September 8th, 2021

4 Signs of a Bad Hire and Best Practices for Termination

Despite best efforts in recruiting and vetting job candidates, it’s still possible to make a bad hire. Signs of a bad hire can range from the obvious to the less notable. Overall, a bad hire is probably more common than you think. Close to half of all new hires fail within 18 months of getting hired, meaning they either have to be disciplined or terminated. 

There are a lot of reasons why someone may not work out. Besides how to refine recruiting methods to avoid problem hires, you still need to know what to do when faced with one. First, understand what to watch out for so you can address a difficult situation and keep it from getting worse. Then, when you do determine you need to let someone go, be sure to follow best practices for firing the employee so you can mitigate any fallout that might come with it.  

Here’s a breakdown of the common signs of a bad hire and how to terminate them if it gets to that point.

1. The new hire isn’t learning fast enough

To be clear, every new hire deserves ample training and time to get up to speed on their job. It’s also on the employer to provide the right onboarding experience so they can perform it on their own with minimal to no assistance. The amount of time and training will vary by role, team, industry, level of experience, and other factors. 

What we’re talking about here is a new hire that’s been given every chance to learn and every tool to succeed, and just isn’t catching on. When they consistently need help from other team members or a manager to do their work, they’re preventing others from doing their job and affecting the whole team’s productivity. 

2. The new hire lied about their skills

Some job candidates are excellent at interviews but when it comes to demonstrating the actual skills they claim to have, they fall short. Some skills can be easily taught with the right time and resources. But sometimes this isn’t always the case. Some roles are entirely dependent on new hires starting the job with a necessary skill set, and not having it can create a significant problem for everyone else. 

No amount of wowing during a job interview can gloss over an exaggeration or a flat-out lie about skills. If a new hire clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing — and they should based on information given in their resume, interview, and other screening processes — they’re not a good fit. And their overall honesty has to be called into question too. 

3. The new hire disappears a lot

As part of the process of proving themselves, new hires have a special obligation to be present, visible, and available when expected. Now that remote work is quite common, it may be trickier to track and understand the reason for an employee’s absence than it used to be when everyone was in an office. 

However, if you know for certain the new hire is ending work early for the day, starting work late, skipping meetings, asking for a lot of time off, or simply not showing up, these are indications that the employee perhaps isn’t taking the job seriously or just doesn’t have the work ethic to succeed in your business. 

4. The new hire doesn’t get along with others

It takes time for a new hire to fit into a team and build trust and rapport with others. Even so, not every employee is going to gel completely with every other employee, and that’s OK. Personality quirks and human preferences all come into play at work as they do in life. 

That being said, if a new hire is engaging in open or ongoing conflict with multiple team members or is quick to blame others for their own mistakes or poor work, it’s pretty hard to justify keeping them around. The negative energy of conflict and blame can impact productivity and lead to low morale. 

How to terminate a bad hire

You’ve got a problem employee on your hands if you’ve gone through multiple verbal or written warnings, second and third chances, and other, more serious disciplinary actions. If these efforts haven’t made a difference — it’s time to fire them.

Firing an employee can be an uncomfortable experience for everyone involved. Sometimes the employee may feel completely blindsided by the news, despite being warned, and those feelings may understandably turn to anger or grief. Handling an employee’s termination with care and kindness is your first priority. It’s equally important to follow any protocols set up in your business for employee terminations along with applicable federal and state labor laws

Your business could be at risk if you don’t follow the proper steps when terminating an employee. So here are some best practices for firing a bad hire:

  • Document, document, document. Before firing an employee, make sure that you’ve thoroughly recorded every warning and chance you gave them to improve their performance or behavior. This includes exact steps they could take and/or measurable results they could produce. When you document the actions you took to help the employee turn things around, even if they never did, then you can better protect yourself, as the employer, against a lawsuit.
  • Conduct a face-to-face meeting. Emails, phone calls, text or chat messages, and even letters are bad form when firing someone. Always sit down with the person and have a face-to-face interaction. Or, if the worker is remote and can’t get to the office, set up a video conference. A face-to-face meeting is a human courtesy that everyone deserves.
  • Be firm and final. Sometimes a fired employee may try to convince you to change your mind and give them another chance. They may seize upon any indirect or vague language you might use and think there’s an opening for them to stay. The best way to avoid this scenario is to say upfront in the meeting that they are being fired and that the decision is final. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through to make this clear.
  • Include a witness in the room. In addition to documentation, having a witness listen in and even participate in the conversation can reduce the chances of misunderstandings or allegations that could lead to a lawsuit. A human resources employee can serve this role well by ensuring the other employee is treated fairly and professionally. An HR rep can also keep the conversation focused on the task at hand. 
  • Retrieve company property. It’s important that the employee immediately return any company property, such as an ID badge, laptop, mobile device, etc. Stay with them as they hand over equipment and escort them out of the building when done. If the employee was working remotely and they still have equipment at home, set a date with them when the equipment must be returned and follow up to make sure it happens. If the person was working in the office, work with them to remove any personal belongings when it’s comfortable, such as after hours or during a lunch break.
  • Remove access to company information. A fired employee should no longer have access to their company email, intranet, customers, or other office locations. If you don’t have IT support, it’ll be up to you to take necessary and immediate steps to remove the employee’s access to information.

No one wants to be faced with a bad hire, but the simple reality is that it happens. That’s why the right recruiting and hiring practices are so important to building a workforce that’s trustworthy, competent, and reliable from the outset. Use these signs of a bad hire to understand what you can do to improve performance or terminate the employment relationship. 

To get ahead of bad hires, assess your interview process. The interview is an essential part of hiring good employees. To learn about how you can improve your interviewing, download our eGuide Best Practices for Interviewing. 

Download Our eGuide: Best Practices for Interviewing

Learn about how you can improve your interviewing and avoid a bad hire.

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