“Hire Slow, Fire Fast” is Bad Advice

Sam Holbrook, Ron Roenicke

by George Blomgren


I recently read an article promoting this advice, here on LinkedIn in fact. It’s the worst type of advice — the kind that sounds pithy and wise, but is really quite destructive.

Underlying this advice is the idea that hiring decisions have a huge impact — financially, and on your company’s culture and morale. So take the necessary time to make careful, well-informed hiring decisions. Similarly, employees who don’t fit — bad culture fit, or poor performance — have a significant negative impact. So you want to get them out the door ASAP.

Of course there is some wisdom underlying this advice. But consider the downsides

Hiring slowly is a great way to lose top candidates. The best candidates have the shortest shelf lives. And when they receive attractive offers from other employers, it’s a “bird in the hand” situation. Few will wait on your indecisiveness. In addition, delays in making a decision send a variety of negative messages to candidates — “we’re very bureaucratic.” “We like you, but not enough to pull the trigger.” “Hiring just isn’t a priority for us.” “When we told you (repeatedly) that we would have a decision by the end of next week … we lied.”

As for firing quickly … it’s a great way to cultivate a reputation as a ruthless work environment with no loyalty, compassion or employment security. Just watch those Glassdoor.com comments add up!

The answer, obviously, is to engineer a hiring/screening process that is thorough and covers all right bases, but moves along quickly. You don’t have to hire slow to hire well. And if you hire well, you shouldn’t have to fire quickly.

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

3 comments

  1. Interesting post. I always interpreted this advice to mean that you shouldn’t decide to add a position until you are really ready. Once you make the decision, act quickly, but don’t rush into hiring just for the sake of it.

  2. I agree with McGee. I use this advice as a check to remind myself “Do I really need to be hiring right now?”. In other words, one shouldn’t take a long time to hire any individual candidate (that’s just a waste of both of our time). Instead, don’t jump to hire simply because your business demands it. Hire because the hire is the correct fit and because you have a business need. Furthermore, after you’ve hired an employee, there’s certain traits that can be bad (i.e. needing to be micromanaged) that really can only be discovered after you’ve begun working together. So, if someone isn’t living up to the expectations that you and your current employees currently live by, then we shouldn’t drag out a bad situation for everyone involved.

    1. mcgeeyoung · · Reply

      Well said, Rick!

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