By Mike McVay
I’ve been a Program Director, or involved in programming, since I was 19 years old. I’ve interviewed and “hired” or “passed” on a couple hundred people. I’ve fired people in my career, too. I’m proud to say that few were people that I personally hired. I realize that sentence leaves me open for scrutiny by those who may fall into the “terminated” column. I’ve always tried to hire the absolute best people and interviewed them with a desire to never have to fire them. There are cases where I know I’ve failed.
It’s a rare manager who doesn’t feel angst when they’re going to have to terminate someone. Many don’t sleep well the night before. That’s always been something that I’ve experienced. Yet, I always try to look at reality and accept that my angst is nothing compared to what this person is going to experience and go through following their termination. They’re the one that has it hard. Truly hard.
When you’re hiring, hire to avoid firing. When you fire someone, you’re firing the employee and their family. You’re impacting the lives of more than that one employee. You may be putting them into a position where they have to move. Children have to change schools. You impact lives for now and possibly long-term If you fire someone that you hired, you’ve failed. Failure is on you as much as it is on the employee.
If you’re the employer, looking to hire someone for a specific position, then know exactly what it is you’re hiring for and have it defined to share with potential candidates and your team. What skills do you need the potential hire to possess? How will you judge their success or failure? Do they know how they will be judged? Be specific and strive to gauge the employee’s understanding of your expectations.
Be clear about what you need from the potential employee. What is your expectation? What is their expectation? If there are differences of opinion regarding your philosophy or strategy for success, with their strategy for their personal success, find it out in the interview process. Ask about performance. What have they learned from their successes and more importantly from their failures? Be granular in your ascertainment. Be respectful.
It is not unusual to ask for a background check. Visit the potential hires’ social media accounts. Do you see anything that seems incongruous with the image that you desire for your business or team? Gauge their personality. What are their hobbies and what do they do in their pastime? Not because you’re looking for a friend, but because you should want to know how well-rounded the candidate is, and if they have other interests that can contribute nicely to their job. It may help you in managing them in the future.
People who change jobs frequently usually have issues “somewhere.” Changing geography doesn’t change the problem. What’s the real story? Why has this particular candidate moved so many times in their career? There was a time when Program Directors and Talent were nomadic in their approach to the industry. Much like athletes changing teams. It was not only about making more money but about career advancement. It’s not quite the same today. People move less frequently, due in large part to fewer jobs today, but also because many now have families. Given that, look for stability, or obvious reasons that the candidate was a frequent mover.
Apply these three suggestions in an effort to Hire to Avoid Firing:
- Think long and hard before you hire someone, because if it doesn’t work out, it’s your failure and their crisis. My advice to executives who have hiring and firing power is to hire wisely so that they never have to fire the candidate. Be diligent in your research of the candidate.
- Remember that when you fire someone, you’re firing them, their life partner, and their children and negatively impacting their dependents. People have to move. Kids have to change schools. Think about the human element before you hire.
- Assume the candidate is performing at their peak level and can be no better. Then, when they exceed your expectations, reward them. It’s a win-win. Never hire someone with the belief that you can make them better. That’s a high standard for an applicant to achieve and often not possible.