So you made a bad hire. Now what?

Before showing them the exit door, there are other ways to deal with a bad hire

So you made a bad hire now what?

It is true that organisations sometimes make the mistake of hiring the wrong person for the job. It is not only the blue-eyed managers who find themselves in such a situation. Everyone, whether it is a fresh management trainee or a senior professional, will admit to having made a bad hire at some point in their professional life.

Depending on whether the bad hire in question is an entry-level person or a senior executive, the potential damage to the company can be devastating, considering the incurring costs.

One may assume the next step would be to fire that person, but sometimes it pays to not jump the gun. Managers need to take a step back and understand the reasons why the hire is a bad one, and the steps that can be taken to reform that employee.

Samir Bhiwapurkar

The immediate steps are to make sure one’s KPIs are set properly and provide a mentor to the employee to help them grasp the reins more quickly. After that the employee may be put through a PIP

Individuals can be bad hires for several reasons. They may display negative attitude or tardiness, make frequent and recurring mistakes or may be unable to grasp the job description well. For all such cases, barring one, there are certain steps that the organisation can take.

Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre, warns, “Hiring managers may often be oblivious to their mistake and believe that they made the right choice. This is a dangerous blind spot,which needs to be tackled at the outset.”

Once it has been established that a hire is bad, the situation can be approached in various ways. Often times it is simply a question of filling the gaps. It may so happen that while managers are in a rush to fire a person, that individual may simply need extra time to learn the ropes and settle in.

In the beginning, signals will start coming in as to where the issue lies, and managers will need to watch out for those hints. “One will find these signals in the first two to three months itself”, adds David.


If the problem is cultural, then the approach can be through a discussion, and being upfront about the issues without beating around the bush helps. The talk can centre on what is not working out and what is, and what can be done to ensure a better stay for the employee. While performance-management discussions can take the worker by surprise, at times, there are situations when the employee is already aware of what the meeting is about and may to appreciative of the response.

A support system can be built for the concerned employee by bringing in someone who can complement her/him. Transferring the concerned individuals to another team, where they are a better fit, is also one option.

Emmanuel David

Hiring managers may often be oblivious to their mistake and believe that they made the right choice. This is a dangerous blind spot,which needs to be tackled at the outset


If the issue is performance, then organisations need to look at what tools and resources the new hire can benefit from. Luckily, in today’s times, there is a range of options to choose from and technology is ever widening the array of resources. Byte-sized courses, videos and gamification tools are only a few examples of how new hires can be helped.

Samir Bhiwapurkar, head HR, Japfa Comfeed, says, “The immediate steps are to make sure one’s KPIs are set properly and provide a mentor to the employee to help them grasp the reins more quickly. After that the employee may be put through a PIP.”

“Taking the exit should not be rushed into because there might be dependents or other factors in an employee’s life. There has to be an attempt at employee reformation”, adds Bhiwapurkar.

Why exactly the employee was hired is a question that needs to be asked and answered. Many a time an employee is hired for potential rather than immediate performance. Potential performers may need more time to groom and get up to speed, while their seniors expect them to perform right away.

“First-time managers can hire people who do not know the subject. Transferring them to another section or role may work. In addition, there are many options to reskill or upskill nowadays”, says David.


As mentioned in the beginning of this article, while there are potential steps that organisations can take for every bad hire, there is one kind for which all attempts at reform are a waste of time. This is for those individuals who have a bad attitude.

In such cases, it does not matter whether the issue is in culture, performance or any other reason.

Nothing can solve a bad attitude. Such employees will be unresponsive to constructive criticism and unwilling to resolve any issues they may have with fitting in. They may not be willing to conform to the needs of the organisation or even reskill to perform better. In such cases, taking the exit route is the only strategy.

Hiring managers are often hard pressed for time, while the demand to hire the best is always there. Making a bad decision with regard to an employee is common and understandable. Hiring the ideal employee who checks all boxes is, well, ideal. And mostly unlikely. It is usually a give and take, and usually about taking a chance with a potentially good candidate. Therefore, a bad hire says nothing about the person who did the hiring. What matters is how the problem is approached and resolved.



  1. Dear Arindom,

    A few words on your poignant and thought-provoking article.

    1. All said and done, some amount of accountability does lie with the HR Hiring Team(s).
    HR leads who front-end candidate interaction may fail to grasp the essence of the role being hired for. In such cases, a fitment gap arises between “desired” and “selected”. It can either happen owing to KPIs not being articulated properly, or lack of understanding between HR and the indenting Manager.

    The above could also lead to stretching timelines, when successive candidates short-listed by HR are rejected by the respective Manager(s), thereby causing pressure on the process once too much time has elapsed. Under time duress, the company may end up hiring a wrong candidate.

    Though companies are being increasingly aware of the need for background checks, sometimes such investigations are not carried out thoroughly, or given to agencies who have inadequate expertise.

    2. Another -though quite debatable- area is the potential gap which arises when the organization and/or its culture fails to meet the candidate’s expectation. ie a reverse case of bad hire. It can happen when the HR and/or the Hiring Manager give out an impression of the company that may not be true in its entirety. The recruit may find her/his hopes dashed, and be on the lookout for an escape route. Evidently, her/his lack of involvement in the job becomes superficial.

    In my opinion, these could be some additional points related to the topic under discussion.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Shiladitya Senbarat.

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