The cost of a bad hire, or the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us

time to read 5 min | 824 words

imageI got a lot of criticism about the posts talking about the interview process. A lot of “just be nice”, “you should give them a chance”, “how could you say that”, and a lot of stuff like that.

To those guys, wake up and smell the corpse.  Let us call the Zombie on the keyboard Boris. Yes, I know the doll looks female. But for our purposes it is a Zombie female named Boris.

I hired Boris at the end of 2011. She was hired for a junior position in HR after some doubts on my parts. Mainly, she didn’t shine in the hiring process, but we really needed the additional manpower, and she didn’t have anything that was an immediate NO. Just nothing that made me want to say an immediate YES.

We started Boris using pretty much the same way we start junior devs, learning the ropes by doing some non essential tasks. In Boris’ case, that was done by building the public daily builds site for us. I thought it was a good way to getting started, it meant getting surface familiarity with RavenDB, and it was something that we needed. By the way, we have since then replaced that site, don’t bother looking for that.

Boris needed a lot of help at first, but that was natural for a new hire, especially a junior one. We spent quite a bit of time with her, showing her the ropes, how things work, etc. But it took her a long time to do things, and in the end, it was quite apparent that it would be easier to do things myself than tell Boris to do them.

If I did things myself, it would be done. If I told Boris to do them, I would have to explain what I wanted, come over and help several times, come over again and fix the broken pieces. Explain some more about what was wrong, and finally pretty much write it myself. Now, that is something that I am perfectly fine with, for the first two times. The third and forth times, maybe. But if you don’t get what is going on after a few explanation, there are two options. Either Boris couldn’t get it, or I wasn’t explaining things in a way Boris could get it.

Either way, it didn’t matter, Boris didn’t get it. And even assuming that the fault lie in me, which I am absolutely willing to do. That didn’t really matter.

About 3 months after we hired her, Boris was let go with our best wishes, but without any regrets. In fact, my major regret was letting it go for so long, because I really didn’t want to admit that Boris was a bad fit.

Now, let us review what Boris cost us:

  • 3 months of salary & benefits.
  • Not hiring someone else that could have done better.
  • Quite a lot of my and the other guys’ time.

It doesn’t really matter how you spin it, Boris was a huge net loss for us. Not theoretical “I could have that” loss, but a real measurable loss that set us back by quite a bit.

On the other hand, we have had a recruiting cycle that didn’t pan out. The end result that we didn’t get anyone. Net loss, purely theoretical from our part. We reached out to a partner and got help from known good people.

What I think is crucial to understand is that I actually have access to a really good group of people that I can work with. Most of them are remote, and most of them are only available for part of the time. But getting really good people, and I mean awesome people, of the kind that “you just blew my mind” people is not a big deal. I have access to them, and if I have enough work for that level of talent, I can probably get them for several months of pure work. I don’t shy around or talk behind people’s back, and when I tell you that they have world’s class talent. I mean it.

When I am looking for local people, I am looking for people that can compete with that level of talent. Because remote work is useful and great, but it ain’t the same. And that is why every now and then we do a recruiting cycle, to see if we can find people that match our expectations.

In other words, the cost of making a bad hire would be money and time (much more costly!) down the drain. The cost of not making a hire is having to rely on good people that might live in a different timezone or take vacations on a strange schedule.