Hire Slow, Fire Fast is Bad Advice

Jake Wilder
5 min readAug 8, 2022

Just Because It’s Catchy Doesn’t Mean It’s Right

Photo: iStock

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies,” said Lawrence Bossidy. One of the most important things a manager can do is get the people right. It defines the capabilities of your team and creates a culture that can be your greatest competitive advantage.

“Hire slow, fire fast” is based on this idea. You want to build a strong team and you’re more likely to do that if you take your time to hire right and get rid of those who don’t work out.

When you look at things that way, it makes sense. No one wants to hire the wrong person or keep someone who’s not performing. But in practice it’s never this simple. And when managers parrot out the “hire slow, fire fast” advice without understanding the key principles behind it, they’re much more likely to screw it up.

Hiring Slow is Not Hiring Well

It’s a common assumption that if you’re hiring slowly, you’re hiring better. But consider what you need for a strong hire. You need a clear job description, a good set of behavioral interview questions to interrogate candidate’s previous experiences, and a set of objective criteria to assess each candidate in a similar way. And you need good judgment to recognize when someone’s trying to feed you a line of crap.

If you have those areas covered, then you’ll make strong hiring decisions. If you don’t, you won’t. Taking longer to deliberate doesn’t add any value. It just dilutes everyone’s memories and often causes you to miss out on the best candidates.

I once had a boss who struggled to make decisions. He would spend weeks reviewing our recommendations, debating the pros and cons and second-guessing different points. It would often delay things to the point that the recommendation became obsolete, and all of our work came to nothing. I can’t even begin to describe how corrosive this was for morale.

When candidates see a slow hiring process, they see signs of these same behaviors. They’re not impressed with your thoughtfulness and consideration. They’re upset that you can’t make a decision. They see a bureaucracy that won’t be able to…

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Jake Wilder

I don’t know where I’m going. But at least I know how to get there.