Don’t Hire an Empty Suit

We have all interviewed people over the years and at the time were wildly impressed. Hire ’em on the spot! Ready-Aim-Fire. They looked the part (great suit) had the education and the pedigree. How could you go wrong in hiring this person?  Everyone on the interview team connected with the person during the interview. All systems go. The offer is made, we have an acceptance and soon the on-boarding begins.

All of the sudden voila’!  (oops) all that glitters is not always gold. It is very difficult to find out later that you made a huge hiring mistake. You’ve hired an empty suit and there is nothing there. And I mean nothing.

How do we prevent this scenario from happening? Selecting the right candidate is never 100% fool-proof but I recommend taking the following steps to help prevent a hiring faux pas:

Process – Make sure your hiring process is methodical and detailed. Spend time with the candidate on multiple occasions to get the chance to see him or her in multiple settings. Too many employers are wooed by a candidate and are ready to pull the trigger and skip steps in the hiring process. Not good. This is a huge decision for your company and the candidate – so make time to do the proper vetting to make sure you know what you are getting. It’s easy to get resumes from candidates that look great on paper. Just make sure you are doing the proper amount of diligence so you know what you are really getting in the deal! Don’t take any shortcuts!

References – If you spend 2-3 minutes on the phone with a reference and ask a few standard questions just to check the box, you deserve what you get. Dig and then dig some more. Make sure you or your search partner are finding areas where the candidate needs to grow or has weaknesses. Ask that if they could improve in a single area – what would that be? Ask targeted situational questions about the candidate to better understand the who, what, when and where of a situation that closely matches what this person will be doing for your organization. Everyone has a weakness. Find out what their weaknesses are. If you dig deep enough you may find out that Mr. or Ms. Wonderful talks a great game but could not deliver if his or her life depended on it.

Test The Candidate– Make sure you give them several “to-do’s” to make sure they are truly engaged and to see what they deliver. Often we have clients that will ask a candidate to put together a 90-day plan on how they plan to spend their time and what they hope to accomplish in their first 90 days. Invite them to dinner or lunch and ask them at the last minute to drive. This will tell you a lot about how they handle pressure, give you a glimpse into their dining etiquette, and show how they connect with you in a neutral setting. Make sure you put time parameters on each assignment you give them to see if they keep their commitments. Sometimes this extensive testing we do helps separate the winners from the …well you get the point.

Finally make sure you get feedback from your “A” players after they spend time with this person. You may not get a “yes” vote from everyone involved in the interview process – but make damn sure you have most of them nodding their head north and south. If not, you could be headed for troubled waters.

About the author


Tim Tolan

Tim Tolan is the Senior Partner of the Healthcare IT and Services Practice of Sanford Rose Associates. He has conducted searches for CEOs, presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents of business development, product development and sales. Tim is also the co-author of "The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition – Finding Talent Your Competitors Overlook," available on Amazon.


  • Tim,

    Thanks for your insight. Successful interviewing and hiring requires practice, skill, and a keen intuition. And even with all of those things in your pocket, occasionally mistakes will be made – It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted!


  • No it’s not G. No it’s not. Just when you thinkk you have mastered the process – the search business humbles you again and again and ….you get the point!
    When dealing in human capital – all bets are (usually) off.

Click here to post a comment