Why hires fail and what to do

By Jeremy Wilson October 01, 2014 Industry News

Whenever this subject comes up in my discussions with business leaders there’s always an immediate horror story each individual has, in some cases there are several! It always goes along the lines of “I’ve hired a guy and it turns out he’s no good, or/ he can’t do the job”

Not only is there actual proof in the individual cases I’ve heard but the numbers don’t lie either – 1 in 4 new hires in New Zealand move on in the first 12 months.

I can break that down even further for you – in the event of a non-technical failure (in other words the candidate had the skills for the role but not the smarts) the stats look roughly like this:

  • 30% fail due to lack of coachability / inability to accept and action workable feedback.
  • 25% of fall-overs are due to lack of emotional intelligence – ie inability to change based on self-awareness or inability to self-measure/manage.
  • 25% is down to motivation – lack of drive or commitment to the new role.
  • 15% is because their temperament is not suited to the new position or culture.

So take a second to reflect on why your fall-over occurred. Chances are the candidate was lacking in one of these four areas. The fact is, though, that both parties need to get it right in this first 12 months and there’s most definitely some learning to be had.

Let’s look at the key issues and answers to some of the most common problems with new hires:



This is an interviewing and references fail. I suggest you probe for these traits with specific questioning and ensure your reference templates include these areas. Also look at the candidate’s personal background closely. Where have they had coaching in their personal life that has led to change? Additionally ask the candidate for specific examples of behavioural change as a result of feedback from managers and also clients and look to verify these answers with your reference checking.



All too often I talk to candidates who were thrown the car keys or shown to their desk and left to it. Even a person with strong self-management abilities runs the risk of making serious mistakes if not supported and managed properly. This leads to doubt which leads to resignations.

Your role is to ensure they are performing to your expectations within a coaching framework. You should semi formally meet with a new employee at 1, 2, 3 and 6 months to discuss their performance vs expectations.

In these meetings you will provide workable feedback and be very clear about what you expect from a person in the role they hold. Also look to assess their requirements for training or further induction. In some cases you will have to motivate and remind the candidate of what’s in it for them in lifting their performance if they are required to do so.



You hired someone who simply didn’t have what it took to perform in the role. That’s not the candidate’s fault, that’s on you.

Look very closely at the role and what’s actually required. Does it require after hours work that the candidate couldn’t commit to? Is there a lot of pressure and the person couldn’t handle it? Does it require careful negotiation or behavioural requirements which aren’t the candidate’s style?

Pre-hire, you must define the key traits that are required and match your interviewing to these key traits. Look to seek specific and recent examples of when they have done what you require in the role.

Also though, don’t fail to be extremely frank with your potential person about the role and the challenges facing them in the position and get them to tell you how they will handle those challenges.



This one’s a biggie and can lead to real problems. For example I hear about reps leaving because they won’t do the travel. You must ensure their commitment to the role and also ensure that the spouse supports the commitment.

Be very upfront even at this stage about the requirements – when I recruit for roles with afterhours work or travel involved, I overstate the amount required and get the candidate to confirm he has spoken with his wife or partner via email.

I also stringently question personal activities to ensure there are not personal commitments that will amount to time theft or just clear inability to perform the role.

So, in conclusion:

  • Interview properly and specifically to the role at hand!
  • Do great references!
  • Have a very clear and supportive induction and coaching/feedback framework!
  • Ensure the candidate’s ability to commit!


Jeremy Wilson is General Manager of Build People, a search recruitment business with contacts across hardware, consumer goods, electronics and FMCG. Call 021 732 788 or visit www.buildpeople.co.nz for more information.


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