5 Ways to Know You Made a Bad Hiring Decision

Last Updated Apr 4, 2011 6:45 AM EDT

Hiring a new employee is a little like starting a new relationship: As a business owner or manager, you're excited and hopeful so you often overlook signals that things might not work out so well.

Newly hired employees typically start a new job at the top of their games. In terms of attitude, effort, and enthusiasm, you usually get the very best a new hire has to offer. Any problems that surface during the first days tend 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:

  1. Exercising the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of social media. I realize employees assume Facebook, Twitter, and Internet access for personal reasons are a given. Almost every employee takes time out of their day for non-work interwebbing. But if you catch a new employee during non-break periods updating their Facebook status (especially if the new status is, "My new job sucks!") you can bet personal Web time will only grow in the future. The same goes for texting.
  2. 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 over 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. An employee who misses one day early usually misses a lot of days later.
  3. The "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" who needs a better computer, different desk, specialized software, etc. tends to constantly find external reasons why their performance is poor instead of looking inside themselves.
  4. The "At my old job..." gal. New employees should bring skills and experience from previous positions. But no one wants to 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.
  5. Assertion overdrive. While new employees should voice their opinions, raise concerns, and stand behind their reasoning and decisions, they should also take it slow 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 (pitiful pun intended.)

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(Photo courtesy graur razvan ionut and freedigitalphotos.net)
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.