The Very Real Costs of Bad Hires

It is one of the great “known unknowns”, to borrow one of the infamous Donald Rumsfeld lines, what does a bad hire really cost?  Hiring is an art and a science.  It is a unique combination of relationship building, a leap of faith, part quantitative and part gut feel, but it is also a process of vetting both the person and the role you want and need filled.  It requires a level of discipline and focus, commitment and patience that is difficult to maintain when there is a pressing gap in staffing and leadership.  However, succumbing to a false sense of urgency and allowing emotion to trump logic is the slippery slope that leads to bad hires, or at least hiring the wrong person for the wrong role.  In the end there is a cost to every mistake, and hiring brings real cost.

Fortunately the case of Charlie Weis is a shinning example of what one bad hire can cost an organization, or in his case several organizations.  Roughly $30 million in very real dollars.  That does not even begin to consider the opportunity costs, additional revenue streams, lost potential dollars, turnover, morale, the impact on other coaches, players, staff, programs and the myriad of other factors that one bad hire can have on an overall organization.  Charlie Weis, through no fault of his own, parlayed a brief period of success into not one, but two bad hiring decisions, bad contract negotiations, and above all illustrates the classic pitfall of “falling in love” with the hot candidate.

Notre Dame has been paying Charlie Weis since 2009 to not coach, and will continue to do so through 2016.  Kansas made the same mistake and is also paying him not to coach.  Incredible, yet not uncommon.  Guaranteed contracts are amazing things.  Most of us will not find ourselves in a position to be granting guaranteed contracts to public figures, but anyone who makes hiring decisions does find themselves responsible to organizations, coworkers, families and individuals where a bad hire does incur real costs.

Hiring is both an emotional and quantitative process.  Allowing emotion to trump data is a dangerous proposition, and when one finds themselves chasing what was, of feeling the pressure to make a splash, wanting to hire “the hot candidate”, or “really liking someone” owes it to everyone involved to take a moment and really reflect.  What is it the job demands, what are the day-to-day behaviors, the skills required, the outcomes desired and matrix of success, and only then decide if the person truly fits those needs.  Hiring managers should always heed the lesson of Charlie Weis.

In defense of Charlie Weis, while he might not be the best head coach, he just might be the greatest salesman…ever.  Convincing multiple organizations to pay you almost $30 million NOT to do something takes an incredible skill set, or at the very least one very savvy agent.


Filed under Business, Hiring and Interviewing, leadership

5 responses to “The Very Real Costs of Bad Hires

  1. Eric

    Not to mention that once Charlie received the guarantee, it begs to question how much real motivation he had to “get it done”. After all, the money will flow with or without success. Tying your people to the success of the organization is also critically important…less you will be paying for their comfort, not yours.

  2. I think hiring is extremely difficult. I have been in the hiring process a lot in my industry. I see people doing their best to find a great candidate but with sometimes what I feel is flawed logic.

    So many times they are looking for very specific requirements that the person already have done that exact job. What I see happening is they get a line of people who you can tell are already burnt out and looking for an easy pay raise.

    Many times I see better performance from someone who is newer with less experience ore older but excited about something new and different. I think trying to look into a persons back ground for qualities is much more important than experience.

    • Absolutely agree. Give me a positive attitude, a proven work ethic and just a desire to want to do the job. That is not everything, but it is a lot. You nailed it.

  3. Scott Massey

    Great to see your blog again. Need a catch up call. I’m in need of high quality sales people with a specific skill set. Need your recruiting help?

    Scott Massey Sent via my IPhone


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