17 Ways To Piss Off New Hires Before They Even Start

17 Ways To Piss Off New Hires Before They Even Start


I’ve hired a lot of folks in my time, and been through quite a few hiring experiences too. I’m always amazed that hiring organisations seem utterly oblivious to the tone they set for their relationship with new employees – even before they make the job offer.

Here’s a list of some seventeen ways I’ve seen organisations piss off their new hires even before those folks turn up for their first day:

17. Give the impression that mistakes are not tolerated in your organisation.

In particular, make it clear to candidates that hiring mistakes are career-limiting, and you and your organisation take great pains to avoid such mistakes. From this, candidates can easily infer what to expect when they actually start work.

What to do instead: Convey your willingness to take risks, and attribute that to encouragement from the organisation, rather than to any personal heroism. In particular, express the organisation’s willingness to stick it’s neck out for what it believes might be good hires, even when not at all obvious.
See also : Make Bad Hires

16. Make sure your communications are garbled through one or more intermediaries.

When little hiccups happen, make sure the explanation is garbled to the extent that any fair-minded person might interpret it as ineptitude, or even better, mendacity. This can go a long way to setting the tenor of all subsequent interactions with a candidate.

What to do instead: Communicate clearly to intermediaries that they are NOT expected to sugar-coat or otherwise alter the messages they relay from either party. Ensure all communications are available for inspection by all parties. In particular, don’t communicate by phone, and follow up face-to-face conversations with a written summary of what was said.

15. Talk exclusively about the current situation.

Assess candidates on the present needs of the organisation – after all, things aren’t going to change at all, are they?

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

~ Wayne Gretzky

What to do instead: Focus on the future. Any useful candidate will be looking to build a future with your organisation. Talk about how things are likely to evolve, and the challenges everyone will face coping with that. Explore how the candidate’s mindset, talents, skills and abilities will be useful in that possible future.

14. Appear uncertain as to why you’re hiring for this position.

If you know the value-add of the position, refrain from mentioning it. Better yet, talk with candidate from a position of genuine ignorance.

What to do instead: Realise that candidates would prefer being given “a good job to do” – i.e. one where the value-add of the position is clear and achievable. Go out of your way to gain an understanding of how filling this opening contributes to the goals of the organisation. And then communicate that. Better still, explore the value-adding possibilities jointly with the candidate.

13. Give candidates cause to believe you and/or your organisation are not serious players.

Don’t make any mention of established know-how, or initiatives to make things better. Skip over topics such as personal development, morale, continuous improvement, and such like. Never mention the “giants” in your industry (e.g. in software don’t mention folks like Deming, Ackoff, Seddon, et al.) and feign ignorance of bodies of knowledge relevant to your industry (e.g. Coaching, Team-building, Scrum, Kanban, Lean, TPDS, etc.). Gain bonus points by appearing oblivious to management-related bodies of knowledge too (cf. Buckingham/Gallup, Drucker, Deming (again), Hamel, Google, etc.)

What to do instead. Briefly touch on the bodies of knowledge the organisation has taken on board, and make a few mentions of specific cases of how the way the work works has been influenced by these bodies of knowledge.

12. Imply candidates will stand a better chance of getting the job if they lie.

Candidates who want the job will says what they think you want to hear. They will “creatively” tailor their CV or resume to the job specification if they believe that will improve their chances of getting hired. Never make this implication explicit! It, like so many of the assumptions and unwritten laws governing hiring, are undiscussable.

What to do instead: Act with integrity. Folks can recognise that, as they can a lack of integrity, dishonesty, and dissembling.

11. Keep asking them to come back time and again.

Make it seem like you couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. Fail to line up in one session all the folks who the candidate will need to meet. Have them come back three, four, five times just to see another face who, most often, will make it clear through their demeanour and body-language that they were not so interested in meeting the candidate anyway.

What to do instead: Arrange all meetings, conversations, etc. for the same visit. Realise that more meetings and conversations add little to the validity of hiring decisions, and can give candidates the impression the organisation is risk-averse (see point 17. above).

10. Make the hiring decision appear arbitrary.

Make it clear to the candidate that it’s your decision who gets hired, and you have certain opinions which any candidate must match up to. After all, you’re in charge of your little piece of the organisation, and hiring folks on the basis of what’s good for the organisation just wouldn’t do at all.

What to do instead: Explain the criteria the whole organisation uses to assess candidates, and the special exceptions you (or the hiring manager or group) make to those general criteria.

9. Use formal interviews.

Don’t fall for all that scientific malarkey which shows how fallible humans are at e.g. making hiring decisions, and the research which highlights the universally poor results obtained through any formal interview process.

What to do instead: Skip directly to having likely candidates come in and do real work with real people, to gauge their fit. Pay them for this – and pay them to leave if they feel they don’t fit in.

8. Have an insane amount of paperwork.

Make sure that there’s a mountain of paperwork for each candidate to fill in. Make sure as much of it as possible is obviously unnecessary. After all, candidates would like to realise that 80% of their time is being wasted even before they start the job – just as it will be after – wouldn’t they? And stress them out even before the job starts with worries about their references, etc. being good enough.

What to do instead: Work with e.g. HR to ruthlessly prune the prerequisites for candidates down to a bare minimum. Provide them with a third-party service, similar to a concierge or such, to do the lion’s share of that bare minimum. Make it policy that no candidate may start before these prerequisites are completed. Place a time limit on how long such work can take – with a “free pass” after the cutoff.

7. Appear inept.

Look as if you’ve never interviewed before. Have a list of “typical interview questions” that sound like you found them online. Give the impression that you and your organisation are doing the candidate a great favour by even deigning to speak with them.

What to do instead: If you really have never interviewed before, admit to it. See if the candidate can help. If you do have some prior experience, appear to have learned from it.

6. Fail to understand or explore the candidate’s value-add.

Candidates are ten-a-penny these days. You’ve got a slot to fill, and you need a warm brain to fill it. Simples. No one is going to criticise you for not getting the best out of the folks you hire – at least, not if you appear to drive them hard.

What to do instead: Just about everybody wants to do a good job. Which means just about every candidate has put a deal of effort into developing their skills, learning things, and making the most of their talents. And they’d really, really like to apply as much of that as possible to the benefit of your organisation. So explore what they can do, and more importantly what they could do, given sufficient support and encouragement.

5. Don’t prep. Don’t help the candidate to prep.

If your interactions with a few of the candidates go awry through your being unprepared, well, who’s ever going to find out?  And if a candidate objects, well they’re obviously not of the right stuff, are they? And hiring is a bit like school, isn’t it? “Sit still. Don’t talk. Do you own work. Don’t copy.” So don’t help them to be best prepared, either. After all, if they’re really interested they’ll spend days of their own time doing their own preparation, won’t they? Besides, it’s a good introduction to what working here is really like. Best be honest, eh?

What to do instead: Show that you and your organisation respect people by being obviously prepared for each candidate. Not just having a prepared list of questions or check-list, but being prepared for each individual candidate, like they were a human being or something. And help each candidate present themselves in the best possible light by helping them prepare, even before meeting you and others.

4. Exclude the CEO.

God forbid your higher-ups taking any kind of interest in who you hire. That could be career-threatening. Better by far to keep all hiring activity to yourself. What possible benefits could there be to either the candidates or the organisation in being open about these things?

What to do instead: Invite your CEO to spend a couple of minutes, one-to-one and in private, with each candidate. See “The Four Obsession Of An Extraordinary Executive” for a passle of reasons why this might be a good idea.

3. Involve HR.

You’ll need someone to blame if things don’t work out. HR makes the perfect patsy, so get them involved as early as possible, and make sure they have a real say in the hiring decision – and not just as administrative support.

What to do instead: Make use of HR as administrative support, to ensure all the ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s crossed, but for god’s sake keep them away from hiring decisions, and from the candidates.

2. Don’t involve others such as potential colleagues and peers.

Show your cojones by appearing to take all the risks of the hiring decision upon yourself (but see also point 3.) Real managers don’t work via consensus, in any case. And the successful candidate is going to be your boy (or girl), aren’t they? Why would they need or want to meet anyone else before joining?

What to do instead: Solicit the opinions of some or all of the other folks involved. Have them meet the candidates for a chinwag over a beer or a pizza.

1. Ignore the candidate’s blog, twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, etc.

Social media? Pah! What possible use could that be? Besides, you’re busy – too busy to read all the lame stuff that candidates have been writing. Much better to ignore their paltry attempts to present themselves, their value-adds, their ideas and their personalities. Your innate talent to gauge an individual’s merit needs no supporting information. Besides, the best candidates are insular, uninformed, anti-social, inarticulate, unopinionated and easily influenced, aren’t they?

What to do instead: See if each candidate has a blog. Read a few posts which catch your interest and discuss them during your face to face conversation(s). Dip into their Twitter stream, if they have one, to get a feel for their personality, sociability and standing in their professional communities. Check out their LinkedIn and GitHub profiles and community contributions. And invite others in your organisation, that may also meet candidates, to do the same.

Of course, there are dozens more ways you can piss off folks once they have joined, but here we’re just talking about before that first fateful day. Why not use some or all of the above tricks to sour the budding relationship and set folks up to fail from the very outset? Millions of companies can’t be wrong!

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

~ Peter Drucker

Did I miss any ways that have pissed you off?

– Bob

Further Reading

Eight Hiring Mistakes Employers Make: From Application to Interview ~ Susan M. Heathfield

  1. Has the ring of recent truth about it this does.

    I find point one the most interesting. I’ve been thinking that my blog is “the best thing I do”, compared to what happens at work which is a function of both me and the organisation. So why wouldn’t I want to show it, if (?!) I were applying for jobs. It’s me, no less. Certainly no more anyway.
    When I applied for my last job during a restructure, ie the one I was actually in at the time, I put mention of having a blog on there. Nowadays I would put a link to it.

  2. More.
    When I DID put mention of a blog on my application form, they checked around, found the name of it, then RAN IT THROUGH THE IN HOUSE LAWYERS. presumably to check whether I am some kind of proto Edward Snowden leaking state secrets.
    Simply reading it would have sufficed, in a sane organisation.
    However in a defensive and back protecting organisation you need sign off to SHOW that you’ve checked. Hence lawyers. Hence everything ELSE on your list, all symptoms of piss poor management thinking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: