The most expensive employee you can hire

What is the most expensive employee you can hire?

It is a Category 3 employee. The trick is to spot them and eliminate them during the recruitment process. My best advice is to use an Assessment Matrix. 


Risk and why someone is an expensive employee

Recruitment is all about minimising the risk of hiring the wrong person. Essentially, there are four types of candidates:

  1. 1
    The "unsuitables": easy to eliminate in the recruitment process; an entry level junior can do this for you.
  2. 2
    The "maybes": they may have the right personality but lack experience. You could train them up, however, there is a higher risk associated with taking them on board.
  3. 3
    The "look goods": resume and experience are of interest. Interview - fantastic. Testing and reference checks - fantastic. We hire them ... and we wish we had not
  4. 4
    Then there are the ones who: look great and "are brilliant" in the job. They excel and they stay

The difficulty in recruiting is separating a category 3 from a category 4 because they both perform superbly in the interviews. They both look like High Achievers.


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Category 3's are the expensive employees.

Their performance is not disastrous yet continuously unsatisfactory and regularly below par, however, not bad enough to warrant a termination. Therefore, they have a high opportunity cost. It is ongoing as they stay with the organisation for years. They are truly expensive employees because they continue to under-perform.


How to avoid hiring expensive category 3 employees?

Next time you recruit, I recommend the use of an Assessment Matrix. The Assessment Matrix is the “recruitment blueprint”, and is simple to set up.

Assessment Matrix - Key Selection Criteria: Education / Experience - Technical Competencies - KPIs Quantitative & Qualitative - Personality Traits

The selection criteria are listed on the left side, with the stages of the recruitment process heading the following columns. Selection criteria are used to assess the candidates’ suitability for your role.

Each candidate should address the selection criteria at least once during the process, however, it is better to have multiple, independent sets of verification - also known as double and triple checking.

For example, if three independent observations (initial phone screening, interview, and reference checking) are obtained that all lead to the same conclusion, then the risk is minimised.


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A candidate with two positive and one negative observation is not necessarily unsuitable, however, the risk is higher for that selection criteria. The philosophy is to minimise the risk for across all selection criteria through individual observations.

If using a recruitment agency, this is the least that should be expected. Ask the consultant to detail their process and the Assessment Matrix. If it can't be shown to you, you have the right to question if you are getting value for money.

Download an Assessment Matrix template for your personal use:


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​Paralegal
Trewin Norman & Co


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