Avoiding Bad Hires

As most hiring managers can attest, few things cause more headaches than choosing the wrong person for a job. First, there's the time you spend trying to acclimate the new hire to your team – often to no avail. Then, there's the adverse impact that an underperformer has on your agency: As the new hire struggles to master a job for which he or she is not cut out, the rest of your employees must compensate for reduced productivity. Finally, there's the parting ways, which often takes a toll on morale while leaving you with yet another spot to fill. All in all, it's a scenario best avoided.

Following are three common types of poor hires at agencies and strategies for avoiding them:

  1. The Desperation Hire
    You need a web designer for a pressing project and can't find someone with precisely the right skills – except for Jill, who seems to have mastered the Adobe Creative Suite collection, CSS and HTML, as well as a number of other pertinent software. Jill's technical expertise is so impressive and hard to come by, in fact, that you're willing to overlook the fact that she showed up late for the interview and checked her smartphone numerous times during your conversation with her.

    Do not let an urgent need blind you to a flawed candidate. If you're in a bind, buy yourself some time by hiring someone on a project basis. You may even find that your freelancer is interested in working full-time for you, allowing you to hire someone both tried and true.

  2. The Doppelganger Hire
    This candidate reminds you of someone you're familiar with and admire...you! You love how the applicant (like you) is a stickler for details and has a portfolio of work that's similar to your own. Although he doesn't seem comfortable when presenting his ideas (something you can relate to), you're hoping he can improve his speaking ability with time.

    While it's natural to gravitate toward applicants with similar tastes, you may be better off bringing in a creative professional whose skills complement, rather than mimic, your own. This is especially true if you're running a small agency: If, for example, you're not keen on social media trends, consider hiring someone who is an avid Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ fan. Remember, you're choosing an employee, not a friend.

  3. The Groupthink Hire
    Your five team members have each met with three top contenders for an open art director position, and they are split about who should get the spot. You're trying hard to build consensus, but it's an uphill battle. Finally, you decide to hire Katie, because she sparked the least debate.

    You've no doubt heard the saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. Well, too many decision-makers in the hiring process isn't a good thing, either. While it can be useful to gather feedback about candidates from team members who will be working closely with the new employee, hiring by committee can cause you to select the least objectionable candidate rather than the strongest one. It's better to let employees privately share their perceptions about job applicants with you, and then have one or two people make the final choice.

Identifying and hiring the right creative professional for your agency can be taxing for even the most experienced managers. But you can increase your chances of choosing the right person by avoiding common hiring pitfalls, like those above.