A recent survey from Robert Half Finance & Accounting reflects a continuing trend: Aside from poor performance, a failed hire is typically the result of a mismatched skill set.

Nearly four in 10 CFOs interviewed (38%) responded this way, up two percentage points from a similar survey conducted five years ago.

top-reasons-for-a-failed-hireAnother 27% of financial executives think unclear performance expectations is the top reason new employees don’t work out.

While executives at firms of all sizes cite a mismatched skill set as the leading contributor to hiring failures, CFOs at the smallest companies (20–49 employees) are more likely than their peers at the largest organizations (1,000 or more employees) to fault unclear performance expectations and personality conflicts.

Tips for Avoiding a Bad Hire

“Hiring is hard enough, but it’s even harder when you have to do it twice,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half.

“Don’t impede your efforts by recycling old job descriptions.

“Develop a fresh overview for each opening, listing the skills required for candidates to be successful now and in the future.”

McDonald also advises companies to sell the sizzle when recruiting.

“Promote why your business is a great place to work, emphasizing the organization’s mission, culture, and career growth opportunities,” he says.

Robert Half offers these tips to avoid a bad hire:

1. Identify the must-haves. Make a list of essential skills and those that can be learned through training. While technical expertise can help people land the job, it’s their soft skills—e.g., communication, teamwork, problem-solving—that ensure they’re a fit for the company and can take on greater responsibilities.

2. Don’t shortcut the reference check. Talk to candidates’ former managers to get a better sense of whether employees might do well at your firm. Ask about individuals’ work styles, strengths, and areas for improvement.

3. Act immediately. If you find a great applicant, move quickly and offer attractive compensation. Previous research shows promising candidates lose interest when companies delay making a decision. Don’t prolong the process.

CBIA HR Counsel Mark Soycher advises looking at this from another perspective as well.

Acting quickly is also prudent when it's apparent a bad hire has been made and you have concluded the situation is not going to improve.

Once an employee realizes things are not going well and their job may be in jeopardy, that insecurity can lead to disengagement and diminished productivity, at best, or possibly disruptive behavior or sabotage, at worst.

In addition, Soycher counsels, a worker terminated in this context is likely to be awarded unemployment benefits, and the longer an employee remains employed, the greater the potential assessment against the employer's unemployment experience tax account.