A Mediocre Hire Could Be Worse Than a Bad Hire

By Anna Minicky on Jun 07, 2019
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A 2018 study by The Hartford asked small businesses owners what their biggest challenge was — finding good employees, competing with big business, tax compliance, or uncertain economic times? An overwhelming 64 percent of respondents identified finding good employees as their number one business concern.

We’ve blogged about how one bad hire can ruin your entire workforce, how to identify toxic employees, what to do once you've identified one on your team, and the “actual” cost of a bad hire, which is hard to pinpoint exactly, but experts estimate anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to as much as a quarter-million dollars once the costs for recruiting, onboarding, lost customers, staff time, lost productivity, litigation fees, and a weakened employer brand are considered. But what about a mediocre hire?

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Why a Mediocre Hire Could Be Worse than a Bad Hire

With the unemployment rate at its lowest since December 1969 and 1 million more jobs open than unemployed workers, you may feel pressure to hire the first seemingly qualified candidate to get them before another company does, especially if you’ve had a key position open for some time. But a mediocre hire may be worse than a bad hire. Here’s why you shouldn’t settle on a mediocre candidate:

  • Termination Can Be More Difficult: With a bad hire, managers are able to quickly identify problematic behavior, leading to disciplinary action and possible termination. The damage to the company can be contained within a relatively short amount of time. But with a mediocre hire, oftentimes their behavior lives in the grey area — not horrible, but not good. Disciplinary action and/or termination can be difficult to justify without documented substantial violations of company policy. And the longer termination is delayed, the greater the negative impact on the organization will be.

Six Keys to Effective Employee Discipline

  • Team Morale Decreases: In small and medium-sized businesses, every employee counts in a big way. When hard-working, high-performing team members work alongside a mediocre hire, their morale plummets. Why is it okay for this individual to put forth an average effort while others always strive for their maximum effort? Think about it, if you lower the bar and send the message mediocrity is okay, don’t be surprised when you end up with a mediocre company.
  • Increased Time and Money Spent: Ultimately, you thought somebody was better than nobody when you hired the mediocre candidate. But in the end, despite your best efforts, the cost to keep the medium-fit employee rarely outweighs the benefit to the company. A mediocre hire often consumes the management team’s time, engaging them in fixing regular errors and providing ongoing training.
  • Missed Opportunities: By settling on a medium-fit candidate, you may have missed out on a great one. And the longer you keep the mediocre hire, the more opportunities you miss out on to find a great hire who will be passionate about your company, your clients, and your product. 

How to Prevent a Mediocre Hiring Decision

It’s best to prevent a mediocre hire altogether. Here are some tips to guide your hiring process:

  • Have a Job Description: A detailed and accurate job description is an interviewer’s best friend. By using the list of job requirements, you will be more likely to hire a candidate who will excel in the position.

How to Write the Perfect Job Description

  • Don’t Forget About Intangible Skills: Sometimes hiring managers focus too heavily on the technical skills required for the job, and not enough on intangible skills like coachability, emotional intelligence, temperament, motivation, or ability to take feedback. A Leadership IQ study found new employees rarely fail due to issues with their job competence or technical skills. For example, of the new hires that were terminated within 18 months of being hired, only 11 percent failed due to technical shortcomings.
  • Don’t Hire in Haste: A position that has been open at your company for some time can become a source of stress to the employees covering the workload. Instead of treating the situation as a crisis and hiring the first okay candidate to cross your office, consider offering current employees attractive incentives to keep morale up while they are covering the increased workload.
  • Interns Make Great Future Employees: Having an internship program at your organization allows you to have a potential pool of candidates for certain positions. They are familiar with your business and you’ve seen their skill level and how they work with your team. An internship program makes great business sense, especially with the current talent shortage. Read this blog to find out how a great onboarding program sets interns up for success.
  • Add a Second Decision Maker: If you’re uncertain, adding extra interviews or sharing the hiring burden with another manager is a great idea. Unfortunately, a series of subpar interviews can make a mediocre one seem great. By getting another opinion, and going through the pros and cons together, it may help you more accurately see the candidate in question.

Axcet's HR Consultants have the training and expertise to help make the best possible hires.

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Written by Anna Minicky

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