Five tips to help avoid making a bad hiring decision

Building on our blog titled ‘The costly mistake that is a bad hire – how to spot them in your team’, we’re now looking at how we can avoid making a bad hiring decision as part of the recruitment process.

A recruitment process designed to enable us to make the right decisions

A good recruitment process bridges 3 phases:

  • Preparation: planning what we need, how we’ll attract the best candidates and, critically, how we’ll assess them in an objective fashion.
  • Assessment: ensuring our testing and assessment practices are robust so as to give us the confidence that we’re making the right choice over who to offer a role to (a key discipline here being that if we’re ever in doubt, we don’t make an offer; instead, we continue the search).
  • Validation: once we have hired someone new, we don’t just assume everything will be fine. The best time to assess fit is once they’re working with us. We need to satisfy ourselves that we made the right choice. And on the odd occasion (because it will always happen) that it transpires we have made an error, we act – quickly.

As is the case when you’re seeking to create the perfect meal, preparation is key. If we can’t objectively demonstrate what the perfect candidate for our role looks like, how can we be sure we’re offering the role to the right person?

Check our guidance on ‘Role scorecards’ for a deeper look at how to map role profiles to truly define what it is you need, and how to successful assess candidates against these criteria.

Assessing ‘fit’

Focusing on assessments, we are critically looking for team fit (i.e., how well will this individual integrate with our existing team/culture, and how will they go about fulfilling their role). Technical skill is presumed as it’s a pre-requisite for us investing more time with candidates as part of a strong hiring process.

Below are five key tips to assess team fit:

Complete a deep values assessment

It seems obvious, but it’s so often not given enough focus in hiring. This should be the number 1 most important assessment that a candidate has to satisfy you on. And there should be little room for compromise.

Assuming your company has very clear values (if it doesn’t, this needs tackling asap), consider what questions you can ask to explore if someone has similar values to you. And don’t just let them repeat your values that they read on your website as if it were a tick box exercise either. Ask them to evidence their values both inside and outside of work.

If in doubt, do not make an offer. Simple.

Explore their soft-skills as well as their technical skills

Unless the role you’re hiring is completely stand-alone with no interaction required with anyone, either internally or externally, then soft-skills will matter. The bigger your team, the more complex it becomes. And thus the importance of good soft skills grows.

Every interaction between people is an opportunity for things to go well, or things to go badly. If people lack soft-skills (e.g.; the ability to adapt to others, the ability to problem solve, the ability to form and communicate their opinion, etc) then the team and business as a whole will suffer. Therefore, it’s an absolutely critical area to explore.

The most obvious (and still the best way) to assess soft-skills are in an interview setting. Pre-set projects/presentations help (giving people time to prepare in advance). But don’t just focus on WHAT they’re talking about, but HOW they’re talking/presenting (for example, have they adapted to you?).

Additionally, explore how they may adapt to different types of people (e.g.; demanding customers vs. informal/inclusive peers) by creating different scenarios for them to feedback on.

Analyse their behavioural preferences vs. the requirement for the role

As humans, we’re all unique. But we’ll find that we have more of natural affiliation with certain people, but conflict with others.

This is because we all have our own preferred way of going about things. And when the preferred behaviours of the people we’re working/interacting with are similar, we’ll likely get align (and when they don’t, we’ll struggle more if we don’t adapt).

This is a really critical area to assess.

For example, if we’re hiring for a role that requires a huge degree of attention to detail, we are probably best to recruit someone who has a natural (or adapted) methodical approach with preferences for analyses and detail, rather than someone who is more instinctive and top-level. If we don’t, we’ll find they’ll struggle to ever fully satisfy the needs of the role.

Great teams are created with a good mixture of different behavioural styles (creativity, drive, analytical and social characteristics in particular). By doing our homework in advance, we can define what the best behavioural preferences for a given role would be and go searching for those in our hiring process.

A brilliant way of doing this is adopting a behaviour profile analysis tool such as ‘CMe’ which, via a survey (much like a psychometric test, but focused on behavioural preferences rather than personality), can give fantastic insights into how candidates go about things. And where their strengths and weaknesses are. All insight we can use to help create interview questions that will enable us to explore these areas further.

Check their motivational drivers are suited to your current setting

A classic miss-match between company need (setting) and team member is the conflict between ‘perfection’ and ‘pace’. A lot of Developers in particular will prefer to do things perfectly. But often Leadership teams, under pressure to hit targets, will require pace and will accept 80% perfection to get things delivered on time. This mismatch in motivational drivers can lead to unproductive conflict.

Assessing your current need as a company (e.g.; we need things doing quickly and collaboratively) and then assessing a candidates natural motivational drivers (their ability to thrive or not in this setting) will create fantastic levels of insight into potential fit or conflict.

Using the well-proven ‘Kahler’s 5 motivational drivers’ model for this (a simple 2-3 minute assessment) as part of your assessment process will give an added layer of insight on which to form a decision.

Trust a committee rather than yourself

Making decisions on hiring is a prime example of where we need to put our egos aside and recognise that, regardless of how much we assess and interview people, we are subject to both conscious and unconscious bias.

When we interview someone who has a similar personality to us, we are more likely to feel connected to them. And subsequently, we’re more likely to convince ourselves early on that we want to hire them

Similarly, if we interview someone we’re not sure about, we’re likely choose not to offer them a position.

(In fact, it’s believed that in most instances, we make our mind up within 5-minutes of interviewing someone, and then spend the rest of the time trying to justify our decision).

A really great way of avoiding the risk that comes with biased decision making is to broaden the responsibility for a hiring decision to a ‘committee’. This should include a mixture of Management and Peers, who are working from a very clear and objective brief/scorecard (as devised in your ‘preparation’ stage).

Their brief?

  1. Can you see this person being a good fit for our team?
  2. Can you see yourselves working with them well?

If no, we don’t hire. If yes, we hire.

Bonus tip

If you’re really looking to excel in this area so as to all but guarantee that every hire will be the RIGHT person, consider creating and using a ‘Scorecard’, whereby you profile each role individually to demonstrate objectively what is important to you and your company. With assessments and interview questions aligned to this scorecard, you’ll be able to further remove bias from the hiring process and let the facts drive your hiring decisions.

For further information on scorecards, get in touch with us at or via a member of our team.

Being realistic about recruitment

Recruitment of exceptional people (which is subjective in itself as every company seeks different things) is one of the most important things you do as a Leader in a scaling business, and it’s worthy of time and effort being invested. Not just in specific interviews and assessments, but in designing a robust hiring process that will scrutinise prospective candidates and help you to minimise bad hires.

But no company will completely eliminate the risk of hiring someone who later turns out to be the wrong fit – any who say they have done so are either lying or have their heads in the sand!

But if we can turn the ratio of bad vs. good hires from 1:10 to 1:25, we will certainly reduce the knock-on impact of a bad hire on our wider business, finances and customers. And create a more harmonious and productive culture as a result.