It’s Hard to Get Off Easy When You Make a Really Bad Hire

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There’s a certain type of manager you only have to work with for, oh, five minutes, before concluding that they really suck.

Why? Mostly because said managers are extremely talented at making everything about them. As far as they’re concerned, you and your opinions are mostly garbage. (So if you’ve ever wondered why these managers always look like they smell something bad, well, that’s why.)

Depending on how long these managers have been in the workforce, they may have learned to solicit your opinion every now and again (having been told this is what good managers do), but you quickly discover they aren’t really listening, and they’ll never use the information or barely acknowledge you even offered it.

Bad hires can’t be hidden

That’s a shame.

Like me, you may have wondered more than once how these damn people keep getting hired into positions of authority. Their self-centeredness and near pathologic need for control can’t be hidden.

Could it be someone else in authority detected these traits during the job interview but hired this pain in the rear anyway?

Methinks yes.

Itching to hire them

Considering everything we know about the psychology of talent sourcing, including how hiring managers often extend offers to people who remind them of themselves, I’ve concluded that some of these truly awful leaders are brought on board because the hiring manager, who considers himself or herself a little cocky — but in a good way — believed the candidate’s “edge” would be beneficial for the business.

The thinking goes something like this:

Jamie’s a little haughty, but I like that. You need confidence in this game to get things moving. And I know she’s probably exaggerating her accomplishments a little, but she’s just trying to make a good impression. I like that, too. A bit of boldness never hurt. Plus, Jamie’s got great technical skills. I think we’d be lucky to have such a poised, aggressive, and knowledgeable person on staff.”

For the love of all that’s holy and good, employer, please … stop right there.

You know this person — not!

Once upon a time, I interviewed a man (let’s call him Pete) who exhibited humor, charm, and flawless professionalism. He had a great resume, too.

We had a good time during the interview. My BS meter went off once or twice, but I was having too much fun to pay it any mind. In my foolishness, I chalked Pete’s braggadocio up to youthful exuberance. I hired Pete and was happy to get him.

Sometimes, I’m an idiot.

Later, I learned that Pete had:

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  • Falsified his resume, claiming education and work experience he didn’t have.
  • Lied that he’d been laid off from his last job when he’d been fired.
  • Colluded with a friend to provide a false reference. (Yes, believe it or not, Pete’s friend pretended to be his former manager at a company neither had ever stepped foot in.)
  • Claimed to be enrolled in a Master’s degree program at a school that’d never heard of him.

It took me a few months to untangle Pete’s half-truths and outright lies, but boy was that a life lesson! (Also, Pete’s former manager and I became friends, which was nice.)

And I KNOW I’m not the only sucker to have hired a total fraud, all because I saw something of myself in this person and figured, “Hey, I’m OK, so he’s OK.”

That was pretty dumb.

I gave the recruiter who found Pete hell, but most of the blame fell squarely on my shoulders.

Just say no

There’s a common misconception that because we all tell lies, we can presume the liars we encounter are harmless.

Folks, that’s a dangerous presumption.

Despite my poor decision, I got off easy. Pete was not hired into a management position, and his performance tipped me off almost immediately that something was rotten in Denmark. Within a few months, he was gone.

Still, I implore you — don’t allow a trickster to slither into your workplace out of a mistaken belief that lying during a job interview is expected, and therefore it’s not only innocuous but evidence of a savvy job seeker/healthy ambitious worker who’s only doing what any one of us would do to get a job.

Instead of “your kind of liar,” you might find yourself with a deceiver like none other — one who wrecks your team, compromises your brand, and wastes your time.

And that’s if you’re lucky.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at


4 Comments on “It’s Hard to Get Off Easy When You Make a Really Bad Hire

  1. You will be surprised how many HR people fall for an extrovert who’s very sociable and uses their charm to convince you to hire them. I’m not saying they would necessarily be a bad hire but I have found that they are the type that will skate by on mediocrity and butt kiss the boss(es) to keep their job. I don’t need a sycophant telling me how great I am.

    1. Why do you think this has anything to do with HR? Some of the worst hiring decisions I’ve seen were done by high level managers. Their BS meters are sometimes the worst.

  2. The only thing I took away from this article is that “you’re an idiot”. A cursory background check should have discovered most of those falsehoods before you even hired the person.
    The fundamental truth that most “HR professionals” who work in high performance organizations fail to realize that 99% of the people they interview are smarter and better educated than they are. Take me for example. I have an engineering degree, an MBA, several certifications and 15 years of experience leading highly complex and technical projects for investment banks and Fortune 500 companies. What possible question could you or any other HR professional possibly ask me about what I do that I couldn’t provide a 30 second answer that would be enough to satisfy you that I know what I’m doing? None. So instead you’ll ask a bunch of “behavioral” questions or try to glean patterns in my job history (a long series of impressive companies with increasing titles and responsibilities). But guess what? I also know how to spin my “faults” or shortcomings to either conceal them or make them look like strengths.
    Bottom line is, the reason people hate HR is because not only do you create these unreasonable expectations that all employees should be brilliant superstars who are highly technical, charming and extroverted self starters with top tier educations and perfect work histories, you pretend like you can actually identify and attract these people. And then you sit there scratching your head every time an employee doesn’t “work out”.
    Employees don’t “work out” because every person is different and we are all faulty (by corporate standards) in different ways. The more you try to try to create these elaborate hiring methodologies, the more likely you are to attract the sort of people who are smart, devious and superficially charming enough to game those systems.

  3. Yes, we can’t judge someone by their face. Its their skills and experience that impress us to hire them. But it also true that sometimes, the person pretends to be is different from what he is. There should be many rounds to interview candidates to judge their skills, personality, logical ability etc.

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