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Help, I’ve Hired an Imposter

You may recognize that sinking feeling. It starts in the pit of your stomach and explodes into a massive headache. After just a few weeks on the job you've begun to realize that your newest employee isn't up to the position. Find out what to do in this situation.

by Chuck Sujansky
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You may recognize that sinking feeling. It starts in the pit of your stomach and explodes into a massive headache. After just a few weeks on the job you've begun to realize that your newest employee isn't up to the position. Despite several in-depth interviews, a thorough background check and favorable recommendations it's becoming increasingly apparent that your new hire isn't going to pan out. How could this have happened? How could it have been avoided? What will it cost in the long run?

Employee turnover is always an expensive proposition. First, there's the cost of lost productivity while critical jobs go unfilled. Then there's the cost to recruit, hire and train replacement employees. Finally, there's the cost of inefficiency while the new employees get "up to speed" and become fully functional.

By the most commonly accepted estimate, finding a replacement could cost as much as two times each lost employee's salary. And that's assuming that each replacement employee is well suited for the open position. It can be far more costly to hire the wrong replacement employee.

Let’s face it, the standard job interview is often a bad predictor of future employee success. Despite the best efforts of interviewers, too many job candidates are skilled at painting a rosy picture or masking serious deficiencies. I'll bet there isn't an interviewer alive (myself included) who doesn't remember an employee or two they wish they hadn't hired.

In fact, the Washington Post publishes a blog called "On Balance" in which they invited readers to share tales of some of the "devil employees" they had to endure. The reader response was enthusiastic, with hundreds of tales about employee nightmares, such as:

The young IT department "guru" who took his bag with him everywhere he went. When he disappeared for a few hours they searched and found him playing games in one of the spare rooms with his Xbox hooked up to a TV!

Or, the employee who called in every other Monday to leave a message that she wouldn't be in that day. Her excuse was always the same: she'd had to go to a family member's funeral. Eventually she ran out of relatives and began saying she had to go to the funeral of a close friend. Then it was former neighbors. Everyone she knew seemed to be dying.

Bringing in a new employee who is badly matched for the position, or preoccupied with personal matters, could do more than simply reduce productivity. "Bad apples" can inflict serious damage on overall employee morale, affecting the productivity of other employees as well. And for some ironic reason these employees often seem the most difficult to coach, discipline or dismiss!

The solution is to implement a hiring process that does more than simply match each applicant's work-life experiences to the requirements of the position. A more powerful and effective approach is to pre-screen candidates to determine if they are able to do the job for which you are hiring. This pre-screening determines job fit - how well the candidate matches up to the critical aspects of the job in your organization - and includes cognitive abilities, behaviors that are critical for success and interests and motivations.

Let's take the case of the new hire described above, who "aced" the interview but turned out to be a mismatch upon taking the position. There are many factors beyond an applicant's resume (or interview skills) that can predict success or failure once in the position. When matched against validated performance models for that particular job an in-depth employee profile can give you an objective inside look at the behaviors and motives of job candidates to help you make better hiring decisions, as well as decisions on promotion and succession.

About KeyGroup:

KEYGroup® believes strongly in the competitive advantage of collaborative workplaces. Based on the organization’s high standards of ethics, integrity and practicality, KEYGroup helps leaders to achieve productive, profitable workplaces that attract, retain and leverage talent. You can visit their website at