How to get the hiring and firing right

Hiring and firing is hard. Knowing what you’re looking for in a hire and knowing how much longer you should give before you should fire someone are some of the hardest calls you have to make.

To have a chance at getting hiring right, figure out what it’s going to take to be successful at your company.

The adage “hire slow and fire fast” is sage advice. To me, this has always meant have a process to hire a person, and if you made a mistake take action on it. Once you’ve hired, you’ll know in the first 90 days whether it’s going to work. If you made a bad call, fire fast, but don’t make it a surprise.

The hiring process

I’ve always tried to move the interviewing process along as quickly as possible without compromising it. This means the hiring manager meets with the candidate at least twice (ideally in person), and associates and managers who will be working with them are involved in the interviewing process.

Get feedback while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind — typically at the end of the day after the interviews. Score the candidate on your key criteria, which should include specific skills and how they fit your company values. Is it a match?

If so, it’s time for a second interview.

Understand thy self

One thing that is overlooked is understanding your company’s evolution. Make sure you’ve thought through how you’re going to support this person.

Are they remote or local? Do you need a builder or an operator? Is it a mature environment or early stage? Do you need someone who needs a defined path, or someone comfortable working in the gray zone and able to make it black and white? These environments are very different. Have they done the job in a similar environment or will your situation be their first?

If you haven’t screened for some of these, it’s a crapshoot whether the candidate works out.

No surprises

When you fire a person, it shouldn’t be the first time that they’ve heard they are underperforming.

First, be sure that the person is the issue. Often it’s a broken process. For example, if you’ve hired a sales rep that isn’t hitting quota, is it because the product isn’t ready for commercialization, or that he or she isn’t putting in the right sales activity to produce the results necessary?

If they aren’t producing, put them on a performance plan for 90 days and communicate clearly what is expected. Make it understood if they don’t turn things around they will lose their job.

Set up a recurring weekly meeting to go over the results; then if the time comes when you need to let them go, it won’t come as a surprise. Two reasons for doing this are: for the dignity of the person leaving, and for everyone else.

How you hire and fire speaks directly to your culture. It’s critical you’re intentional with the process and communicate clearly and often.


Pamela Springer is the founding partner of SpringerNav LLC. A 20-year entrepreneurial executive focused on developing profitable strategies that scale, drive revenue and build cohesive teams, Pamela has received numerous honors. She was voted by Business Insider as one of 13 Powerful Women Running Today’s Biggest Startups in 2012 and ran a Top 100 most valuable digital media startup for three consecutive years.