She was young and had tons of energy and enthusiasm.
She had a degree in adult education – a great fit for my market, since we educate professional women.
She had potential (we’ll come back to that).
And I hired her with high hopes about what she could accomplish.
It didn’t turn out that way.
First it was task deadlines being missed. Then it was writing assignments that were so grammatically mangled I had to re-write entire pieces. Then it was late to staff meetings.
Then…oh yeah, you know what’s coming.
The drama. Tears about an old boyfriend, excuses because she wasn’t getting enough sleep, and a full blown anxiety attack that culminated in collapsing on my sofa. I’m not kidding.
I’m a really compassionate person. I’ve been trained as a lay counselor and my women entrepreneur clients have been telling me their problems and secrets for years.
But if you’re my employee? I really don’t want to be your counselor .
I want someone to complement my skills and strengths. I want another pair of hands to help get the work accomplished.
I want someone who can begin with the basics, then bloom and grow.
But this misfire was 100% my responsibility.
I made a classic hiring mistake. I thought we clicked and hired based on a gut feeling.
I subconsciously attributed qualities to her that I wanted her to have. I saw potential! (It’s like the bad boyfriend thing. Sometimes we get attracted to the wrong people and we’re just plain blind.)
I didn’t ask the right interview questions. I really didn’t ask her specific questions about what she had accomplished in previous positions.
Because I saw this young woman with potential, it felt rude to press for details. Because I wanted HER to like ME I didn’t ask her to give examples of what she did well.
And — this was the killer – I didn’t check references. That felt just plain uncomfortable.
It felt like saying, “I think you could be completely scamming me about how wonderful you are, so I need to ask someone else if you’re as great as you tell me you are.”
But I was wrong.
It’s not rude to ask pointed questions. It’s not impolite or discounting to ask for samples of someone’s work or verification of accomplishments.
And it’s definitely not insulting to ask a third party to validate what a total stranger has told you.
No more flakes in my company.
My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hiring decision was years ago. Since then I researched, I studied and I learned how to do it right.
I’ll be teaching the nine specific steps to making good hiring decisions in a webinar on September 26th, so come on by! You’ll even get customizable templates for job descriptions and interview questions to ask.
And that young women, the one with potential? I have every hope that she has matured and grown into a wonderful, capable employee!