BirdsIf there’s one phrase that makes talent acquisition professionals nervous, it’s “bad hire.”  A bad hire is typically an employee who ends up being a poor fit for the organization or a poor performer.

For talent acquisition, bad hires feel like signs of failure. Worse, bad hires can disrupt an otherwise happy team and cost your organization 40 percent more in recruiting costs, when compared with good hires.

Bad hires — and their negative effects — are a global phenomenon. Depending upon the where your company is located, the cost per bad hire can be incredibly high. In a 2013 survey, CareerBuilder found that 27 percent of U.S. employers say that each bad hires costs the company at least $50,000. Can your business afford to waste $50,000? Can any business?

Up Your Game — Prevent Bad Hires

Conventional wisdom in the talent acquisition world says you can prevent bad hires by stalking candidates’ social media profiles, looking for alcohol, sex, and drug references.

Not so fast! You could be misjudging a wonderful candidate who has a penchant for quoting T.V. shows like Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad. And aren’t recruiters’ jobs hard enough without having to play detective on social media?

There’s got to be a better way — and there is. In fact, here are six better ways to prevent bad hires.

1. Build a Better Talent Pool

If your recruiters are constantly making bad hires, the problem may be your talent pool itself. Where are you sourcing candidates?  If you’re pulling exclusively from the dregs of Craigslist, it’s likely that you’re not building a large and diverse talent pool.

Don’t settle for a small pool of not-totally-satisfying applicants. Keep the position open and put your recruiting skills to work. Widen your search: scour industry-specific job boards, source recommendations from existing employees, and network within your industry.

2. Write Stronger Job Postings 

ComputerSometimes, a bad hire is someone who didn’t know the precise demands of the position.  Sometimes, it’s a candidate who wasn’t informed up front that they’d be wearing eight hats at a company.

Set your team up for success. Get specific about what you want, what you can offer, and what’s expected. Candidates don’t know your unique requirements until you tell them. Cut them a break and get more specific.

3. Resist the Urge to Hire a Brilliant Jerk

Netflix specifically advises its hiring managers not to make the special kind of bad hire referred to as a “brilliant jerk.” A brilliant jerk is a skilled individual who lacks the social skills and team spirit necessary for company success. While it can be tempting to hire a brilliant jerk, doing so often causes morale to plummet.

The good news is, it’s relatively easy to screen out the brilliant jerks if you delve deeper during the interview stage. Stay vigilant!

4. Check References 

The majority of small businesses still do not check references. In my own experience, my references have only notified me once that they were contacted by a potential employer.

How do you know if you’re making a bad hire without checking references? While candidates will provide you with a list of people who will say glowing things about them, it’s a good idea to call former supervisors who aren’t on the list of pre-approved references. These people can give you a clearer picture of whether this particular candidate will succeed in your company.

5. Diversify Your Hiring Panel

We’re fond of enhancing quality-of-hire by bringing diverse voices into the hiring process. Make use of your team members’ varying opinions, backgrounds, and experiences to help you spot red flags in bad candidates long before you make the mistake of hiring them.

Diversity in the hiring process only makes your team stronger. Choose a handful of people who represent a good cross section of your team, but don’t get carried away — too many voices and opinions will stall the process.

6. Give Candidates a Pre-Hire Project

Skate parkOne of my favorite ways of preventing a bad hire is to actually road-test your applicants.  You have work that needs to be done, and the applicant is looking to be paid for their work. It’s a win-win situation for both of you.

Offer your potential new hires paid projects and see how well they perform. This gives your team clearer insight into both the candidate’s actual output and the way they communicate and work with others.

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Preventing bad hires is no mean feat. Sometimes, for all of your good intentions, it just doesn’t work out with an employee. But if you strengthen your hiring process, you can dramatically decrease the number of bad hires you see — and save a lot of money in the process.

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