[My Biggest Mistake] Hiring the Wrong Candidate

Departments - My Biggest Mistake

Without taking the time to ensure you’re putting the right person in an open position, the negative effects can ripple throughout your firm for a long time.


If you’ve been in the pest management business for any length of time, then at some point, you’ve probably hired a candidate who just didn’t work out. In our 28 years, Inspect-All Services has been fortunate to hire many good people. Unfortunately, hiring a good person doesn’t always mean hiring an efficient employee. Sometimes the most well-intentioned candidate simply isn’t right for the job. Then you, as the business leader, are faced with a choice: Fire that employee or watch performance, productivity, employee morale and ultimately your company’s reputation deteriorate.

While it’s been the rare occasion, we have at times chosen the wrong candidate to fill a position. For example, several years ago, we hired someone who seemed right in every way. Once he got into the field, however, we found that he was unable to fully grasp his job responsibilities. After six months of coaching and supporting to no avail, we had to let him go.

Experiences like this one have taught us the importance of strong hiring practices. It’s never a good feeling to have to tell someone that his or her career with us is over. So we put extra effort up front to make absolutely sure each candidate we hire is equipped to succeed. Here are some of the practices we’ve found to be pivotal to making good hiring decisions.

Don't Rush.
First, don’t rush to fill a position just because your company needs to hire someone. You can waste a lot of time, energy and money on a new hire who isn’t the right fit. Give careful thought to the resumes that come in. Make sure the candidates have the appropriate level of experience. If they do, look more deeply. How did they communicate in their cover letter and resume? Does it seem that they sent resumes en masse, or do they appear to be genuinely interested in this particular career opportunity? Is their communication full of grammatical or typographical errors? Remember that the person you hire will be the face of your business — the front line with customers. If they don’t make a good impression to you, they won’t be dazzling your clientele either.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective candidates, conduct phone interviews with them. Take detailed notes so you can compare candidate strengths, and then narrow the field even more to those you’d like to meet in person.

The face-to-face interviews tell you the most. Note whether the candidate arrives on time. See if they can back up the facts in their resume. Gauge how knowledgeable they are about the open position.

As the interviewer, make the candidates feel comfortable, but don’t do all of the talking. Don’t oversell your firm to them — remember, they are the ones trying to get the job. Be honest about what the job entails, explaining not only the perks of the position, but also the challenges. If they run for the door, you’ve just saved yourself the investment of time and resources on someone who would have undoubtedly quit later when the going got tough.

Ask point-blank questions to see how candidates react. For instance:

  • Why did you leave your previous job?
  • Why do you feel you would be a good fit here?
  • What are some of your weaknesses?
  • What is your ultimate goal in this industry?
  • If we decide to hire you, when could you begin?

We especially like to hear the answer to that last question. It gives us a glimpse into the character of the candidates. If they haven’t left their old job yet, we like to hear them say they want to give their current employer at least two weeks’ notice. After all, we’d hope for the same.

The strongest candidate must pass our background research — we do a criminal background check, drug test and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) check if applicable, as well as conducting online searches and calling references.

The True Test.
We consider the training period an on-the-job interview and the most crucial test if a new employee will make it with us.

Over the first few months, we observe performance and solicit feedback from other employees. We encourage questions and go in with an understanding that this person will make mistakes. We also recognize that the new hire might do things differently than us, but we’re open to new approaches as long as they are as efficient as what we have in place.


In most cases, the employee works out great because everyone had realistic expectations and we got to know each other before the employment relationship began. In rare cases, however, we find that the employee is not a hard worker or is not respected by his or her peers for valid reasons. Generally these findings are supported by customer complaints about the employee’s performance. When we’re faced with this one-two combination of negative employee and customer feedback, it almost certainly means goodbye.

But, if you’ve got a structured, thorough hiring method in place, you shouldn’t have to say “goodbye” too often.


As told to PCT contributing writer Donna DeFranco.