The Worst Hiring Decision I Ever Made…And What I Learned From It

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Several years ago I dropped the ball on a hiring decision. That decision hurt our organization’s culture. But what I learned has helped my leadership enormously ever since.

“You have a lot of passion for this role,” I said to the job candidate. It was our final interview. I was desperate to fill this ministry leadership role, and in every respect this person seemed like an ideal fit.

In addition to his experience and qualifications, he had tremendous passion for the role for which he was being considered. I had just one more question for him.

“Supposing that a year or two into your role we restructured and you had to move to an entire different role here. What would you do?”

Without missing a beat he answered, “I’d quit.”

His answer told me that he had no affinity or loyalty to our ministry; he was passionate only for the particular role for which he was being interviewed. I convinced myself that this was not a concern, and that his enthusiasm for the role for which he was being hired would be enough.

I hired him.

The biggest hiring mistake I ever made was to hire someone who’s stated loyalty was to the role, not to the organization.

In staff meetings he zoned out, unless we were talking about his department. He didn’t interact with anyone on staff, unless it was related to his area of ministry. He was uninterested in our broader ministry goals. Ultimately he was such a disruptive presence that we had to let him go.

But no pain is ever wasted.

I learned three key lessons that have helped me ever since. Perhaps they’ll save you some pain too.

1.   Pay attention to your “Spidey Sense”

I should have listened to my gut, telling me there would be a “fit” problem.

2.   Be crystal clear on values

I needed to be much more clear on the values of team unity and shared organizational goals.

3.   Don’t be afraid to leave a role open

I allowed the seduction of an “easy hire” to blind me to the pain of bringing in the wrong person. I should have lived with the short-term pain of an empty position.

In short, I’ve learned that hiring is not about filling a slot.

It’s all about building a team.

What’s been your biggest hiring blunder? What did you learn?





the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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