Here’s Why You’re Ignoring Signs That Your New Hires Might Fail

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Oct 13, 2021

A lot of your new hires aren’t going to become successful employees — the study “Why New Hires Fail” showed that 46% of new hires will fail. And if we’re brutally honest about the quality of our hiring, most companies will admit that only a fraction of candidates become high-performing employees.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The same study found that 82% of hiring managers saw signs during the interview that their new hire would fail. In other words, when hiring managers reflected on what candidates said during the interview, they discovered negative language, answers deemed as power-hungry or arrogant, remarks that disparaged former colleagues, and more signs that this candidate probably wasn’t going to work out.

Of course, this begs the question: Why didn’t hiring managers act on those warning signs? Why didn’t they reject candidates who displayed arrogance, negativity, etc.? One of the biggest factors comes from the desperation so many hiring leaders and companies feel to get seats filled as quickly as possible.

A recent survey from software company Greenhouse found that 78% of organizations plan to increase hiring during the remainder of this year. And they’re not just hiring to get back to pre-pandemic staffing levels; more than half of companies say their hiring is focused on growing new roles and teams. There’s serious pressure to hire and hire quickly. Most organizations are slowly refilling a few empty positions; they’re aggressively trying to grow, and they need more people to pull that off.

The more desperate a hiring manager or recruiter becomes, the less stringently they’re going to weed out candidates. That, in turn, drives the aforementioned phenomenon whereby 82% of hiring managers admit they ignored warning signs about candidates during the actual interview.

We can overcome this, but we need to institute a far more structured process for evaluating candidates. One specific step that every recruiter and hiring manager can take starting today is to evaluate candidates immediately after the interview.

The further away we get from the data presented in the interview (i.e., the candidate’s responses), the less accurate our recall of that information becomes. Whether it’s just poor memory or biases like the recency effect (where we favor more recent happenings over historic ones), we’re not as accurate when we try to recall an interview that happened days or weeks ago. And as our desperation to fill an open position increases, the more likely we are to forget the warning signs we saw during the interview and view that flawed candidate as a great fit.

Think about a conversation you had with a colleague last week. You can probably recall the overall tenor and perhaps some of the key takeaways. But you’re likely missing some of the subtle nuances and phrases. 

Imagine you interviewed a candidate for an hour, and amidst all their acceptable and innocuous answers, they said, “I solved a lot of problems in my last job, mostly because I got more problems dumped on me than everyone else.” Perhaps this turns out to be nothing, but words like “dumped” could signal that the candidate feels put-upon and resentful about having to pitch in to solve difficult problems. And that’s exactly the type of warning sign that gets forgotten the further away we get from the interview.

The fix is to budget around 10 minutes at the conclusion of every interview to assess or rate the candidate. During this time, the recruiter or hiring manager should evaluate the candidate against the criteria in your organization’s scorecard, rating form, or whatever you happen to use. 

Many psychologists use a 50-minute hour, which basically means that they do therapy for fifty minutes and then use that last 10 minutes to write up their notes. Among the big benefits of this approach are that the therapist reflects on the session when it’s freshest in their mind, and they’re able to mentally close one session before turning their attention to the next.

Every recruiter and hiring manager should remember that their recall of a candidate will never be higher than it is during and immediately after the interview. While it’s a simple trick, formally budgeting 10 minutes at the end of every interview to assess each candidate ensures the most accurate appraisal possible.

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