About a week after Brina Bujkovsky hired Chris*, the new shipping manager for her online personalized gifts company, she realized something was terribly wrong. Other employees became alarmed when they noticed the new hire creeping in and out of the lunchroom with a backpack. At lunchtime one day, he left to make a personal call and did not come back for several hours. “When he returned after 3 p.m., he was wet and disheveled, and explained that he had been behind the warehouse and fell asleep,” says Bujkovsky, owner and CEO of The Younique Boutique in San Marcos, California. Even worse: “He was drunk, and his wet pants were unzipped,” she says. Despite repeated pleas for another chance, the nightmare employee was terminated.
The costs of hiring the wrong person are steep. In addition to days or even weeks dedicated to training that goes nowhere, payroll costs can reach hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that it costs $3,500 to replace one $8-per-hour employee.
“I should have seen this coming” is a common refrain among business owners who have made painful hiring mistakes. But it’s not always that easy to tell who’s going to be a nightmare employee just from brief interviews and reference checks. “The worst of bad employees are hard to spot because they are expert at hiding their issues,” says Donna Flagg, president and founder of The Krysalis Group, a human resources and management consulting firm in New York City. “That said, there are a few mechanisms you can put into place to ensure you reduce your chances of making a bad hire.”
Start with these five:
1. Involve other team members in your decision. It’s your business, so it’s only natural to think you know best when it comes to hiring someone. But unfortunately, when relying on a single viewpoint — even your own — it’s all too easy to make snap decisions or even overlook hints of something amiss, which may be glaringly obvious to someone else. “I no longer make hiring decisions alone,” says Bujkovsky, who now includes her entire team in the interview process. “It is important that all personalities mesh well in an intimate work environment.”A strict probationary period for new hires adds another layer of protection.
2. Always check references. Neglecting to call former employers or clients stuck WebiMax, a Mount Laurel, New Jersey, online marketing firm specializing in search engine optimization, with its own hiring horror story.”I’ve grown the company from four employees in 2008 to now 150-plus and have made the majority of the hiring decisions,” says founder and CEO Kenneth Wisnefski, who admits to sometimes filling positions a little too quickly for his fast-growing company. One of the worst mistakes was Pierce*, who lasted all of two weeks.
“I just got a strange feeling about him,” says Wisnefski, who neglected to ask for references. “He went through our training and was very attentive and interested, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe he will be a good fit.’ ”
Wrong. In the first week of work, Pierce called in sick twice, and when he did show up, he’d disappear for hours on end. “[Then] his ex-girlfriend showed up at our office demanding to speak with him, and the two proceeded to have an argument in the parking lot.” Today, WebiMax’s hiring department follows a stringent process that includes reference checks and numerous interviews. As Wisnefski reports, “We’ve definitely cut down on the amount of mistakes we were making.”
3. Google the candidate. Blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even industry articles can reveal interesting details about a person that you’d never be able to uncover in even the best interview. This kind of research can also help you uncover inaccuracies in the candidate’s résumé.