Should you hire slow and fire fast? – Part 1: Hire slow

“The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”  – Steve Jobs

My Coconut Milk Mate tea this morning inspired me to write about one of the easiest to explain and most difficult to apply people management mantras. It’s the typical hire slow and fire fast. Don’t know if it’s just me and the people I am surrounded with, but my view is that we tend to do the exact opposite: hire fast and fire slow. We do the first because we are in a hurry and afraid of a gap not being filled on time. We do the second because we are afraid to make a decision.

That’s why my coconut milk mate tea inspired me to write about this in order to explain the true importance of this people management mantra. Let’s take the first part first: hire slow.

PROS – Why is it important to hire slow and how do you actually do it the right way? 

You should not hurry when hiring because of 2 main reasons:

  • costs – human resources are among most expensive budget lines and they become even more expensive when they don’t fit in and you add the cost of replacement;
  • competitive advantage – your team can prove a true competitive advantage on the market when wisely selected and lead.

Why do most businesses hire fast? Well, maybe because they also fire slow and then when they finally let go of an employee that didn’t fit the team and company, they are in a rush as they’ve already come to an urgency. This new vacancy has left them with a void which had not been filled in quite a while. Another case may be that your business is growing faster than expected and then you need to hire to respond to this growth.

CONS – What are the main objections and problems with hire slow?

  • candidates get hired by someone else – you may have found some potentially suitable candidates and while you keep pondering, they may get other opportunities and bail;
  • hurry – startups don’t have the luxury of long-term planning (or they think they don’t) so it is important for them to find people, perfect or not as they may be;
  • employee gap that needs urgent filling – you may have an employee gap that needs filling urgently and clients are already impatient;
  • impatience or lack of hiring know-how – impatience or lack of know-how as far as screening people is concerned – when you don’t have it clear how to select and recruit people it’s no longer so important if you go slow or fast;
  • relying too much on gut feeling – mirror-hiring or coup-de-foudre-hiring: you “fall in love” with a candidate fast and think he/she is the one for the job. However, you may be into mirror-hiring and anyhow your intuition, as important as it may be, is rarely the only one that matters. You may like a potential candidate but he/she may not be suitable for the role in terms of skills or attitude or maybe they do not match the existing team or company values.

SOME MORE PROS – Other genuinely important reasons why you should hire slow?

  • Demotivating – The rest of the team will surely be demotivated by a weak performer or someone without the right attitude and motivation for the job. Imagine your top team being slowed down by someone whould should not have been hired in the first place;
  • Snowball effect – The snowball effect unfortunately applies to bad hiring – hire 2 or 3 employees which were not well chosen and they will themselves bring more and more unfit employees on board, they may also demotivate the team or in fact “contaminate” the rest of the team with their attitude or beliefs or whatever it is that is unfit about them. The snowball will grow bigger and bigger and so will your  hiring and team problem. It’s contagious! Trust me!
  • It’s a lose-lose situation – You are not doing the employee a favour either. If they don’t fit the company in terms of values, skills or/and profile they will most likely struggle a lot to fit in and will try to be someone they are not in the process. If it ends badly, you’ve wasted both your precious time and the candidate’s. If you believe in karma, well…
  • You waste time – Need I say more? You don’t actually win time. You lose time with starting with the bad employee and then another recruitment period;
  • Your overall activity may suffer – Poor performance slows everybody down. The new employee may delay others in getting their job done as well;
  • Bad PR – It’s bad PR to hire and fire repeatedly. It’s bad PR if the new employee is not fit. The bad image reflects on the entire company, not just the individual. This bad hiring can on the long haul erode customer and potential or existing employees confidence.

Tips to hire wisely and well – not necessarily slowly:

  • figure out what it is you really need – the key objectives of the role and the key skills and requirements for your new team member;
  • it is important not to rely on a single point of view – multiple interviewers could bring more perspectives on the table and a more complete picture;
  • values, not only skills – your new team members need to fit your company values as well as be highly skilled for the job – do not forget to look after both;
  • include a practical test as part of recruitment process – it is important to have a practical test as well to make sure your new employee knows how to get things done;
  • assessment centers with actual colleagues – if you have the time, this is a necessary luxury. Evaluating how the potential employee gets things done on the job with his actual future colleagues will set perfect fits apart from the rest.

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