Be selective when hiring and swift when letting someone go

By Beth Caron

A hasty hiring decision—because you’re shorthanded, or you think the person will be a fit—is a common mistake that can result in headaches down the road for both the business owner and other employees.

The only thing worse than hiring the wrong person, according to Greg McKeown, an author and leadership adviser, is failing to fire someone quickly.

I came across a HBR blog post by McKeown who puts that message right in the title: “Hire Slow, Fire Fast.

I recently heard a similar message from one of our franchisees, Bob Bell, who owns 11 salons in the Pittsburgh area. Bob acknowledges that some of the biggest mistakes he’s made have been hiring too quickly, or being too slow to fire someone who wasn’t working out. 

“I’m a very patient person,” Bob said. “I allow people to keep working even when it’s clear they’re not right for the job. Instead of reacting quickly, I keep thinking the situation will get better. But, when you act quickly, you’re doing yourself a favor and the stylist a favor, but mostly you’re doing your other stylists a favor. Chances are, after you get rid of someone, they are going to say, “Took you long enough. What were you waiting for?” 

I like what McKeown says about hiring:

  • Start by being absurdly selective in who you hire. 
    This is easy to say, much harder to do, because we all know how easy it is to convince ourselves that someone who isn't quite right will be "good enough." But, as McKeown says, "it's better to be shorthanded than to hire the wrong person.”
  • Find employees who are a natural fit.
    Use multiple interviews and even invite a prospective employee to come in and work for a day. It’s a chance to see how someone interacts with others before making a commitment to hire. Great Clips Franchisee Bob Bell looks for the right “attitude,” a willingness to be part of the team. That can sometimes be hard to judge until you see the person at work.
  • Firing someone shouldn’t be tortuous.
    The least successful thing you can do as a manger or business owner is try to force someone into being good at something that they just are not good at. It's not good for your customers or your staff. You’re not doing the employee any favors, either. “It doesn’t serve people to keep them in the wrong role, giving them the same negative feedback week after week, month after month, year after year,” McKeown says. 
  • Be simple and direct when firing someone.
    McKeown quotes a Silicon Valley executive who hired someone whose personality just didn’t mesh with the team. She took the new employee aside—after just two weeks—and said, “I don’t think this is a great cultural fit for us. Let’s not try to force this. You are talented and capable but this just isn’t the right fit.” 

I admire that the boss didn't blame the employee. She acknowledged what was obvious, probably to the employee as well as the boss. She took the honorable, straightforward and smart approach.

Hiring slowly and firing fast will result in a higher—and happier—talent density for your organization.     

What do you think? Have you ever been on either side of this situation?

Up Next