The cost of hiring the wrong person, a cautionary tale

I’ve been interviewing candidates for some job openings both for one of my teams and for a colleague’s over the last few months. Now when I interview, I tend to want to see many candidates. I want to be sure that the person I am hiring is not only a good match on paper, but also someone who will gel with the current team, bring zeal and new ideas to the job.

I am from the Joel Spolsky school of thought. His blog post on hiring (See his Guerilla Guide to Interviewing) is a must read for anyone running an interview.

Anyways, back to my post.

In thinking about hiring the right people, I am always reminding myself that it is easier to turn away a solid candidate than to unhire a mediocre hire. I’ve seen my share of bad hires. We’ve all worked with/for people whose interview panels we secretly (or not so secretly) wished to be part of.

The worst case of a bad hire occured in a former work life. The company I was at had passed the small company size both in headcount and sales (notice I didn’t say profits), and was striving to reach that next level. The CEO at the time felt the need to reduce his direct reports, so instead of promoting one of his VPs to the role of CTO, he looked outside for help. The person they recruited turned out to be a micromanaging C-Level executive (I have it on good authority that this is not a desirable trait in someone expected to provide strategic direction and leadership). Net result:

  • VP’s leave (as expected)
  • Staff loyal to VP’s leave
  • Remaining staff outsourced overseas
  • CTO strategy implemented and sales flatline
  • president/CEO ousted
  • CTO keeps job

So the next time you think how bad can this hire go, keep this in mind as a cautionary tale. Hiring at the grunt or middle management level can have a ripple effect, but can usually be corrected before anything major can happen (usually more headaches than needed, so avoid when possible). Hiring at the executive level can have the effect of vaporizing the pond the ripples usually ping in (again, not ideal, so avoid).

So the next time you participate in the hiring process, don’t mail it in. Make sure that the person you are giving the go/no-go on is worthy of your approval. Anything less may lead to a disruption of someone’s pond zen.


  1. Pingback: The cost of hiring the wrong person, a cautionary tale « Steve McGurn - My thoughts and ramblings

  2. I absolutely agree. When I was a background investigator, I found some doozy information that fortunately came to light and the hiring people took a look at. Too often the background check is a formality that is never done. Anyone can say anything on their CV or during an interview.