Adding the right people to a team is essential to the success of a business. Every executive knows this which is why they want to get hiring right. Hiring the right people grows a company, creates a sustainable culture and helps an executive become more successful. A perfect hiring record is the goal of any executive; however it is an impossible goal and even the best businessmen hire the wrong people. You will make hiring mistakes and make bad hires no matter the process you put in place so it is best to learn from those mistakes instead of allowing them to hurt your company. An employee with an amazing resume may flop in the real world and the best you can do is ask yourself why this happened and how can we fix it?

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I have seen countless executives make hiring mistakes during my 20 years of executive leadership coaching and all the great ones saw their mistakes as learning opportunities. Here are a few reasons why companies bring on the wrong people and how executives can avoid their mistakes.

Credentials are not everything

There are many potential new hires that look incredible on paper. They work at a top-tier firm, a degree from one of the best universities, and an unbeatable skill set. You found your new employee and the resume confirms it. The problem with this mindset is you have biased yourself towards this candidate before you really even know them.

Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive advisor and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations.

Resume is not everything and employment at a successful firm, even long term employment, is not an indicator of work ethic and proficiency. Subpar talent can stick around at big firms for a long time due to many big firms’ aversion to firing people. When resume is your one and only indicator of success executives miss negative signs related to socialization, drive, and character. Employing an unprofessional person who destroys moral can be just as harmful to your company as hiring someone who lacks the skills to do a job. 

Executives who want to avoid this scenario should never hype up any prospect to much before the actual interview. The credentials are the start of the process and you can better vet them by setting up systems such as an interview panel. Have the candidate interview multiple members of your team individually and in groups. This will allow you to get different opinions on a potential new hire. The other members of your team may see something you don’t.

Don’t overemphasize team fit

Credentials isn’t the only area executives tend to overfocus on. Many executives will hire an employee based on their personality and fit with the team. They think if the prospect already has the culture they can teach the skill set. It is beneficial to hire people that can easily socialize, but that skill set becomes unimportant when you realize they can’t manage their work, make deadlines, or solve problems during a crisis.

Avoid hiring unqualified people by asking yourself important questions. What are the most important things you need for this role? What qualities are essential and which ones are just an added benefit? The interview questions should showcase the qualities you are searching for.

Have other team members test the candidate on a jobs vernacular by interviewing them. If the prospective employee says they know something on their resume do a task assessment of that skill to confirm it. Doing these things ensures the candidate has the skills to succeed and keeps you from hiring someone just because you like them.

If you like a candidate that means you need to interview them more. Do not hire someone right away based on a first impression. Slowing down and ensuring a candidate has the skills to do the job will help your company in the long run. Take your time and seek help from the people you trust to give their thoughts on a new hire. 

Emergency hires rarely work out

Running a company can be chaos and executives are constantly putting out fires. The unexpected exit of a long term employee or significant new business can lead to many executives scrambling to hire new people. Hiring someone out of desperation for workers often leads to worse outcomes than being understaffed.

Hiring a underqualified worker quickly for an important position will increase you legal risk from an employment lawsuit and it can decimate team morale. A team that is unhappy due to hiring a bad leader will create conflict that will increase employee turnover and cause production delays.

The negative effect of a bad hire increases the higher up they are in the company. Waiting to fill a needed position has its downsides as well so you must weigh the pros and cons of hiring someone quickly. In my experience the potential outcomes of a bad hire usually outweigh waiting for the right person.

If you must hire someone quickly think about the important of the position and can you afford to hire the wrong person. You can often risk getting entry level positions wrong, but it is hard to retrain someone else in your most senior positions.

Create an emergency succession plan for all your senior positions. This succession plan identifies capable people who can do the work until you find a long term replacement. Training and planning is helpful because it fills in the knowledge gaps as you bring a new hire to speed.

Creating a succession plan requires you to assess your team members and see which executive positions they may be able to fill in case of an emergency opening. In my experience many employees are eager for a chance to learn new skills. The cross-training involved in creating an succession plan can increase employee loyalty, and motivation since the employee is learning executive skills. It is a mutually beneficial scenario for both parties. 

Bringing on the best people is essential to the success of an executive, but even the best will hire the wrong people. Learn from your mistakes by pointing out what went wrong in the hiring process and continue on your path to company and executive growth.


Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive advisor and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations. She is also a licensed psychologist who brings 20 years of behind-the-scenes conversations to her recommendations for workplace wellness and profitability. She is the author of Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life.