Avoiding Bad Hires In Retail

Avoiding Bad Hires In Retail

According to a study by Leadership IQ:

  • 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months
  • 19% will achieve unequivocal success

Further, the study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills. While the failure rate for new hires is staggering, it is, unfortunately, not terribly surprising: 82% of managers reported that in hindsight, their job interview process with these employees evoked subtle clues that they would be headed for trouble.

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Résumés range from inflated truths to outright lies to simply plagiarized. Candidates research the internet to find answers to the questions they will likely be asked during interviews and find the responses that are most organic to their personality. The “final candidates” that make the final cut at your company often do so by defeating your screening process, and you are left trying to guess through instinct and subjectivity who the best candidates are out of the motley pool of candidates you’ve interacted with. The deciding factors often include: 1) They were pretty friendly; 2) They’ll fit in well here; 3) They can work nights and weekends or, and the most frequently found, 4) They’re the best we have for now.

Less than one-third of the hires made using this process are considered ideal. And about one in four hires is a complete mis-hire, with the majority of hires being merely workable. [Source: Forbes]

 Critical Success Factors

What do all high performers in our organization, regardless of departments/positions, have in common?” – the answer to this singular question provide hiring manager with a guideline on what to look for  to assess “fit” for talent into the organization. What qualities do they need to possess to be successful, contribute, and fit in with the organizational culture? After all – we can teach the technical things, but we cannot teach a positive, determined, driven, passionate attitude – we need those qualities to be intrinsic to our employees. The competencies you come up with are your “critical success factors”.

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In the article “Recruiting For Cultural Fit in Retail“, I reference some of the more recently identified success factors in our business. Some of these things were:

  • Solution-oriented
  • Driven to deliver excellence
  • Collaborative
  • Dynamic communication style
  • Trustworthy
  • Risk-taker
  • Passionate about learning

So, the next steps are to determine the right questions to measure these soft skills. The great thing about finding they key qualities that drive success in your business is that candidates, generally, cannot fake their way through answers to these because they have to answer based on their experience. Because when we hear the words “Basically…” and “Well, I would…”, it is usually a sign they are unable to summon up real examples of how they have lived those qualities. Some topics, such as “Customer Focus” can be answered because the candidate saw a good response on the internet but when you ask questions, truly listen to the answers, and dig deeper with follow-up questions – you can eliminate those who may not genuinely possess the level of skill needed at this point in the career. Here are some examples of interview questions to determine soft skills:

  • Collaborative:
    • If you had a problem with a team member’s lack of contribution to a project, what would you do?
    • Tell me about a time when someone asked you for assistance with a project or task that is outside the scope of your job description, what did you do?
    • Describe a time when you were instrumental in creating or improving a good relationship with another department within your company.
  • Driven To Deliver Excellence:
    • Ask the candidate to describe an accomplishment comparable to each of the required performance objectives.
    • Then follow up with these questions:
      • Related to this accomplishment, give me a few examples of where you went the extra mile?
      • What aspects of this work did you enjoy the most?
      • What did you have to learn or what resources were needed to do this work, where did you start?
      • Were there any aspects of the work you didn’t like, but you pushed on through anyway?
      • What aspects of the work gave you the greatest sense of personal satisfaction?
  • Risk Taking:
    • When was the last time you addressed eliminating a process that didn’t add value to your work, but was required, to senior leadership? What was the process? What was their reaction? What was the result?
    • Have you ever implemented a new idea in any of your past positions without being certain of the outcome? What was it? What was the outcome? What did you learn from that?
    • When change or chaos occurs in the company that you know will make your workload heavier either in the short-term or long-term, how do you react? What would you say?

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  • Communication:
    • Describe a situation in your previous role where you needed to inspire and energize a team?
      • How did shape your communication to energize them?
      • What mediums did you use communicate with them?
      • What did your follow up look like?
      • What was the outcome?
      • Who were the detractors on your team? How did you follow up with them?
    • What is your preferred method to share information with your team, your colleagues, your direct supervisor?
    • Describe a time where you needed to communicate with a colleague or a customer that was very different than you?
  • Trustworthiness:
    • Describe a time when you failed to meet a deadline or produce work that was less than exceptional?
    • What are your core values?
      • What has the impact been on the work environment when your values were aligned with the organization?
      • What about when they weren’t?
      • Think about the statement, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” How have you demonstrated empathy with your team in the past?

No matter how prepared we are or how we shape the questions to determine the soft skills of the applicants a bad hire will sometimes slip through the process and make their ways onto our teams. It’s going to happen. The opportunity we have to support our instinct that that we have the right final candidate(s) is to administer an assessment that can help uncover any variables from what they verbalize to us and compare it to what a software identifies as their strength and opportunity areas. If any truly vivid variables are identified – it’s worth going back to the candidate and discussing those prior to a job offer – fight the urge to ignore the issue simply because you liked them and directly address the anomalies.

Tips To Recover From A Bad Hire

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Even if someone may have been a terrible choice to hire – we own that and – we owe it to that person to communicate the issues that are impacting the relationship. Guiding them to the qualities, areas, and/or results we need them to deliver on and give them a very short period of time to produce work that is up to expectation. And during this time immediately start sourcing new candidates. If they truly are unable to meet the needs of the business and the team here is what should happen:

  • Admit you made a mistake: Everyone else is already talking so – own up to it.
  • Don’t delay: While it’s good to give people a second chance, keeping the wrong hire can drag your team down and kill momentum and morale quickly.
  • Ask yourself what happened: You need to understand what happened so that you can close any gaps in your hiring process or reassess your criteria or approach to the process.
  • Apologize: If the new hire just simply didn’t possess the needed skills and you need to conclude the relationship – apologize to them, by extending a job offer you, essentially, told them they were perfect for the role. Apologize to the team that was effected by the bad hire and stand with them to keep them going and support them when needed.
  • Can you reassign the bad hire? Would their current skill level work in another area of the business? If they are good – just not a fit for your team – can you support them by partnering with another area of the business that they may be well-suited for?
  • Help them: Again – unless they were completely dishonest in every area of the hiring process [which is a different issue] and they just turned out to be a bad hire [that you made] fight for a severance package for them. Most retail organizations would just terminate the relationship leaving the employee out in the cold. Empathetic organizations understand these things happen and have a process to help people when there clearly was no ill-will – it just didn’t work out.
  • Make the right hire: Maybe it was a candidate you originally passed on or a new referral or a newly sourced candidate pool but make sure you cover all your bases and find the right fit this time for the sake of your team.

The absolute best thing we did in our business in 2014 was to hire to our values, mission statement, and the soft skills that our top performers displayed consistently. It meant there was alignment, work relationships were formed quickly, business objectives were met and if someone was struggling – other proactively partnered to help, and honesty and trust were the genesis of every interaction.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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