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5 Ways to Avoid a Really Bad Hire

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The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Andy Lark, CMO of Xero.

The old adage that the only sureties are death and taxes is true. In business, though, there are a few more. For instance, you’re bound to hire the wrong person. And at that point, you either realize there’s a different role within the company he or she would be better-suited for, or you help him or her move forward elsewhere. Either way, you might have avoided the mis-hire if you’d just been fussy in the first place.

Being fussy requires you to interrogate the role as much as the individual. Dig into the position and you’ll expose the questions you need to ask to reveal the right candidate. You’ll also expose the dynamics of the gig—think of these as part of the ingredient list. Too often, hiring managers source candidates without clarity as to what ingredients make the perfect fit.

Here are a few ways to mitigate the risk of hiring the wrong people and how to deal with it when—not if—you do:

  1. Develop a clear scorecard

Figure out the qualities of an A player and ruthlessly score your candidate against each one. It’s a great way to compare the potential hire with the competition. The questions on the scorecard are critical to comprehending the person you are considering. Write down your categories and assign the multiplier. Simply put, how deep do you want to dig into that question? For the big questions, I might ask an additional five related questions.

You’ll never find the absolute perfect person, but if he’s not even an eight out of 10 on your scorecard, don’t consider hiring him. It’ll cost you too much down the track. It’s that Silicon Valley adage, “B players hire C players. C players hire D players. But A players hire A players.”

  1. It’s the second question that matters

To figure out if the candidate is a true organizational fit, dig deep on a train of questioning. Ask questions like: “Can you tell me about the work you were most proud of?” “How was that work recognized internally?” “How did you measure its performance and impact on the business?” “Did those measures matter to the business?” “What would you have done differently?” Digging deep reveals the truth.

See also: Here’s What Can Happen When You’re Not Honest About Your Business

  1. Reference-check ruthlessly

The most important reference-checking actually occurs before the interview. You’ll get a surprising amount of information about a potential candidate with a simple Google (GOOG) search. LinkedIn and other social media platforms will help truth-test the candidate’s resume and previous experience.

As for personal references, don’t delegate the task. Do it yourself. It can help clarify any outstanding queries you may have.

  1. Always hire before you need to

Hiring before the role becomes critical buys you some time to wait it out for the right candidate.

For every critical role you anticipate hiring for, compile a go-to hire list. You will uncover candidates by attending industry events, looking for influencers online, or just by reaching out to your colleagues. Recruiters should be a last resort. No one knows your company as well as you do. The decision to bring someone into the company will impact the culture and the team’s performance. It’s critical that responsibility is handled, where possible, by an internal person.


  1. Know you will eventually hire the wrong person

I recently had to help a friend I’d hired move on from the business. People weren’t following them, partners couldn’t work with them, and it seemed nothing was going well. I needed to help them move on gracefully and find somewhere better aligned with their style and needs. You owe it to the person you’ve hired to move quickly and in the most human way possible.

Rather than focusing on the bad hire, look at how you got there. Figure out which ingredients you got wrong. In this case, we emphasized creative skills over leadership skills, and mis-hired. So the next interviews are going to be a lot different than the first.

Never make the same hiring mistake twice.