How to deal with a recruitment mistake

Dealing with a recruitment mistake

Posted on 2 Jan 2020

No matter how much work you put into the recruitment process it is almost inevitable that you will make the wrong selection decision at some point. It happens to everyone, even experienced interviewers.

Recruitment mistakes are costly, so it is important to make sure they do not become a trend – if they happen regularly, then there is probably something else going wrong such as untrained interviewers or poorly defined Job Descriptions or Person Specifications. Nipping the problem in the bud is key to ensuring that the potential hiring error does not become an ongoing drain on business efficiency or productivity.

Ask yourself if it really is a recruitment mistake?

Your new employee might not have received a thorough induction or lack the necessary support from their manager or work colleagues to hit the ground running. They might be struggling to get to grips with a new system, different processes and perhaps totally different products and services, and be reluctant to ask questions for fear of appearing silly. So, the first step is to establish all the facts before jumping to an immediate conclusion, which could be completely wrong.

Talk to the employee

Unless their level of underperformance is absolutely clear and consistent enough to leave you in no doubt that they are the wrong person for the job, talk to the employee informally to discuss your concerns. Give them examples of times when their performance has not been up to standard and hear what they have to say about it. Information might emerge to lead you to believe there are measures that can be put in place to turn the situation around, such as system training or regular one-to-one meetings with their manager. Any actions for improvement should be put in writing and must be measured against targets and reviewed regularly.

Review the recruitment and induction process

Conduct an end-to-end review of the recruitment process to make sure it is sufficiently robust and thorough to minimise the risk of making the wrong recruitment decision. Questions to ask yourself include: How were applicants sourced and was the net cast widely enough to attract the best candidates?; Are the Job Description and Person Specification up to date?; Has the interviewer been trained to ask the right questions?; Was the new employee supported by a comprehensive induction programme?; Did their induction include steps to help them integrate within their team quickly, perhaps by assigning them a ‘Buddy’?

Transfer to another role

If you conclude that the employee’s skill set simply does not meet the job requirements, but they might still be a good match for another vacancy, you could consider offering them an alternative position. They would need to be interviewed by the relevant line manager and, if appointed, a specific induction programme should be arranged to ensure their successful transition. To protect both parties, it would be worthwhile to start the clock again on their probationary period to give enough time to assess their suitability for the new role.

Manage their performance

It takes time and money to recruit, so it makes commercial sense to take all reasonable steps to help the employee to improve their performance. This involves having regular one-to-one meetings to review their achievements against agreed targets and deadlines and considering additional training to help them to get up to standard. If the employee is covered by the Equality Act because of a disability, you must consider making reasonable adjustments to enable them to fulfil the requirements of their role.


As a last resort, and if all else fails, you may have no option but to consider terminating the employee’s contract for reasons of capability/performance. You would need to handle this fairly and reasonably even though the employee is short serving and you would also need to pay any sums owed to the employee, including pay-in-lieu of notice, if no notice is worked. Your company’s Disciplinary Policy should set out the procedure to follow in these circumstances.

Although there is usually no need to give employees with less than 2 years’ service written reasons for their dismissal, it is good practice to do so regardless.

For more advice about how to manage a recruitment mistake, get in touch!

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