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What to Do as a Hiring Manager If You Hired the Wrong Remote Employee

Even if a hiring manager hires the wrong employee, they have numerous options to amend the situation before firing the employee.

Whether you’re an employer with an expanding business or you’re conducting a search to replace a retired or leaving worker, hiring the right employee is essential. Not only does it build a tighter company culture, but you can also reap the benefits of a productive, organized employee. But sometimes, even the ostensibly best candidates don’t work out. If you’re an employer who has hired the wrong remote employee, the burden can seem overwhelming. How long do you wait to see a turnaround? What steps do you take if the scenario isn’t playing out as you hoped?

Answering these questions isn’t easy. However, you may find solace in having numerous options. Here are some tips and suggestions from remote business owners, and how they rectified the situation.

The Difficulty in Screening Candidates and New Employees

Screening applicants is a difficult venture for hiring managers, especially because they never meet face to face.

Hiring the right person for the job isn’t as simple as it sounds. And no hiring manager ever bats a thousand. The difficulty lies in screening candidates, as well as other factors such as hiring rushes or ignoring obvious warning signs. Sonya Schwartz, founder of HerNorm.com, a site to help women understand men better, shares how her hiring rush overlooked certain aspects of the candidate:

“For me, I made a bad hire because of rush hiring. I wasn’t able to thoroughly screen and interview the applicant because I was in a rush. And I was under pressure [because] I was in great need of a new employee. When I rush to hire, I am not able to thoroughly screen and interview an applicant. And when I rush to hire, I tend to just focus on the applicant’s abilities and not the applicant’s attitudes.

Furthermore, the onus of hiring lies squarely on the shoulders of the employer. Thus, rush hires should be avoided at all costs.

Building upon this idea, Roman Prokofyev, CEO of Jooble.org, a job search engine in 71 countries, states that the pre-hiring process should include a slow process of reviewing and interviewing possible job candidates:

“Review as many candidates as possible. Conduct as many interviews as possible. Study the recommendations carefully. Test applicants’ knowledge with tests. Get experienced outside consultants you can trust. Talk to those who have worked or are working with the candidate. Be critical of information about past failures of the applicant: perhaps the organization where he worked was suppressing his opportunities. Be equally critical of the information about his past successes: perhaps he achieved them only thanks to the organization in which he worked.

Employers should also remember that the interview may be a first for potential remote candidates, while others may have numerous interviews under their belt. As such, employers can often misinterpret the work-culture value of a particular individual. Thus, patience and sensitivity are two crucial skills that hiring managers should use to avoid hiring the wrong remote employee or eliminating others unjustly.

How to Screen New Remote Employees to Create a Stop-Loss Situation

Because impressive resumes and a rush to hire can limit unbiased or calculated decisions, employers must enact a set of metrics to analyze each potential employee. Martin Seeley, CEO of UK-based MattressNextDay, posits the idea that analysis of the employee should start even before the hire:

“Have set metrics. A definite evaluation system can identify the problem areas, and assist in fixing them. Evaluation should be done in a set period, and give the employee enough time to improve. It should have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to set the standard for performance and workplace culture.”

The Potential Costs of Hiring the Wrong Remote Employee

Above all, hiring managers in a rush to find the next candidate should take into account perhaps the most important facet of hiring the wrong remote employee: sunken costs. These costs are not only monetary but also time-based. If a hiring manager hires a person who doesn’t fit in with values, culture, and work ethic, the immensity in onboarding and training costs, as well as another few weeks to find another candidate can be financially crippling.

As Prokofyev affirms:

“The cost of a hiring mistake is enormous. These mistakes entail immense
human and financial damage. At the same time, costs grow in direct
proportion to the growth of responsibility that lies with this employee. The higher his/her rank, the more damage the personnel error will result in. If an employee is included in the top management of the company, the consequences can be extremely devastating.

The apparent costs of reckless recruiting include lost revenue, training costs, termination compensation payments, and the cost of finding new employees. But the highest prices are difficult to notice and assess immediately. These include strategic miscalculations and managerial mistakes made by an employee, missed opportunities, additional stress, potential reputation damage, and soured relationships within the company.

Signs That an Applicant May Not Be the Right Choice

With an impressive resume and cover letter, some applicants gleam brightly on paper. But unfortunately, this isn’t the only determinant of employee quality or the ideal fit within a company. Therefore, hiring managers should look for obvious signs during the hiring process and shortly afterward to ensure the employee will fit into their business practices and models.

Chief Security Officer David Cusick of House Method discusses the initial screening process and how to learn from the mistakes of a wrong hire:

“Hindsight is 20/20, but there are a few signs I’ll look out for more in the future. For one thing, I know how to narrow down my interview questions to look for more specific examples. Interviewees who’ve actually done the work before and can speak at length on their experiences make for good hires.”

The Importance of Balance and Avoiding “White Knight Syndrome”

White knight syndrome is fairly common among hiring managers, where they see the good in the person and want to cultivate it, despite the person being the wrong employee for the job.

As mentioned above, a solid resume is a decent way to screen initial applicants. But don’t forget about soft skills for remote workers. In regard to meshing with company culture, these skills are often more important, yet frequently overlooked.

However, the applicant must strike a balance between soft skills and relevant experience. Swaying one way or the other can present problems or lead to a “savior complex” or “White Knight Syndrome,” where employers see the best in people and believe they can change or coach them into the ideal employee.

As Darrell Rosenstein, founder of the Rosenstein Group, a staffing company for sales professionals, states:

“The times I remember getting into this situation it was because I was letting myself fall victim to ‘aspirational hiring.’ I saw something I liked in the employee that made me believe I could fix their issues or strengthen their weaknesses through effective management. In these cases, the employee’s soft skills were what drew me in—they had a wonderfully positive personality, or they were excellent communicators but lacked some of the important work skills that the position needed. As a result, they were never going to work out no matter how much I wanted them to.”

How Long to Wait to See Change

If you believe you might have hired the wrong remote employee, the next question is how long to wait until you see change—or if you need to move on. From an emotional and psychological standpoint, this is a strenuous decision. In most situations, hiring managers and employers want their hires to work out not only due to cost considerations, but also because they saw something in the person that they revered.

So how long do you wait? That’s entirely up to you, but some experienced hiring managers also have their own ideas.

From a purely business standpoint, Bret Bonnet, co-founder and president of Quality Logo Products, producers of swag, office supplies, and other items, uses this plan:

“It depends on the position and the associate’s learning curve. You usually know right away if the person is a good fit. We always try to give people a chance to change the situation. But if not, we try to get the person out the door within their first 30 days so we’re not considered the billable employer when it comes to their unemployment benefits.

Other hiring managers and employers have a more lenient approach, giving certain remote employees more time to adjust or improve their record/work ethic/approach. Cusick from House Method tells about his experience:

“I strongly recommend every company has a 60- or 90-day probation policy to avoid issues like this occurring. In our case, we used the 60-day benchmark as a chance to extend the probationary period and refocus our training on key areas of development. By the 90-day mark, they were ready.

In this case, we were lucky to have a strong mentor for the employee and a role that opened up which better suited their skill set. While we did face setbacks, the problem did end up resolved with the employee staying on to this day. Still, the lessons we learned were quite valuable.”

Why Some Candidates Don’t Fit in Despite Impressive Credentials

The mass exodus of workers from traditional onsite jobs to remote work has created a massive applicant pool. As a result, employers have far more candidates to choose from due to the lack of hiring in a specific geographic region and a larger amount of applicants per job. Still, even employees with the best credentials or even soft skills don’t always work out.

While no rule of thumb exists as a red flag for why people don’t work out, typically it’s a mix of undeveloped/underdeveloped skills, lack of knowing general business practices, and not fitting into the culture. Training and onboarding can ease many employees into a role that gels with the company. Yet some may not fit in regardless.

Bonnet reiterates that the candidate can be to blame for such a scenario:

“More often than not, the poor fit is a result of misrepresentation of skills or work history by the candidate. You can test and question the candidate all you want during the interview, but it’s still a poor indicator of actual talent or ability. There is a strong incentive for candidates when applying for highly compensated positions to mispresent their work history and skill set.”

Sandra Hurley, CEO of Hayden Girls, an online clothing retailer, also realizes that it’s sometimes a numbers game:

“Look, they can’t all be winners. It’s like dating —some of them clash personalities, others turn out to be weird, others are bad at their job, but they manage to fool you for just long enough for you to take them on board. I’ve had my fair share of all these scenarios. When you hire so many people, some of them are going to be duds, statistically.”

Employers without a viable training or onboarding processes can certainly shoulder some of the blame. But as mentioned before, the screening process is the most vital aspect to weed out those who won’t fit with work ethic or company culture.

Employer Options If You’ve Decided You’ve Hired the Wrong Employee

If you’ve given the employee time to adjust and the situation still isn’t working out, you can pursue different avenues. Yet the most effective route is often the most direct one: a frank, straightforward conversation.

Chris Brenchly, CEO of Surehand, a staffing company for industrial workers, illustrates the direct approach of conversation:

“It will definitely be uncomfortable, but it’s a need. You need to be direct:
‘I can see that you have been having trouble performing/
adjusting to this company, why do you think that is?’ An open-ended question like this will provide you with answers that are profound. The
employee will also feel much better after he realizes that the company
actually cares and is willing to listen to their side of the story.

Most of the time, a simple conversation will be able to nip the problem in
the bud. But if it doesn’t, you can try either transferring them to a
different department or giving them clear guidelines about what is expected of them (in case they weren’t aware before).

Consider laying them off as a last resort because you will have to go
through the entire hiring process once again which will be hectic and cost you not only time but money as well.”

The Firing

Firing an individual should only be a last resort. By giving a person time to adjust and cultivating their skill set, many employers find that employees will turn a new leaf. As a safeguard against the costs of training and the hiring process, this is usually a better decision than many alternatives. Still, after a probationary period, if someone isn’t working, it’s time to move on.

As daunting as the idea of hiring the wrong remote employee is, hiring managers shouldn’t fear the opportunity. New workers can inject vigor and excitement into a virtual workplace, shouldering some of the load. In some cases, they may become your go-to MVP of the remote office. But being prepared for the interview, investing in onboarding and training, and knowing when to let go can reap benefits and cut losses for businesses.

As a hiring manager, have you ever hired the wrong remote employee? How did you amend the situation? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you! 

Images via Canva

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