What to Do When You’ve Hired the Wrong Person

It’s taken months. You’ve invested time and money in a selection process tailored for this key role. And now, at long last, you can move on to other projects, safe in the knowledge you’ve got a new member of the team in place; a sparkly-eyed newbie, with all the right skills.

But then you become suspicious that things aren’t going well. The new person doesn’t seem to fit with the office culture; they’re unhappy or it looks like they’re struggling with the job. To make matters worse, others are picking up on it too and that’s having a knock-on effect.

So, what next?

It’s an increasingly common dilemma.

In all organisations, including charities, there can be a real pressure to hire at certain times; putting you at risk of a ‘bozo explosion’. It’s an extreme way of describing it—and Silicon Valley is not the same as Charity Towers, Vauxhall—but even the smallest charities can experience a scaled-down version of this.

In truth, it doesn’t matter how or why it’s come about—the end result is the same. You’ve made a mistake and hired the wrong person.

wrong hire in interview

Move swiftly to find out what’s wrong

This is crucial. Ignoring it and hoping things will improve, is not an option.

What’s at the crux of it? Is it about cultural fit? Or is it really about the job? If there’s a bad cultural fit and they’re struggling with the job, then you may decide it’s better to let them go.

If the person seems a bad cultural fit but is good at the job, then you can work with this so long as they continue to deliver. And they may well choose to move on to something that suits them better soon anyway.

There’s a fine line between cultural fit and discrimination

Be mindful of this. You had your chance during the selection process to gauge if they’d be a good cultural fit—if they shared the charity’s vision and if it seemed likely they’d be happy working there. But cultural fit isn’t an excuse for a lack of diversity or for only wanting to employ certain types of people, whether that’s ‘young and bubbly’ or middle class and male.

“ Hiring for culture fit ensures your future employees respect and embody your company values. What it doesn’t mean is dismissing a candidate based on belief, culture, lifestyle, or any other personal values you may not agree with. ”

The thin line between discrimination and culture fit, Alexandria Nelson

Bear in mind too that if the previous job holder was there for a long time, it may take a while for a new person to bed-in. Shaking things up and building a more diverse workforce will only be a good thing in the long run.

If the new person can do the job, likes the job and wants to stay, then criticising them for being not the right ‘cultural fit’ could be a form of discrimination.

Still, if they’re a good fit but struggling in the job, you need to address it. It doesn’t mean they necessarily need to go, but you need to act—whether that’s a training plan, an extended probation or a move within the organisation.

talking about mental health in the workplace

The importance of a probation period

While there’s nothing in the law that requires you to use probationary periods, they’re an invaluable way of assessing performance in a defined timeframe. They’re also fair for both sides; setting out an induction plan for the job, regular catch-ups and defined expectations.

You must include the terms of a probation period in your contract of employment for it to become binding.

This clause should state:

  • The length of the probation period (it depends on the role, but three months is generally about right)
  • Any terms surrounding notice periods
  • Your discretionary right to extend the probation period

The real aim of a probation period is to bring an effective employee on board; they’re not there as a way to get rid of people without following proper procedure. Employees in their probation period are still covered by the Equality Act 2010 and, as with any dismissal, you’ll still need documented evidence that your reasons for dismissal are non-discriminatory.

You need to fulfil your responsibilities during the probation period. So:

  • Be clear about your expectations
  • Set simple targets
  • Have regular diarised catchups and take notes
  • Point out any concerns as and when they occur

If you do this, then you’re far less likely to end up with the ‘wrong person’ in the first place.

A properly reviewed probation period can make all the difference—in terms of performance and how valued (and happy) a new starter feels in their role. And if things aren’t going well, then you’ll both have had early warning of this. It won’t be a surprise.

You can then look at options with HR around a negotiated exit at the end of the appraisal period—or sooner if that’s better for the person on probation and their next steps.

Think you’ve hired the wrong person? 

There’s no shame in taking a step back and re-evaluating what you actually need from a candidate for this role. You don’t want to waste the time and money trying to force someone into a mould that just doesn’t fit.

Ready to start looking again? Get in touch with one of our Account Managers for advice on how to get started.

Tags: employee onboarding, hiring the right people, recruitment

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About the author

Jean Merrylees

Jean Merrylees is a freelance content writer and editor who has previously written for the BBC. Jean is now taking her first steps into the charity sector after spending some time writing for both Diabetes UK & CharityJob.