Hiring mistakes are expensive !

For the past 15 days, we have been experimenting with hiring a cook who can double up as a full time support at home. The first person we hired turned out to be an awesome cook and we were thrilled. Short lived celebration though because 48 hours later we realized that our stock of raisins, cashews and other goodies were disappearing faster than we could re-stock them. Then on the fourth day, 1.5 litres of milk vanished between 6 am and 6 pm … our usual consumption of milk is about 250 ml in a day because we just have coffee or tea twice and that too mostly its tea which needs very little milk. The stock of Coffee powder also vanished within four days. That’s when we realized that the awesome cook that we had hired was drinking some 8 to 10 cups of coffee a day with thick milk and a tiny quantity of decoction :):).

The food vanishing was the smaller pain – her scheming and non-stop nosey prying into our family affairs got to us. She was planning on bringing her grandson, her daughter and son-in-law to be at our place after we had left and only my mother or mom-in-law were at home, so that the air-conditioning and goodies can be enjoyed. Ah.. that’s really sweet. She wanted to know about every phone call that anyone made to my mom and about all our relatives. She even had advise on how to deal with some of our family issues if we let her. We had to ask her to leave because such schemes and nosyness forebode danger.

Then we found an agency who brought another cook-cum-full time support with many promises. We were told that she and her late husband had been a house help and cook at TVS Iyengar’s home for many years. Hmmmm.. first impressions, she looked like she needed to eat something since she was quite thin. When we asked her about her eating habits, she said, that she doesn’t drink a lot of coffee (experience does teach you!) and that she eats very little. The other good thing was she had just one grown-up son who was working somewhere in Mumbai or the US depending on who you asked. So we decided to try this lady. First day on the job she nearly upturned the gas stove in her eagerness (or so we thought) and made some passable food. Trouble started the very next day when we realized she doesn’t know how to make even a proper sambar and even a simple thing like the dosa got either burnt or remained undercooked J. Welcome to the second learning adventure. She broke her way through for another four days … broke the tea strainer into two (I am still wondering how), dented a steel plate in anger and painted a whole wall in the kitchen with chutney water from when she tried to use the mixie (guess she took her hand off the lid). We aren’t the artsy kind and couldn’t appreciate her wall mural…. But her other skill got her fired – she stole money and other small things from my mother’s bag. She confessed that she had been fired from her earlier appointment because THEY accused her for stealing… hey, she didn’t confess to being a thief.

So within a week, we asked the second lady to leave as well. Now we are about to experiment with a third one. She seems promising but am keeping my fingers crossed.

Both the above experiments cost money and a lot of heart ache. Its no different than what happens at work. We all end up hiring the wrong people – either the skills don’t match the job or the attitude is all wrong or they are really nice people who don’t fit with the organization or many times we end up hiring toxic people. In some organizations there are training programs to help interviewers ask the right questions. There are calibrations done for matching the skills required for the different roles. Still, there would be hiring mistakes. Its inevitable.

What should you do when you realize that you hired the wrong person? Let him/her go quickly, after ascertaining that you have done everything possible to help them fit in with the organization, but don’t linger with the decision. If someone doesn’t fit the organization, they will quickly get disengaged and spread further disengagement. The most infectious vibe of all negative vibes is the “disengagement” vibe. Nip it in the bud, literally. While I am laughing as I am recounting the two incidents above, I am also learning from both the experiments and trying to interview better. In large organizations, the hiring team will hire and the team leader may simply get a “resource”… this process doesn’t work very well if the hiring team has not spent time with the managers to understand the type of person they need.

Psychometric tests help as long as the right employees are used for profiling. If there are big numbers that are being hired, then definitely these tests must be used as filters. Its also very important to frame the interview questions appropriately to elicit the right response. Training interviewers and having a large set of questions that they can use helps.

I was notorious for not hiring people who turned up late for the interview without prior information… yes, I also have asked the HR team to take back the appointment letters of anyone who comes late for the induction program without prior information and cant come up with a plausible emergency. These are easy indicators of how important the job is for the candidate. Inducting a new employee into the organization is something else and deserves a separate blog, so am not going there. But, hiring mistakes can be called out quite early and remedial steps taken.

So watch out, hire with caution and preparation and while you all do that let me see if I have hired the third person correctly .. early signs seem good. Fingers crossed, toes crossed for whatever luck they bring :).

1 thought on “Hiring mistakes are expensive !”

  1. Dear Malu, Really wish you a better luck, though i have my own apprehensions. It is always better to arrange carrier from renowned caterers & curry points as our periamma seems to manage reasonably. Anyhow good luck.
    note: Why at all you need catering when my chithi cooks very well. Has she lost her touch?


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