Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: I was recruiting for a Controller a couple of years ago and ended up hiring someone who responded to my job board posting. Long story short: that person didn’t work out and I had to replace her after 14 months. The next time out I went the placement agency route and ended up hiring a Controller from one of the two firms I was working with. That was eight months ago and I’m getting that sinking feeling that the new person isn’t going to work out.
Answer: Any hiring decision carries some risk simply because there’s no such thing as full disclosure in the hiring process. As thorough as you may be in the interviewing process, there are all kinds of variables that can remain undiscovered; variables such as personality quirks, home life factors, ambition (or lack of), or the ability to handle pressure, just to name a few.
That being said, there are a couple of ways of minimizing risk in the hiring process. The most obvious tool at your disposable is reference checks. You’d be surprised at the number of hiring authorities who either don’t do reference checks at all, do them too late (after the offer has been tendered and accepted) or delegate them to a third party (having your recruiter do the reference checks is not a good idea – they’re dis-incented to uncover bad news).
You’re the person with the most to lose if you make a bad hire so you should be having a full and frank discussion with your finalist candidate’s previous bosses. Don’t accept bland assurances of competence and attitude – do as deep a dive as you can and if you sense any hesitation or fudging of responses, you should start having serious second thoughts.
The other way to minimize the risk of making a bad hire is to ensure that you’re selecting your finalist candidates from a good short list. If your job posting or the placement agencies you’ve been working with produce a bunch of really average candidates, the one pretty good candidate in the mix is probably going to look a lot better than they probably really are. If that one pretty good candidate was in a pool of really good candidates, I’m betting that person wouldn’t make the cut.