A reader writes:
While I'm excited about two people I recently hired, nobody's perfect and there were a few small concerns with both that came up through the hiring process. One person had a great follow-up exercise and awesome experience, but somewhat lackluster communication in person. The other person had a great interview and awesome experience, but his writing contained some mistakes.
Overall, both people wowed us, and we're very excited to have them on board. But while the concerns we had were not enough to disqualify them from the job, they do point to some small things that we'll want to troubleshoot from the start.
I know that the best approach is to be honest with the new hires about the potential weaknesses we'd like to work with them on improving (framed in the context of how excited we are to have them on the team, of course). My question is: When is the best time to have that conversation? On Day One? Or should we wait a few weeks, not kill their excitement buzz, and have that conversation once they're a little more settled in?
First, kudos to you for being realistic about what is and isn't a deal-breaker in hiring but also about the fact that these are areas you'll want these new employees to pay attention to.
I think there are two options in this situation:
1. You can mention this to them before you offer them the job. For instance, "We think you're an incredibly strong candidate, and there's only one thing holding us back at this point -- we noticed some mistakes in your writing, and that's an area we're committed to achieving perfection in. Is that something that you think you'd be willing to work with us on, or does knowing that we're going to be sticklers in that area seem like something that would annoy you?" Most people are going to say yes, of course they'd be happy to work on it. Once that's out of the way, you hire them, and they come in knowing that that's going to be something they'll need to work on.
2. You can mention it after they start -- but not on their first day, as no one wants to get criticism when they're all excited/nervous on the first day of their new job. Wait a few weeks, at which point you might have actual examples of it that you're seeing on the job, and you can talk about those rather than even having to refer back to their interview. Or, if it's the sort of thing that you really need to address faster than that, you could say something like, "We always scrutinize our top candidates in the hiring process to figure out where they're going to need the most help once they start, and with you, we think it's probably ____." That presents it as something you do with everyone, and underscores the concept of "no one is perfect so you shouldn't freak out about getting corrective feedback this early on."
I still wouldn't do it on day one though; give them a chance to settle in a bit first.