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Timing In Hiring

In our newsletter CEO interview, Bryan Stephens of Kalmar RTC mentioned that mistakes in timing have been one of the key issues in executive management for him. To quote Bryan: “I’ve sometimes been too slow to fire and too fast to hire. I think it is human nature to want to hold on to people and hope they’ll change (they seldom do), and to succumb to the pressures of timelines and first impressions and hire too fast.”

We agree on both counts.

Employers are sometimes under pressure to fill a position quickly. A key person resigns, a board of directors complains about an executive’s performance, new contracts are won, etc. Speed sometimes sacrifices quality. Scrambling to hire someone too quickly can result in these mistakes:

  • Considering too few people Finding the best person for an executive role sometimes requires casting a wide net, to ensure you’ve looked at many qualified people.
  • Inadequate position profile – Many companies pull the last version of the job description out of the file and hire to that. But your requirements probably have changed, and you have fresh objectives.   You must take the time to “see the end before you begin.”
  • Inadequate evaluation – Most execs look good in a suit, have a firm handshake, and can make eye contact. But can they produce the results you need? Rushing to hire means not completely figuring out whether the person can do the job.
  • Dispensing with references – We’ve heard from many execs that they were hired by their boss’s intuition, and no references were checked. It is important to understand why people left prior jobs, and how they performed.

On the retention side, we see many companies holding on to poor performers for too long. They may have failed to document poor performance, and fear that terminating someone without such a paper trail could be risky. Yet they consider themselves to be “at will” employers. Many companies fear lawsuits or costly severance packages when they have to let someone go. And they sometimes feel that having a B or C level player in the job is better than no one, or better than the unknown – The devil I know is better than the devil I don’t know! When it comes down to making a decision to terminate, most employers find that it goes better than expected – their fears prove unwarranted. Most poorly performing executives know that they aren’t doing well. When terminated, most have realistic expectations, and few have the stomach to try finding an attorney to take the case. They are happy to move on and try elsewhere. And, the employer almost always benefits from making the new hire – and hopefully a move to an “A” player as soon as possible.

So take the advice of Bryan Stephens, and our advice, and don’t be rash in your hiring decisions, and don’t hold on to bad people for too long.