Bad hiring: a gross misconduct offence?

Darren Ledger
4 min readMar 21, 2021


Admiral Hiram G. Rickover, the father of the US nuclear navy, was an eccentric genius. His interview tactics for screening candidates for the elite nuclear submarine programme were as excruciating as they were unorthodox.

Indeed, he is famous for saying, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you sweat in war,” and he ruthlessly applied the principle in his infamous stress interview process.

There was a method to the legendary madness: he wanted to evaluate his people under conditions of extreme stress — only those with superior qualifications could be considered.

Occasionally he would leap out of a closet to surprise an unsuspecting candidate. Sometimes he would nail a chair to the floor, and when the applicant arrived in his darkened office he would greet them with “Pull up a chair, Captain.”

He would even take a saw and shorten the front legs of the interviewee’s chair by one or two inches and watch them squirm as they slid forward while trying to maintain composure in the face of a withering barrage of questions.

So as a modern-day recruiter or hiring manager it may be worth considering how much planning and preparation you put into interviews. How well do you know your prospective candidate before they walk through the door?

Sawing legs off chairs and jumping out of stationary cupboards to surprise and startle your interviewee maybe a little extreme. But putting candidates through their paces and really testing them must be the standard, especially when recruiting at a senior level where the new hires impact on your organisation may be critically important.

Admiral Rickover said:

“Responsibility is a unique concept… You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you…

If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion, or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else.

Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.”

Consider the above as a hiring manager when you make a bad hire.

Imagine an eerie parallel universe where the world of business is different from the one we know. A commercial reality where the pursuit of perfection is considered the minimum outcome acceptable in any given hiring scenario.

A world where deeply damaging and costly issues such as hiring the wrong people into our business are not simply considered as being “one of those things”, it’s up there on that list of offences deemed as ‘Gross Misconduct’.

Putting candidates through their paces and really testing them must be the standard

I know, it’s a crazy idea. But, we are talking about a hypothetical, alternate universe, one where the people who crunch the numbers and analyse a company’s balance sheets see the stark cold negative impact that every bad hire has on an organisation and the bottom line.

They’ve seen the real cost not just in terms of the numbers, they have broken it down into the cost of lost opportunity, lost momentum and to be honest a loss of commercial integrity.

As a result, it becomes a standard practise that for every stakeholder involved in hiring new employees, they have a KPI (Key Performance Indicator), which stipulates they must maintain a successful hiring ratio of above 90 per cent. Success is defined as new hires who are still in employment after two years or more.

If they consistently fail to maintain that level of success, those stakeholders are thrust under the limelight and begin internal disciplinary procedures. Let us be honest about this, their negligence is effectively costing the company money, perhaps costing shareholders dividends and maybe even damaging the employer brand.

Imagine if your recruiters, internal/external are also included in this process. Your recruiters are under the same microscope as you and have as much of a vested interest in the hiring outcome as they do the long-term success and retention of those hires. Would it change their perspective and the way they recruited?

Imagine a world where your recruiter had to sit in that disciplinary meeting with you, had to squirm under the spotlight and yield to the hostile glares from across the room.

Now just consider your role as the hiring manager for your department or even the HRD (human resource development) in your organisation. Would you be able to meet such stringent KPIs for your hiring success? Would your recruiter be able to look you in the eyes and say: “Hey, don’t worry, we’ve got this…”?

Could you honestly, hand on heart, feel satisfied that you could meet such high standards? The truth is, for most people, probably not.

How does it feel to be facing a gross misconduct charge?

So, how do we mitigate this risk and increase our hiring accuracy and at the same time, exponentially increase employee retention? By hiring the right people the first time every time?

If only it was that easy.

Originally published at



Darren Ledger

Inspirational & Informative Freelance Writer at Hardcore Content Solutions. Olympian Gold Medallist for wearing multiple hats and my heart on my sleeve.