There are so many variables to consider when making a new hire. Does the candidate have the right experience? Will they be a culture fit? Do they seem ready to fill the position for the long term?
In some cases a candidate might appear to be a perfect fit, until you notice that red flag – they’ve been fired by a past job. With the time and money required to recruit, onboard, and train a new employee, replacing your latest hire in a few months because they performed or behaved poorly is an expensive and unwise option. If avoiding that outcome is as easy as excluding anyone who’s been rejected by a former employer, why consider anyone who admits they have been fired?
The answer is that it’s not that simple. People are fired for many reasons, and it isn’t always because of something they did wrong. Here’s how to determine whether a candidate that’s been let go is worth it.
Get Their Side
If a candidate shares that they’ve been fired, they know the question is coming. Although it may feel a little awkward, this situation actually gives you the unique opportunity of having a truly candid conversation with a potential employee. Perhaps they weren’t a great culture fit at their last company. Maybe they were disliked by a manager for a reason out of their control. They could have even been bad at that job – but that doesn’t mean they’re not right for yours.
Sure, there’s a way to ‘spin’ it, but you should be able to tell pretty quickly what happened based on the story your candidate tells and the way they tell it.
One important thing you’ve learned right away about your candidate is that they’re honest. Not every applicant discloses sensitive information like this, but there’s a good bet those that do are confident that they are in the right and ready to explain. More importantly, it gives you a chance to gain rare insight into their professional growth.
What Did They learn?
The worst case scenario with a formerly fired candidate is, essentially, that it was all their fault. Even this outcome does not have to be the end of the road, under the right circumstances. How does the candidate portray the event? Do they paint themselves as a victim, or do they accept responsibility? Do they speak with vitriol regarding their former employer, or look back on the job and termination as a learning experience?
Everyone makes mistakes. What’s important is how they are dealt with, and what is learned from them. A candidate with a blemished past could potentially be even more valuable than one with a spotless record if they took something valuable from the experience and grew professionally as a result.
Even if your candidate has assuaged your fears with their explanation, it’s still a good idea to contact their references and get a full picture. Chances are that the potential hire will not have included the manager that fired them on their list of people to call, but the references you can talk to will be able to share their experiences and help you make your ultimate decision.
Also – if background checks aren’t already part of your interview and hiring process, they should be. Regardless of whether a candidate has been fired (or they’ve give you any other reason to doubt their ability), you can utilize an official background check to vett for serious red flags like a criminal record.
Go With Your Gut
Ultimately, there is no textbook answer to whether you should hire someone who’s been fired at some point in their career. The incident may have no bearing at all on their ability to thrive within your company, or it could point to potential issues that might come up if you hire them. The most important thing to remember is that a firing should not be seen as an automatic deal breaker, but an opportunity to learn more about the person applying for your position.