Recruited a 'poor fit'?

Recruiting can be a painstaking task and it can take a while to find a suitable candidate. But what happens when a business is dissatisfied with the new starter and their performance isn't as it should be? Eleanor Deem provides sound advice on a matter that's all-too common among recruiters: making a 'poor fit'. 

It's very common for business owners to have gone through the recruitment process and fill a vacancy in their business, only to find themselves frustrated by their new starter, and concluding that they've made a ‘poor fit’. If that happens, you need to consider what your options are in terms of either improving the situation, or bringing it to an end, so you can start again with your recruitment.

Is it really a poor fit?

If you feel as though a new recruit isn’t working out, terminating and starting the recruitment process again is a big decision, and isn't always the right decision. Recruitment is usually time consuming in itself, and frequently expensive, and there are no guarantees that you'll find anyone better.

Whilst that doesn’t mean you should compromise on standards and keep a poor performer who will prove a drain on management time, it does mean that looking at whether the situation is salvageable is worth doing carefully. You probably have a probationary period as part of the contract of employment, and you can - and should - use this period to really assess whether the fit is good, and to address any concerns.

What does ‘poor fit’ mean?

Think about why you believe this person may be a ‘poor fit’. Is it because they aren’t performing as well as you think they should be? Is it something around their behaviour, or how they are ‘gelling’ with the team? Try to pinpoint exactly what your concern really is, and consider whether and how it could be addressed.

If it’s performance, look at some additional training or guidance. Some people take longer to get up to speed than others, but if their attitude is right and they are willing to learn, a bit more investment early on might be worthwhile for someone who could prove a valuable and committed staff member long-term.

If they seem isolated and not part of the team, consider supportive ways of ‘bringing them in’, perhaps some social time or similar. If it’s that their personality is ‘different’ from the rest of the team, consider whether this is actually a genuine problem, or whether perhaps it is just upsetting the status quo slightly and will settle down. Different personality types in a team are a healthy thing!

Look at induction

Consider whether your induction or ‘on-boarding’ process has been adequate - without a proper induction programme, new starters may feel unsupported and ‘at sea’, may perform poorly or be demotivated and their appointment is more likely to fail.

If you’re thinking you’ve recruited a ‘poor fit’, it may be that your new employee just hasn’t had enough guidance on how things work in your business. This includes how their own role works, with the framework of policies and practices they need to operate within, but also how things work in a more informal sense throughout the organisation - what the ‘done thing’ is for the myriad things that go on every day in a business.

Induction is also an opportunity to help new team members ‘bond’ with their new employer, understand the organisation’s culture and start to feel part of it, and invested in it. Sometimes this takes a little longer than you might wish, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

If it's really not going to work

If you’ve considered all the options and genuinely feel it’s just not going to work out, that’s okay. Although you hope to get it right first time, if you have a probationary period, it provides a mechanism to make a decision either way. If you feel you need to terminate the employment and start again, make sure you do so within the terms of the contract, i.e. giving the correct notice. 

The legal risk is minimal at this stage, as employees have fewer rights during the first two years of employment. But be sure there is no possibility your employee could feel they are being dismissed for a discriminatory reason, or for exercising a statutory right. If you are in any doubt at all as to whether you can dismiss safely, seek professional advice beforehand.

Onwards and upwards

Once you’ve either managed to improve the situation and keep the employee, or have terminated and started again, make sure you learn from the episode. If it was a poor recruitment decision, review how that happened and adjust your recruitment process, interview questions or other selection methods to reduce the likelihood of a repeat. 

If it improved and you kept the employee, consider why it looked like it was going wrong, and how you resolved it. Could it have been picked up and addressed sooner? Could training have been better from the beginning? Does the induction programme you use need some improvement?

Whether your ‘poor fit’ ends up being terminal or not, you can certainly learn from it and hopefully ensure your next recruitment is a more positive experience.


Explore related resources

These areas of the People Skills Hub will help you to address some of the issues covered in this blog:

  • Recruitment: Find out what you need to do to take on staff: from job adverts to interviews and inductions
  • Contracts and employment status: Find out what you need to know about contracts and determining the employment status of your staff members
  • Performance management: Learn how to improve and develop your employees’ performance and how to align their goals with your business objectives
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