SURVEY SAYS: What Was Your Worst Hire?

December 16, 2010 ( - Yesterday we covered a survey about the cost(s) of bad hires.


For this week’s bonus survey question, I asked readers to recount for us their worst hire (or the worst hire they’ve had to deal with.  I think you’ll enjoy these – and my favorites (and the Editor’s Choice) are at the end:


I inherited a new hire who couldn’t understand why she was expected to work at least 7.5 hours each day. On her first day, she was 2 hours late to work and it went downhill from there. She was given a written warning within 2 weeks and resigned her third week.

In mid 1980s hired a young man to do work traditionally done by young women for second shift work.  He was just out of the service and I thought I’d give him a break.  Turns out he was dishonorably discharged.  There was little supervision of second shift at that time (I know, stupid…) and he would take a “break” smoking pot and drinking and not working.  Even though it was still within his probationary period, I wasn’t allowed to fire him, lest he bring a discrimination suit against the company.   ARRRGHHHH

Hired a young man who supposedly graduated from prestigious school.  Boss liked the candidate and thought he was very bright, and it didn’t hurt that he was from Boss’ alma mater.  I wasn’t high on the person.  Turned out that the new hire lied about graduating from the school (still had some outstanding credits because he never turned in a paper), spent most of his time on personal matters using company phone and computer, and when he finally was allowed to deal directly with his first client, was so unimpressive, that the client complained about him.  Had to let him go, but lost 6 months of training time and pay.

The boss who liked to blackmail.

Not my worst hire, but a lapse of judgement of my supervisor.   I was paid at least 1/3 less and had to clean up the mess of him hiding all of his mistakes.   I gave my supervisor an ultimatum; he goes or I go.  I won! 🙂  He was transferred to another group.  He eventually quit when he saw the writing on the wall.  I heard he got a director or above position at another company!  The Peter Principal at it’s finest!

Unfortunately, the worst hire was a retired mid-level executive for a temporary administrative position whose spouse wanted him out of the house.  He could talk like he knew what to do, but it was obvious after the first week that he was more interested in making decisions and hadn't a clue how to do the work "down in the trenches".  He kept commenting that we needed an "assistant" to perform some of the functions we had hired him to do.

I was the unfortunate recipient of someone who could sound like he knew what he was talking about. He impressed others with his hour long discussions and eventually rose up the corporate ladder. He became my boss to my chagrin. I would have to go into his office and say the opposite of what I wanted. If I didn't, he would find some reason to disagree. As soon as he was guided to what I really wanted, I would agree and leave. It was the only way to shorten the conversation to 30 minutes or less. It all caught up with him when he became a vice president and showed everyone he had no idea what he was talking about.

Dealing with one right now. Gives me a headache just thinking about it. All the skills are there, but the person has the personality of a battering ram. The whole team is ready to form a lynch mob.

Our worst hires (note "s") came in the form of three sisters.  They knew the rules and each would take a turn at either a WC injury, extended sick leave, or unpaid days off.  We always new when the fourth sister was in town for a visit by their rotating absence.  After several years, a change of supervisor, and a slowdown in business, we were able to remedy the problem.

I've not had one, but my wife's company recently hired a consultant to lead the implementation of a new fee system.  No one outside of the CEO wanted the guy.  Every reference said, "he's good at picking the solution, but he's horrible at implementing it."  He makes a choice and then saddles the team with implementing it while he runs away. 

A payroll administrator; I swear she sent a ringer to the interview.  The women I interviewed was very professional and seemed a little bit shy.  The woman who showed up for work was very opinionated and had a nasty disposition.  She quickly alienated most of the employees with whom she had any dealings.  She had a loud argument with one of the other payroll admins and accused me of taking the other admin's side.  She called out the next day and threatened that she wasn't going to come back unless there were some big changes in my attitude.  I told her that I agreed that big changes were necessary, but she was the one who needed to make them, that she could not go on alienating and insulting everyone.  She seemed quite stunned and told me she would have to think things over.  Luckily for me, I never heard from her again.

Someone hired as a pension consultant who did not have a good grasp of the English language.  She made promises to take English courses but later felt they were below her.  It was extremely frustrating for our clients to try to understand pension concepts from someone they could not understand so they just ended up calling one of the rest of our department anyway so it ended up being frustrating for the rest of us as well.

I've been doing this so long that there are several that come to mind.  One in particular was a man that claimed a worker's comp injury (repetitive nature) that was related to a previous employer.  Too complicated to tell all the details, but the situation got so bad that his attorney made a request to the worker's comp commission to be removed as his attorney.  That was a first for me when the attorney quit the client.

We hired a guy under pressure from Corporate.  He was a loser all the way around.  As a salesman, he claimed to make calls, but all he did was make up sales calls.  We finally double checked on so called trips and found that he never showed up.  When he learned that we were on to him, he claimed that he had to go to the hospital because he had fallen while on business (workers comp claim) and was unable to meet with us. 

I hired the sister of another employee (a peer in the same department) as a temp to do administrative work which included a lot of filing for the department.  She did a very good job and when the opportunity came to allow us to turn the temp job into a permanent position, she was offered the position.  Once she became a permanent employee, she turned from being a model employee to a very difficult one - complaining about duties she had previously performed as a temp and felt that as a permanent employee, she should not have to do.  It definitely made things more difficult when the co-worker insinuated herself into personnel decisions regarding the sister.  I will never again hire a close relative of someone for the same department.

When I became the manager at new location, I inherited a 'disco queen' who went clubbing each night and then came in half asleep, but dressed to go out clubbing again after office closed which also meant I had to send her home to change into 'dress code' apparel.

Unfortunately it was a bad hire I inherited.  A few years ago we had an employee who was a religious fanatic and insisted everyone else was evil and the devil.  At the same time she was a major con artist filing baseless harassment and workers comp claims.  What a nightmare.

The worst hire I ever made was a man who was book-smart but common sense challenged.  He let me reprimand him for poor performance and at the end of the meeting gave me his resignation.  He went on to be one of the highest scorers of the MA CPA exam.  I guess that just meant he wasn't cut out for our company.

I inherited a thief.  We caught him and he lost his job and his ability to work in banking again.

A pathological liar who was actually to the point where he believed his own lies.  It took a while for this total disconnect wiht reality to surface.  Once it did it was incredibly disruptive internally and with clients. We had to just terminate, fix any customer damage and learn a hard lesson.  Fortunately we identified it early enough - fellow employees, of course - or things would have been much worse.  customers.

I would have to say someone we hired in accounting about two years ago.  She was a good worker but from the time she started she had a bad attitude and argued with many people.  She would use salty language in the hallways and also missed a lot of time.  Once she was finally written up she left the company on her own and you could feel the tension release.

The worst hire I've had to deal with was the hiring of an SVP to run our group who had no idea what she was doing & had no experience in any of the major areas which the group is responsible for. She lasted about a year, but why she was hired is beyond me.

ANY drama queen ever hired (male or female), too high of a maintenance cost.

My favorites:

We hired a guy that had just graduated with an associate's degree in office automation.  After a week on the job, he informed us that he could not work with women and since there were no positions in the company that worked with men only, he was not comfortable staying with the company.  I am still trying to figure out where he ever got the idea that ANY job, let alone a job in a office, would be limited to a males only environment.

When I worked for a recordkeeper I hired someone to help calculate unit values for several 401(k) plans.  Apparently, I must not have done a good job during the job interview because she quit before her first day was over, stating that she did not realize she would be working with "that much money!'

This isn't my worst hire but the funniest.  Years ago I hired a young man just out of college. I had to let him go because he wasn't getting his job done.  He'd be missing for long periods of time from his desk and I'd find him on other floors.  Other employees told me that he was scouting for dates.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who responded, “Does marriage count?”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our bonus survey!