Are new hires hiding issues that may cause them to fail?
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Are new hires hiding issues that may cause them to fail?

You know job candidates may leave a lot unsaid in a job interview – such as the real reason they’re leaving their current job.

After all, few candidates will consciously tell you that they felt railroaded, or dumped on, or that they were in over their head.

But if they bring unstated, unaddressed issues into the new job, they’re less likely to succeed. That’s a problem, because the cost of employee turnover is high, and especially high when you invest in a new employee who doesn’t work out.

If you take action early, you may be able to nip many of these unaddressed issues in the bud.

What goes wrong
The unstated problems recruits commonly bring with them usually fall into one of two categories:

  • Assumptions and expectations that were unrealistic in the last job, such as rapid promotion, which may be unrealistic for this one, too, and
  • Performance problems or ingrained habits that dogged them in the last job, for which they think a change of scenery will magically supply the answer.

One company took an unusual step when it faced too much turnover: They called up a few of their ex-employees’ ex-employers. In most cases, the employee had left both jobs for the same reasons (usually unrealistic expectations or repeated performance problems). In response, the company began to follow up with new hires to prevent their past work history from repeating itself. Companies of any size can follow the same steps:

Revisit the job interview. Talk to new hires about three months into the job. The person’s settled in by then and you should have a sense of how he or she is working out – whether it’s a strong start, or a stumble out of the gate.

Bring up the subject indirectly. Introduce the follow-up conversation as a way of seeing if the new hire’s expectations are being met. Then turn the conversation to whether expectations were or weren’t met in the previous job. At that point, expectations and assumptions will often bubble to the surface, for example:

  • “I expected more resources in the previous job.”
  • “I really enjoyed working with my supervisor, but he was transferred. I didn’t like the new person.”
  • “I expected to advance more quickly.”

In many cases, the person may even start connecting the dots for you and reveal repeat issues.

Formulate a retention plan. Create a realistic plan for helping the person meet their goals at the company. Operative word: “realistic.” With assumptions and expectations out in the open, you, the new hire, and the hire’s direct supervisor can determine if a person is likely to achieve his or her goals in your company or hit the pavement again.

For example, one mid-career exec moved from an entrepreneurial environment to a more mature business. In his previous job, he had a history of rapid salary advancement for years. But the raises stalled and he jumped ship. He’d never stated it outright in the job interview, but it turned out he’d been hoping to get back to rapid raises. The new company didn’t usually give out big raises. However, together, they came up with a new plan for the exec to “show his stuff” on special projects and build the business, so the required compensation could be earned and justified.

Role of personal improvement
If the problem isn’t expectations or assumptions, but rather a performance issue that the person tried to hide, then you have a different ball of wax. In that case, you want to look at training, counseling, or even start the person on a preemptive personal improvement plan. Or you may want to consider redesigning the job — or reassigning the worker — to capitalize a person’s strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

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