The No. 1 Reason for Bad Hires

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A while back, I interviewed a lady that I thought would make a great recruiter. She was high energy, great on the phone, could source, and had an HR degree.

She applied for the job we had open for a recruiter, and I’m 100 percent positive she would have accepted the position if I would have offered it.

I didn’t. She wasn’t a “fit.” The job she truly wanted, her “dream” job, was in straight HR, not recruiting. She was willing to recruit, but she really didn’t want to recruit.

The many components of job fit

We walked away from a terrific candidate, because poor job fit is the No. 1 reason most people fail at a job.

Organizations spend so much time and resources ensuring they’re hiring the right skills, but most totally fail when it comes to the organization and job fit.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not easy to determine organizational fit. Sure you can design an assessment, do peer interviewing, etc. But it always seems like a moving target, and it is. Job fit also has multiple components:

  1. The job you have open.
  2. The company culture.
  3. The job the candidate actually wants to do.
  4. The job the candidate is willing to do and how good of an actor they are to prove to you that it is the real job they want.
  5. Your inability to see that your perception of the candidate, and their perception of themselves, do not align.

Is the job you have the one the candidate really wants?

How many of you have Poor Job Fit” listed as a reason for termination on your exit interview form? My guess is almost none.

Most managers and HR pros will list things like performance, personality conflict, attitude, low skill set, personal reasons, schedule, etc. We don’t want to use something like “Poor Job Fit” because what that says is “We suck at our jobs!”

The reality is, probably 75 percent of your terminations are because of poor job fit. You hired someone with the skills you wanted, but the job you have doesn’t use or need most of those skills.

The job you have doesn’t meet the expectation you sold to the candidate. The job you have isn’t really the job the person wants.

Most organizations would be farther off to hire by fit than by skills. True statement, but HR pros hate to hear that because it discounts a lot of what we do.

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Job fit is the key to retention, not skills. Find someone who wants to be a recruiter and they probably will be a decent recruiter. Find someone with great skills who doesn’t want to be a recruiter, and they’ll probably be a terrible recruiter.

What you really need to be asking candidates

In almost every occupation where you don’t need professional certifications (such as doctor, lawyer, CPA, etc.) this holds true. I know a great accountant who never went to accounting school, and he’s better than anyone I’ve met who graduated from accounting school. Some of the best teachers never went to college to become a teacher, but they love teaching.

Do one thing for me the next time you interview a candidate for a job – ask them this one question:

“If you could have any job, in any location, what job would you select? Why?”

Their answer doesn’t have to mention the job they’re interviewing for to be the “right” answer. Their answer should be in line with what you’re asking them to do – or you’re going to have a bad fit, and either you will eventually be terminating them or they will eventually be resigning.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


8 Comments on “The No. 1 Reason for Bad Hires

  1. Tim, great points. I’d disagree a LITTLE (just a little) with this statement however:

    “Find someone with great skills who doesn’t want to be a recruiter, and they’ll probably be a terrible recruiter.”

    My experience is, “… she’ll be a great recruiter… for a while.” Great skills are great skills.

    Also, and again, I don’t disagree with your point, but how do you help a hiring manager who DOESN’T KNOW what she wants? Sometimes the candidate is a poor fit because she accepted the job YOU DESCRIBED, the one YOU SAID you wanted filled. But um… you didn’t really want that. You just thought you did. In some organizations, there’s the perception of our culture, and then there’s our REAL culture.

    Maybe that’s a different article?

    1. Crystal,

      I think you help the hiring manager that doesn’t know what she wants by helping them move out a candidate they made a mistake on. I see so many of my HR peers that force HM’s to live with their mistakes instead of helping them move on and find the person they really need/want but messed up on! It’s alright to term a candidate for poor fit – too many HR pros try and make organizations live with poor decisions.


  2. Sackett- I ask a similar question but with a twist: Describe the job you would want to have for the sheer joy of doing it, even if you weren’t being paid for it?”

    Would it surprise you that most initially tell you it’s the job for which they’re interviewing?

    Then I call BS and after a little hemming and hawing almost always get to the “sheer joy” answer.

    Now we can start the real interview.

    1. Levy,

      I like it! My job would be coaching the LA Lakers – I take that back – I’d make them pay me! But I’d really enjoy it!


        1. 10 yr old baseball – Doesn’t get any better – at 10 they still listen to you like you know something!

  3. How true. Fit is everything, including attitude and personality. Not many things are more difficult or important than hiring the right people. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I don’t agree with much of this. If you are making bad hires, it’s YOU who need a new position, you are no good at it. Institutions implement committees of 8 people to protect themselves from “Who hired this goofball”. What a farce. Here is the deal, many hire people that seem like they won’t complain about anything, you end up with people who won’t improve anything, Often they are butt kissers and BSers. if you can’t recognize this stuff you will have a bad hire. As for the truly talented person who wanted something a little different, great people can adapt, and accommodate you for a while. They might be happy to wait for the better opportunity with your organization and show you what they can do in the meantime. Impress the heck out of you. But you go ahead and let the person go to your competitors, genius. One CEO once said that when they come across a special, dynamic person, that can help the company (in whatever way they are talented at) they MAKE a position for the individual. The other thing you can do is don’t wait for them to come to you, if you see someone doing a great job, has a great personality (even under stress), give them a sheet with the description, and ask them to apply for the job you are trying to fill.

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