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How to Recognize and Avoid Bad Hires for Remote Positions


The emergence of COVID-19 led to a dramatic increase in remote positions in all sectors. After mandated lockdowns and quarantines were lifted and relaxed, many organizations did not fully transfer remote workers back to the office. The pandemic changed the landscape of organizations and businesses throughout the world, forcing them to trust their team members to work efficiently outside the confines of an office.

Some people find working from home a joy and a privilege. They settle in well, follow a routine, and perform at the same level they did in the office (or better!). Others have less remote experience and struggle to effectively manage their time and accomplish their work in a remote, home work environment. Unproductive remote team members hurt businesses and organizations. In the education sector, this directly impacts teachers, students, and parents.

Recent research suggests the negative impact of a bad hire in a remote position has been more severe during the pandemic. In a Robert Half survey, more than 75 percent of hiring managers reported hiring the wrong candidate for a role. Close to 65 percent of surveyed managers report increased costs associated with a bad hire. Below we discuss the costs of a bad hire, information about how to recognize a bad hire, and some tips you can follow to help you avoid hiring the wrong people for remote positions in the education sector.

The Cost of a Bad Hire

Companies are wasting more time on bad hires during the pandemic. Labor shortages and high resignation rates make correcting hiring mistakes costly for organizations in all sectors. The notorious lack of funding in education makes bad hires more costly in the education sector. According to the Robert Half survey mentioned above, hiring managers spent between 17 and 25 weeks correcting a hiring mistake in the past year, depending on their location. Senior managers reported it took ten weeks, on average, before discovering they made a poor hire. It took an additional six weeks to replace the hire, costing companies four months of valuable time. Specific ways a bad hire costs your organization time, money, and impact include:

Lost Productivity

Decreased productivity is typically the worst part of hiring the wrong person for a remote position. A bad hire might be unmotivated or unproductive. Other times, bad hires have poor time management. They get easily distracted at home because of television, laundry, cleaning, and other household to-do list items. This slows down your organization and prevents you from meeting important, mission-critical goals.

Hiring the wrong person doesn’t just mean decreased productivity for the employee themselves. Bad hires take a disproportionate amount of their manager’s time as well, causing the manager to also lose productivity as they struggle to effectively coach their new hire to achieve results. 

Lost Clients

Depending on the purpose and structure of your educational organization, a bad hire could lead to lost clients. Bad hires who produce poor quality work or do not meet deadlines can leave schools, teachers, staff, students, and families unsatisfied. Unfortunately, lost clients in the education sector translates to larger problems than lost revenue. Failure to deliver on promised initiatives negatively impacts students, families, and communities.

Damaged Reputation

Education organizations need a strong reputation to help the communities they serve. Bad hires who are unproductive and produce poor quality work can damage your reputation as a service provider and an employer. Unsatisfied clients write bad reviews, negatively impacting your ability to attract new clients. Once you fire an unproductive bad hire, they might write bad reviews on websites that review employers, like Glassdoor. This reduces your rating as an employer and makes it more difficult to replace them while damaging your brand, compounding the hiring woes brought on by the pandemic.

Decreased Teamwork

A dedicated group of team members working within an organization with a strong organizational culture focus on the same mission, goals, and values. Not only is a team productive, but they meet deadlines, helping the students they directly or indirectly serve. One bad hire can ruin the entire environment. Lack of dedication, lack of motivation, and/or a bad attitude bring down the whole team and makes it more difficult for everyone to do their job to the best of their ability.

Recruitment Costs

You have invested time and money to recruit a new hire. If you make a bad decision, that money has been wasted. Depending on your hiring process, you will have to go through the entire recruitment process again, which includes things like:

  • Paying to post a job ad on websites
  • Screening resumes
  • Reaching out to potential candidates
  • Following up with applicants
  • Scheduling and conducting interviews
  • Performing background checks
  • Making job offers and potentially negotiating salary
  • Waiting on candidates to accept or decline your job offers

Onboarding Costs

Once you replace a bad hire, you must also spend time and money to onboard their replacement. You likely want them to jump into the deep end and start working on the projects your bad hire left hanging. However, they still need the proper information and tools to perform the duties of their role effectively. Training takes time and money, and it’s best to avoid turnover because of poor hiring decisions.

How to Recognize a Bad Remote Hire

Giving a team member the autonomy to work remotely requires a leap of faith, especially if remote work is new to your education organization. You want to give a new hire the benefit of the doubt and let them get through the learning curve of their new position. However, there comes a point when you need to recognize that you’ve made a poor hiring decision. The sooner you recognize you have a bad hire on your hands, the sooner you can rectify the situation and replace them with a better-suited team member. Here are some common sights that you’ve hired the wrong person for the remote position at your organization:

Continuous Complaining

Everyone has questions and complaints; sometimes, disappointment is part of life. However, a new remote hire who complains a lot and provides an abundance of criticism about company policies and processes negatively impacts your organization. Disgruntled team members often speak poorly of the organization to other team members and find reasons not to do their job. They also tend to avoid tasks they do not like. Ultimately, remote hires, who continuously complain, create a toxic workplace and undermine your educational organization’s mission and goals.

Doesn’t Work Well with Others

A strong and positive organizational culture leads to high productivity that benefits the students, parents, and communities you serve. Sometimes new hires don’t work well with the team, especially when they work remotely. A new hire who cannot positively collaborate can hurt your organizational culture and disrupt existing harmony in your organization. It might take a little time for them to align with your collaboration and communication culture, but after a certain amount of time, you might have to accept you made a bad hire if they don’t work well with others on the team. 

“It’s Not My Job”

The move to remote work requires that employees work as a team to meet organizational goals. Sometimes this requires going above and beyond the job description. If a new hire ever says, “it’s not my job,” you’ve likely made a bad hire. This attitude conveys a lack of flexibility and an unwillingness to adapt and change when new challenges arise. The unwillingness to go above and beyond also infects other employees who want to be productive for the success of an organization. This is especially dangerous in the education sector when mission failure directly impacts students.

Underperformance

All new hires have a learning curve, so it’s normal to see some mistakes, even from the most talented new team members. However, you can recognize a bad hire from their various types of underperformance. For example, the team member might deliver poor quality work during their training and continue to miss the mark once they complete training. One of the most telling underperformance signs from a bad hire is their inability to learn from mistakes. If your new remote hire keeps making the same mistakes, you’ve likely made a bad hire.

Tardiness and Poor Attendance

Flexibility and time savings are two of the main benefits for remote employees. Working at home means no long morning commute with heavy traffic, and team members don’t always have to be dressed in business attire. This leaves very few situations where tardiness and poor attendance are excusable. Everyone runs into family emergencies, sick kids, and other issues that force them to take some time off. However, if your new remote team member regularly shows up late for Zoom meetings or doesn’t check in at scheduled times, you’ve probably made a poor hiring decision.

Tips for Avoiding a Bad Hire

In addition to being costly, it’s emotionally draining to fire and replace a bad hire. The best thing you can do is hire the right person for the role the first time. Here are some tips for avoiding a bad hire at your education organization:

Look for Signs During the Hiring Process

Bad hires often engage in behaviors that give clues during the hiring process that they might not be a good fit for your organization. Examples of signs you can look for that might lead to a bad hire include delayed communication and missing agreed-upon deadlines.  Many bad hires show up late to the interview or clearly haven’t prepared for the conversation. A bad hire likely has not researched your organization, knows little about the role they are applying to fill, and only has questions about compensation and benefits.

Look for a Growth Mindset

You likely ask job candidates about their career goals. The answer to this question can give you a clue as to whether a potential hire has a growth mindset. Those looking to advance in their career and focus on personal development often put in more effort and are less likely to leave quickly. Some might be unsure about their goals, so a weak answer is not always indicative of a bad hire. However, a weak answer should give you pause to dig deeper and find out how career growth factors into a candidate’s future.

Look for Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is a key job skill in every organization, regardless of career level. However, it’s even more important for those who work remotely. Remote employees work independently and do not have a manager or supervisor looking over their shoulder and reminding them to double-check their work. If you notice a job candidate has made numerous careless mistakes in their job application and failed to follow through with appointments, you likely have stumbled across a bad hire.

Find Organizational Alignment

The extent to which a job candidate aligns with an organization’s values, mission, and goals is key to avoiding a bad hire, especially in the education sector. Those who are committed to improving student outcomes and increasing access to an excellent, equitable education are more likely to be productive whether working in the office or at home.

Examine Past Behavior

A job candidate’s past behavior is one of the most accurate indicators of future job performance. You ask a candidate how they responded to certain situations in past roles to give you some insight. You can look to see if they have been a job hopper, leaving every job at around the one-year mark, or if they have a demonstrated track record of investing in an organization. However, you can also find out about past behavior by speaking to references. It’s best to consult records of past behavior than rely on a gut instinct about a candidate.

Prioritize Good Remote Worker Qualities

When hiring a job candidate for an office role, resume qualifications and experience indicators often get the most attention. However, you need to remember that a good team member and a good remote team member are not the exact same thing. As you search for candidates to fill remote roles in your education organization, you need to prioritize good remote worker qualities. Examples of good remote worker qualities to look for include:

  • Self-motivation
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Trustworthiness

Need Help Finding the Right Talent for Your Remote Positions?

Hiring the right people to fill remote positions in your education organization is essential to fulfill your mission and meet goals and deadlines. Avoiding bad hires saves you time and money but might seem overwhelming with the challenges you face because of the pandemic and hiring landscape. You can avoid bad hires by using the right tools to find talent—that’s where WorkMonger comes in.

WorkMonger has a robust candidate screening process that we customize for each client. While we build diverse pools of candidates for every search and match these candidates to  employers, we also conduct behavioral interviews and provide performance tasks so you have data to predict future job performance. WorkMonger also completes targeted reference checks to help weed out remote candidates that might not have enough self-motivation to be a good fit. Contact us today for more information about how we can help meet your organization’s hiring needs.

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