one. In the first 30 days you can easily assess the new hire’s values, work ethic, job skills, and culture fit. That’s all you need. Here are some of the questions I ask myself as I plan and monitor a new hire’s first 30 days:

  • Have I given my new hire a chance to meaningfully demonstrate their abilities?
  • Have I stretched my new hire out of their comfort zone to see how they react and “what they’re made of”?
  • Have I given my new hire an opportunity to interact with teammates to assess their culture fit?

You may have your own way to be sure you’re thinking critically about your new hire, and that’s fine, just be sure you’re being deliberate about it.

Once you know you’ve made a mistake don’t wait. Your opinion is unlikely to change and my experience is that your new hire knows they’re not a fit as well. It’s human nature to want to be good at what we do and to fit in. So you can be sure your new hire is not feeling good about themselves. The other consideration is the new hire’s colleagues and even more so if they’re a manager, their staff. If you have figured out your new hire is not a fit, you can be sure their colleagues or staff have as well. Keeping weak team members is bad for morale and for your credibility as a leader.

This discussion today is not about how to exit someone from your organization, every company has their own performance management process and you need to work within that process but don’t wait a minute longer than you need to. Cut your losses and move on.

My final piece of advice has become even more important today in the world of social media. When you’re exiting the new hire do it with the utmost care and respect. Do so because it’s simply the right thing to do. But also because how that individual is treated will impact how they talk to others about your company in the future. If you do it right, the individual, while maybe not immediately, will respect your decision and the way you handled yourself and still recommend your company as a place to work. I have seen this before. Make that your goal.

There is nothing more satisfying than bringing great new talent into your organization.   And nothing more frustrating than realizing that, for all your best intentions, you missed the mark. If you think you made a mistake, trust your instinct, move quickly, and do it with care and respect. Your next hire will be a good one!

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