Don’t Like a Suggested New Hire? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I manage a large team of accountants and other kinds of finance experts. We recently posted a job for a senior budget analyst.

One of the applicants is a person who was in the finance department a couple of years back. I wasn’t his boss, but I wasn’t impressed with him then and I am not impressed with him now. He wasn’t a team player, he was loud and obnoxious, he complained about the workload, and he left the group suddenly.

I am dead set against rehiring this person. But my boss, the CFO of our company, remembers him fondly and thinks it would shorten ramp-up time to hire someone who knows the organization. I think we can do much better.

How do I make my argument without sounding like a jerk? It’s also possible that this guy is a friend of the boss and I would run the risk of hurting myself politically.

Taking a Stand

Dear Taking a Stand,

Adding a new hire is always a risk to a high-functioning team, so you are right to be concerned. One bad apple can indeed spoil the barrel, as Adam Grant shares in his recent research. Hiring may be the most important part: some people are good at it but sometimes it is just sheer luck to get it right. One of the consultants we work with to get job fit exactly right, Phil Olsen, told us you must answer three critical questions when hiring:

  1. Can they do the job the way we want it done (or better)?
  2. Will they love us?
  3. Will we love them?

I would also suggest you take an analytical approach to solving this problem. Lean on HR to design the exact competencies and experience required for the job. Include the importance of attitude and work ethic in your job design—this should easily exclude the candidate you are allergic to. You won’t be a jerk—it’s just a matter of fact. (If you don’t have that expertise in house, I’d suggest you contact Phil. His method is phenomenal.)

If you are stepping onto political thin ice, I guess you will find out if your boss insists on hiring the ex-employee despite the data showing what a mistake it would be. It seems, though, that if you get your ducks in row and can intelligently make your case, you will be fine.

Finally, the best argument against a weak candidate is to find an ideal one—so the faster you can do that, the better off you will be. Good luck!

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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