6 Reasons Your Last Hire Failed and How to Spot Bad Hiring Trends

Michael Klazema

Reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, and onboarding new hires are all things that take time and impair your company’s efficiency. As a result, it’s imperative to make sure you are hiring the right person every time you need to fill a position.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for hires to fail. If your business has ever brought a new person onboard only to replace them six months later, you know how frustrating this process can be.

The question is, why did your hire fail, and what can you do to avoid those same pitfalls next time? Below, we’ve described six of the most common reasons for bad hires and what you can do to prevent them in the future.

Common reasons for Bad Hiring (and how to avoid them)

You didn’t run background checks

More and more employers are delaying the criminal background check until late in the applicant screening process to give ex-offenders a better chance to prove themselves.

Even in this progressive environment, it’s essential to run background checks somewhere. You don’t want to hire someone with a history of embezzlement for a job that involves managing accounts.

f you don’t run background checks, you could end up with an applicant who robs you or attacks a customer, causing a negligent hiring lawsuit to come your way. There are, of course, other examples, but the point is simple: run background checks.

You didn’t verify resume information

Not every applicant is going to be honest when compiling a resume. Verifying the credentials of your top candidates is a good way to make sure they are as qualified as they look on paper.

By failing to run verification checks, you could risk hiring an applicant who lied about their college education, their professional certifications, or their work experience.

At best, those oversights would mean having to go through the hiring process again much sooner than you expected. At worst, you could face investigations and legal headaches for hiring a fraud.

You didn’t do skills testing

If you’re like most employers, your job descriptions include lists of key skills that all candidates for those positions are supposed to have.

These skills can range from the ability to operate a forklift to knowledge of specific software programs or content management systems. In some cases (as with the forklift), you will be able to judge skills by checking which candidates were licensed to perform those functions.However, for many skills, there’s no relevant license or certification.

As a result, more and more employers are implementing skills testing as part of the employee screening processes.

These tests can take many different forms, from quick assessments to see how fast applicants can type to projects meant to gauge abilities like writing, graphic design, or computer programming.

Taking candidates at their word and not testing skills could mean discovering on an employee’s first day of work that he or she isn’t actually qualified to perform the main functions of the job.

You asked the wrong questions in the interview

The interview is the downfall of many an applicant screening process. Many hiring managers—particularly inexperienced ones—will use bland prompts like, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” because they think that’s what they are supposed to do.

Others will employ gimmicky questions (“If you were a tree, what kind would you be?”), while many will focus on asking about skills. Skills testing is a more efficient way of finding the answers you are seeking.

So, what are the right interview questions? Don’t ask generic stock questions, because if you do, you are going to get generic stock answers.

Worse, you’ll get rehearsed generic stock answers, which will only show you your applicant’s ability as an actor, not as a professional thinking critically.

The best thing to do is to look at the top employees at your company and identify what makes them great. Is it how they make members of their team feel valued and empowered? Is it how they work under pressure? Is it how they react to criticism?

Identifying the qualities that define your best people will show you what you value most in an employee. Do the same thing for the employees who are underperforming. You can then use this spectrum to formulate interview questions that will really shine a light on how your candidates work (as well as whether they would be the top employees or underperformers in your organization).

You didn’t assess all of your candidates in the same way

With the threat of employment discrimination lawsuits always just around the corner, companies are working harder to assess each applicant in the same way.

Still, nepotism creeps in, mostly when dealing with friends, family members, or referrals. There is certainly some validity to the mantra that finding a job “is more about who you know than what you know.”

Unconsciously or not, most hiring managers will give an advantage to people that they either know personally or that come highly recommended from a colleague or employee.

This strategy is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s good to know you are hiring someone that a member of your company has vouched for.

On the other hand, you shortchange the “strangers” in your applicant pool by approaching their resumes or interviews with more skepticism. The pre-employment screening process then becomes more about connections and less about skills, experience, attitude, demeanor, worth ethic, and coachability.

You need to keep the focus on those qualities with every hiring process you run, and the only way to do that is to assess you applicant pool objectively.

You didn’t check references

You need to check references. A well-conducted interview can tell you a lot about a person and how they would fit into your organization, but you still need a second opinion to find out if your candidate is who they say they are.

Calling a former employer or manager can give you a lot of information that should be at the heart of your screening process.

For instance, how coachable is the applicant? When presented with criticism or unfamiliar situations at their old job, how did the candidate react? How did the applicant get along with managers and colleagues? What did their overall on-the-job attitude seem like?

Skills and quality of work mean a lot, but they can be undercut by an inability to take criticism and learn or by an abrasive attitude that makes the candidate difficult to work with. Reference checks are the best chance you have to spot these major flaws before they lead to a bad hire.


Written by
Michael Klazema
has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.

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