As a top notch recruitment agency, we know a thing or two about finding the perfect hire to fit your company and culture. But sadly, sometimes you don’t have the support of a great recruiter, who knows your business inside out. Mistakes are made. Then companies like yours are stuck with trying to figure out what to do when you have hired the wrong person.

What happens when you hire the wrong person? Let’s figure it out.


Probation period and onboarding.

First things first, give your new employee a chance by setting out a realistic probation period. In our opinion, one month is too short to judge, but six months can be too long and may make your new employee feel untrusted and doubted. 

During the probation period, have a great onboarding process. Give them a great working environment where they can feel supported, welcomed and productive. Include regular communication and catch ups – one-to-ones between employee and managers are essential! You should be asking how they are finding the role, review their performance and discuss ways to improve.

Remember – it typically takes an average of 28 weeks for a new recruit to reach their optimal productivity in a new role. So don’t set the bar too high when staff may still be learning. Coach them to success!

(We’re sure you already know this bit, but it’s always worth checking you’ve done as much as you can on your side.)


How to really figure out if you’ve hired the wrong person.

Whether the employee is still in their probation period, or beyond, here are a few signs you’ve hired the wrong person:

  • They struggle with skills they said they know in their interview/CV.
  • The employee constantly complains, questions your authority and is not a team player.
  • They can’t manage their time effectively. (Meaning you devote your time and resources to ensuring their tasks are completed.)
  • The staff has conflicted interests. (Unannounced holidays. Turning up late. Their personal projects start to interfere with their employed work.)
  • Their skills and experience are not a good fit for the position, but they are a culture fit. (Often this means they’d be better suited for a different role.)
  • They are not a culture fit (stirring up team toxicity).
  • All of the above.

Remember – being a culture fit is important, even if an employee is hitting targets. The time and resources spent managing disruptive behaviour from employees can be draining. And damaging to your reputation!

This is not an exhaustive list! But how can you narrow down your “gut feeling” that the employee isn’t working out, into proving if they are a bad hire or not?

Your first task: gather the data.

When reviewing the success of your staff, make sure you have set out SMART goals or set measurable KPIs. And that your employee knows them! This gives a very clear picture of what success in the role looks like to your employee. It means they should understand exactly what results you need from them in their role. This should be said from day one.

Next: talk to them!

Okay, so you’ve noticed they’re failing tasks. Now you must talk directly about what the complications are in your one-to-ones. Expect it to be an uncomfortable conversation for both of you. Have specific situations or tasks to mind, and ask the employee about what went wrong. Use questions, so the focus is on fixing, not on being defensive.

If needed, have several planned meetings. Welcome open, honest and transparent conversation. Avoid blame, and instead suggest ways to improve (such as looking at other tools, clarifying instructions, different management styles, or communication methods).

Lastly: review over time.

Measure if the staff member is continually not hitting the required results (or improving) over a set period of time, and/or you are getting complaints from staff or customers.

Using a performance improvement plan (PIP) can be key at this stage. PIPs let an employee know that their performance issues are serious. You will need to meet with the employee regularly to discuss and document their progress. Keep good records, including the date, time, and policy or performance problem clearly identified.

You may also want to discuss your decisions and thoughts with your manager (or another same-level manager) in your business. It may be that the employee is a valuable asset but is better suited in another team or department.

Take time to truly understand if this is a bad hire for your team or business.


So you’ve hired the wrong person, now what? 

Okay, so after all that, you have doubts in your mind that this is not the right person for your business. The coaching and/or PIP isn’t working. You don’t have other suitable roles/departments available. NOW WHAT?! No, don’t panic…

You sadly need to organise talking to your employee about their termination.

These conversations are never easy, so ensuring you address the situation in a sensitive way is very important. In fact, you can help the employee build self-esteem, despite their employment termination, if done properly with class and kindness.

Before the meeting, we suggest:
  • For the purposes of discrimination avoidance, you must make sure you are applying performance standards fairly.
  • Consider the situation from the employee’s perspective in advance. Be prepared for defensiveness, hostility or storming out.
  • Schedule the meeting with the employee, the employee’s line manager (you!), and either a HR representative or the manager of the department.
  • Do not label it as a “Quick chat” or “Small update” title for the meeting invite – this will imply to the employee it is not a serious conversation.
  • Have an agenda for the conversation to keep on track. Start with the most important issue – the termination.
  • Get a “worst case scenario” planned, where you can lock your company assets (email, documents, financial information, programme persmissions) and have planned who will be assigned the employee’s outstanding tasks.
During the meeting:
  • Be straightforward. Tell the employee that their job is terminated. This should not come as a surprise to the employee, as they should be aware of the process that has escalated up to this point.
  • Remain respectful. Listen to their thoughts and feelings, and let them ask any questions they may have.
  • Be calm. The employee may get emotional, but you cannot become angry, argue with the employee or try to settle a score. Even if you are disappointed, remain composed and compassionate.
  • If the meeting goes well, consider if the employee would be receptive to briefly discuss other jobs they might succeed in and their strengths. It will help build their esteem.
  • Work in an office? Give the employee a choice as to who they want to walk them out of the building from the current meeting attendees. Ask them if they want to remove any personal belongings now, or be supervised after hours.
After the meeting:
  • Organise collecting all company property. Get your IT staff to cut the employee’s access to work systems to protect company information.
  • Inform the rest of the team of the departure.

The above scenario is for employee termination for non-performance (not immediate termination for a cause). Please make sure you comply with your company’s employment laws – this blog is only for guidance.

Act fast

Above all, it is important to act fast when you believe the role and the new hire are not the perfect match. Why? 👇

  • It is unfair to leave your new hire in a role you know they aren’t suited to and won’t have much longer. Give them a chance to find a new role they are much better suited to.
  • The cost of a bad hire only increases the longer they are in the position! It might cost your business more than you first think.
  • It’s never easy having people jump in and out of a team. You must consider the impact on the other team members, and give them space to process your decision. Ensure you announce the news to your team as soon as possible, after the termination meeting, to avoid bad feelings.
  • REMEMBER, you now need to find a replacement, so the longer you stall, the longer the process will be dragged out. 


“Never a mistake, always a lesson”.

The good news is that yes, there are some positives when you have hired the wrong person.

Obviously, firing someone can be a draining experience (emotionally and financially). But don’t move on and leave this in the past too quickly. Use this opportunity to improve your recruitment processes. Broken down into sections, here are the key areas you need to look at to not hire the wrong person again:

  1. The job ad
  2. Your interview process
  3. Skill assessment tests (where relevant)
  4. Your onboarding process
  5. The team / company culture
  6. Management during first few months
  7. The firing process

Bring your hiring/management team (and/or recruitment agency) together to discuss issues with any of these stages. Then build out what you can learn from it, and what you can change in the future.

It is important to act on these changes to ensure the same hiring mistakes don’t happen again. 

The takeaway 

Sadly, this is an awful experience to go through. But, when you make a mistake the only way to go on is by dealing with it. And maybe check out steps to avoid making a bad hire again.

This may be frustrating, however it is important to never regret a hire. Each hire you make will teach you something, whether that be about your hiring process or how to hire correctly to improve your company culture. (Silver linings hey!)