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How to Avoid Hiring Seat Warmers

Updated: Apr 3

The following is an article “How to Avoid Hiring Seat Warmers” by Marc Primo.


Have you ever come across the phrase “work smarter, not harder”? Nowadays, that phrase is equally relevant to how companies hire people. It’s somehow easy for many company owners to just go back to HR and find the next suitable candidate based on the standard job description, then hope the new hire fits the bill. However, that manoeuvre is just not enough to land you the right professional for the job today.


Perhaps “hire smarter, not faster” is the right advice for businesses that want to avoid the so-called seat warmers or the mis-hires destined to fail at their jobs. The Mark Murphy-led online entrepreneurship website Leadership IQ reports that nearly 50% of a company’s new hires fall short in their functions after a year and a half. What’s even sadder about the report is that only 19% of the new-hires achieve success.


The aftermath of consistently hiring seat warmers can punish a company big time in terms of salary expenses, and productivity among others. The employees who do great work are left with no recourse but to pick up after the unattended tasks of the failing ones. That destroys motivation and even leads to higher attrition rates, so… ouch!


To help spare your company from seat warmers, consider these two useful tips and start hiring smarter.


Understand your business. Before you place your vacancy sign online or in your local newspaper, make sure you have a clear mission and vision for your company. This entails figuring out what you need to carry out that mission and achieve goals towards the right direction. Great candidates will study a company’s values and overview before they apply, while seat warmers usually just jump right into every interview they can land as if they are playing musical chairs. Try to come up with a job ad that specifically states what you need for your company and the perks they can get if they get the job done. Fill in all the blanks and leave no functions or required credentials unwritten so you can manage your applicant’s expectations, as well as your own.


Rely on scorecards. The simplest thing you can do to ensure that you hire the right professionals is to design a scorecard. This doesn’t mean you list down bullet points of a job description, but more like a detailed matrix where you can put in points for every necessary attribute. In enumerating attributes, try to include aspects of the job and how your candidate can fit in your company. Sometimes, applicants whose academic achievements and experience look good on paper can wreak havoc inside your company because of a bad attitude.


However, while trying to predict a candidate’s ability to fit into your company culture is close to impossible as it is unmeasurable, knowing what you need and using an efficient grading system can narrow down the gaps and help you hire the right people.


Ask yourself the following questions first: Who do you need for the long-term? Which goals can the candidate fit in to deliver success? How can you measure your candidate’s productivity periodically and what is he accountable for? After you’ve listed down all your attributes, cross-examine them with your expected levels of success and rate your candidate’s qualities on a scale of one to ten. Reserve a remarks column for your HR officer so they can note down a candidate’s key characteristics.


By doing these, you can somehow get a better perspective of your candidate’s pros and cons and make a smarter decision. It may take a great deal of preparation, but the returns are definitely worth it for the long term.

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