When Good Employers Make Bad Hires

“A candidate’s perceived qualifications improve with the level of desperation you have to fill an open position.” Wardell’s Paradigm

Thirty-one years ago one of my managers taught me one of the most powerful lessons in how NOT to hire. To keep up with the demand for trained, competent managers to fuel our rapid expansion, we hired record numbers of manager-in-training candidates. In the Albany Region (61 sales offices in Upstate NY and CT), the manager of the Syracuse branch (M. Wardell) had produced a disproportionately large number of highly successful managers. Her office hired, trained, and got 18 top managers promoted in a little less than 3 years. The results caught our attention.

On a visit to her office to learn why she was so successful, she indicated that she routinely interviewed two or three job candidates every day. The kicker was that she had no immediate openings. She offered this explanation: “I got tired of seeing people fail because we hired out of desperation. So I started to recruit for people when I didn’t have an opening, so that when one did open up, I could hire the best of the best, who really, really wanted to be here.”

Developing a Farm Team

Baseball teams have understood this concept for decades. Few people break into the major league lineup the year they are drafted. Instead, talented players toil away in the minor leagues for several seasons, proving themselves until they are ready to contribute to the big league team.

For most businesses, the cost of hiring talented people with great potential to sit on the bench is not economically feasible.

Wardell’s approach was brilliant in that she recruited when there wasn’t an opening, and had a “bench” of great candidates at any time. Yes, some got other jobs before an opening came available; that’s why she continued to recruit and interview weekly.

Additional Benefits of this Approach

Consider these benefits from her approach:

  • “When my current staff sees that everyone wants to work here, they realize what a great opportunity they have, and that makes them apply themselves fully.”
  • “People on staff bring their A-game to work every day…they recognize there are A-players coming in weekly who want their job.”
  • “I never worry about losing great people to better opportunities – people who work here expect to advance if they excel.”
  • “This approach has given me the opportunity to develop people, perhaps the most important reason why I get up in the morning.”

Having a strong list of potential candidates for future openings does take time and effort. There is a cost associated with building a bench of candidates.

Yet a strong bench of candidates does something incredibly important – it eliminates desperation hire.

The cost of a bad hire can easily exceed 1X annual salary, when you consider the cost to rehire and onboard, plus the damage done to customers, staff, and the employer’s reputation.

That’s a significantly higher cost than proactively building a bench of candidates.

Boyer Management Group works with employers and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class hiring, onboarding, training, and development tools and programs. For job seekers and universities, we offer the world’s first assessment to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging career search best practices, along with the educational programs to support higher ed curriculum, career coaches and individual job seekers. To find out more, please visit us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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