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Caution in Hiring: One Bad Apple Can Spoil the Bunch

By: Angela Cordle



A strong, open corporate culture is only as good as the people you put on your team. Especially for a small business with just a few employees, you can’t afford to make a mistake. When it comes time to hire, make sure to look at how potential employees fit with your culture just as much as you look at skills and experience.

Finding the Right Person to Hire

Your strong corporate culture stems from strong values and a well-designed, communicated, and upheld philosophy. It is important that every person you hire share those values. What makes a culture most effective is when it is expressed in everything an organization does. But if some team members are demonstrating different values, that dilutes your culture to customers and partners, and muddles your message. So from your first hire on, find the right person, the right fit for your culture.

But how do you do that? Communicate your values at every step of the hiring process, so that candidates understand what your business is about. When you meet with candidates, don’t just look at their skills and experience; get a feel for their values and how they compare with your own. Ask questions that help you see how potential employees think, how they work with others, and how they approach their work. Someone might have great skills—but if the values aren’t a fit, it’s not the right person to hire. That person will make a great employee somewhere else, where they will fit in with the corporate culture, but isn’t right for you.

Involve other team members into the interview process, to get additional perspectives on how candidates fit in with your culture. An open culture is about trust, and that means trusting the judgment of the others on your team. The team isn’t just people who work well with you, but of people who will work well together. Every person you hire should reinforce your culture, make it stronger. There’s no such thing as taking too long to find the right person, especially in the early stages of your business.

Dealing with a Mistake

The reason it’s important to take your time to hire the right person, the right fit for your culture, is that the consequences of a bad hire are much broader than you might think. First, bad hires will hurt your company’s productivity. They themselves will not be as effective as they could be in an environment that fit their own values and philosophy, and they will also impact the productivity of your other team members who might have to pick up the slack. But a bad hire will also dilute your business’s brand and culture in the eyes of customers.

For example, if you follow the Reasonable Person Principle in your business, it only works if people actually are being reasonable in their decision making. An implication of the Reasonable Person Principle, as Dr. John Ousterhout of Stanford University writes, is that “if someone truly is unreasonable, and behaves that way repeatedly, then they must leave. That way, we end up with a company where virtually everyone is reasonable, so it is even easier to apply the Reasonable Person Principle.”

Making a change can be uncomfortable, if not painful for some people. But it is absolutely necessary for your business that you correct hiring mistakes as soon as possible. Just as you should take all the time you need to find the right people, once you’re sure that someone is not a good fit for your culture, then you should cut ties quickly, before any further damage is done.

Published: December 20, 2012

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Angela Cordle

Angela Cordle is the EVP of Tarkenton Financial, a leading insurance marketing firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, she serves as the Human Resources Director, overseeing the provision of HR services, policies, and programs for the company. She also serves as a BizCoachingOnDemand.com consultant, bringing practical and experiential knowledge of HR best practices to small businesses.

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