January 11, 2013
5 Immediate Signs You Hired The Wrong Person

Hiring a new employee can be a little like starting a new relationship.  As the boss you’re excited and hopeful—and you can often overlook signs that indicate things might not work out as well as you hope.

Plus newly hired employees typically start a new job at the top of their professional games. In terms of attitude, effort and enthusiasm, you usually get the very best a new hire has to offer. That’s why any problems that surface during the first days almost always turn out to be the tip of a poor-performing employee iceberg.

Here are five ways to tell, within days, that you may have made a bad hiring decision:

They exercise the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of social media. I realize employees assume having Facebook, Twitter and Internet access for personal reasons are a given.

Almost every employee will take time out of their day for a little non-work social media action. But if you catch a new employee during non-break periods updating his Facebook status (especially if the new status is, “My new job sucks!”) you can bet his personal web time will only grow in the future. The same goes for texting.

They have immediate attendance problems. An employee who is late or absent within the first few weeks will nearly always be a chronic attendance offender.

I once analyzed attendance records for more than 1,000 employees over a five-year period and found employees late or absent in the first week of employment had a 35% likelihood of violating attendance standards and a 45% likelihood of hovering, for years, within one or two absences of violating standards.

There are exceptions, but an employee who misses one day early only usually misses a lot of days later.

They’re an “I need…” guy. The average person starts a job assuming the resources provided are the resources available and necessary, and only asks for additional tools when justified.

A “first day requisitioner” that instantly needs a better computer, a different desk, specialized software and applications, etc. will tend to constantly find external reasons why their performance is poor instead of looking at themselves.

They’re an “At my old job…” gal. New employees should bring skills and experience from previous positions. But no one wants to constantly hear how a previous employer did things, especially when a previous employer allegedly did those things better.

New employees who frequently say, “You know, at my old job we used to…” have not made the mental and emotional transition to your business.

Watch carefully for signs they continue to struggle with the transition — your company could be their rebound company.

They have assertion overdrive. While new employees should voice their opinions, raise concerns and stand behind their reasoning and decisions, they should also take it slowly and feel their way through interpersonal and organizational dynamics so they build positive relationships first.

A new employee who takes too strong a stand, argues too long or loud, or even borders on confrontational is likely to be a handful once the new hire honeymoon period is over. Quietly assertive is good; loudly assertive, especially in the first few weeks, means you might want to get a head start on the termination paperwork.

If you disagree with my list or have your own warning signs for new employees who aren’t likely to last, feel free to fire away (terrible pun intended).

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  • Animesh Chatterjee

    This article is spot on. Anyone who has been a manager responsible for project deadlines and team productivity will recognize some of these as thorns-on-the-side that they have had to encounter and remove for the best interests of the company.

    Social media / online marketing – If the employee has been assigned a role and specific tasks to post articles, opinions, blogs or manage company’s online reputation then it is understandable that they would be online during work hours to perform such tasks. However, the author here is obviously referring to non-work related use of social media during work hours. If the employee is done with their tasks then they should approach their manager and ask for more responsibilities, tasks or how they can contribute more towards the team’s success. There is hardly an organization that does not have more to do nowadays.

    Attendance problems including tardiness – Spot on. Exceptions aside, which BTW must be validated and “emergencies” don’t come in patterns or repeatedly. Common sense on exceptions – “Trust but verify” and “watch for patterns”. A new employee who has attendance and tardiness problems is usually displaying lack of commitment to the job.

    Assertion overdrive – I always welcome creativity and fresh ideas. At the same time the new hire must be coached to first learn and respect the existing processes. Get to know the people and spend time on the job to understand why the existing processes and practices may be setup the way they are – it is not just about efficiency but equally (and IMO more importantly) effectiveness. Effectiveness has more to do with personalities on the team. It takes wisdom and maturity to come up with effective processes whereas efficient processes and practices may be gleaned from bookish knowledge alone. The new hire should be humble and mentored to be respectful and learn about the new environment – this involves taking time and being patient. Once they have gained the respect of the team (my rule of thumb is a minimum of 6 months) would be a more appropriate time to share their insights and inputs regarding change and always with respect towards the team. Make them your partners and not adversaries in change.

    At my old job – My advice to a new hire would be to only bring positives, lessons learnt and experience from your previous job. If everything was so much better at the last job then that is where you need to return to and not waste the new employer’s time and resources. Put your best foot forward at your new job – come to work with enthusiasm for the new company, an open mind, a positive attitude, cheer and friendliness, humility, courtesy and a willingness to seek out new knowledge and learn. That is why your employer hired you.