Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

I don’t remember where I first heard that expression. Some people swear by it. Some are offended. Here’s my quick two cents.

Unchecked, my tendency is to do the exact opposite. When I hire, it’s because I need someone. There is a job not getting done, and that’s a problem I can’t live with. If I’m not careful, I’ll convince myself that the first person who walks through our door is the best candidate out there. Why waste time with all this “checking of references” and other such time-wasting nonsense. Just get it done!

And when it’s time to fire someone, well, let’s just say there are few things that make me question my decision to start my own business. Firing people is one of them. I HATE it. This is someone’s life. It impacts their family. Oh yeah, and it happened to me shortly after my first child was born. So it’s personal. And emotional. I put it off if there’s any shred of hope I can coach this person into being the rock star I just knew they were when they were hired.

Now my story:

A while back I hired a guy to help find new clients. His job wasn’t glamorous (some call it telemarketing, we call it inside sales), but he seemed to fit the bill. And that phone wasn’t going to dial itself! So with a minimal amount of checking him out, I offered him the job. And he was GREAT! This guy was setting more appointments for me than I could fit on my calendar. I couldn’t believe my good fortune for having found him!

That was month 1. Month 2 was good, but not great. Month 3 was neither good nor great. And by month 4 I knew something was very wrong. It was the strangest thing: the call logs showed he was dialing, but every time I walked by his desk I heard silence. So on a whim, I pulled a few call recordings. This is what I heard --

Prospect: “Hello, [xyz organization], how may I help you?”

[silence]

Prospect: “Hello?” … click!

Every call went like that. I listened to about 40 sequential recordings. 100% of the time he was hanging up on them without saying a word.

What went wrong? I did. I hired fast. And by that I just mean that I didn’t interview enough candidates and I didn’t check references very carefully. I simply took him at his word. He was the best salesman in the world! (Or at least he was good enough to sell that line to me.)

And I fired slow. For all the reasons I already mentioned. But to compound that he had done an amazing job in month 1. I had to assume there was something else wrong. I already knew he could sell. It wasn’t until I had paid him to game the system for 3 months before I bothered to check those recordings. I should have been listening to them the whole time. A random sample each week before our sales meeting. Lesson learned.

So I’m not saying that we have to spend weeks and weeks, or months and months dragging out the hiring process. But I have learned the hard way how important it is to slow myself down long enough to thoroughly investigate. And I’m not saying we should fire someone the first time things go a bit sideways, but I am definitely saying that we need to be carefully involved in the details even before problems show up. My clever automated call report was great, but a more-clever sales guy quickly figured out how to fake it well enough to collect a paycheck while staring blankly at his screen.