Ah, the 91-Day Wonder. They provide just enough performance to get past most 90-day evaluation periods.
If it's happened to you, don't feel bad. This could happen to almost any hiring manager for any position, although sales managers may feel this more than anyone based on the example I'm about to provide. For some reason, they seem to be the most likely targets for this little scheme, which you'll understand better as this story develops.
Have you ever hired someone that "sold" you? In fact, the very best sale they ever made was when you hired them?
It's interesting to watch this story unfold. First, there's a flurry of positive activity. It seems like all the right things are happening. You couldn't ask for more, right? And so you turn your attention back to your job and critical responsibilities, instead taking the high road with more strategic objectives.
When you ask for updates, you hear such a positive spin on everything. Life is good.
Along the way, you might even get a few sales from this so-called superstar. Life really is good....isn't it?
Then suddenly and from nowhere, there soon follows mystery, intrigue, and cover-ups. Things you don't understand. Questions that don't have answers. What?! Just when life was getting good! Confusion, lost deals, and charge-backs soon follow. Well, life used to be good.
What are all these surprises and where are they coming from all of a sudden? Ont he continuum of control-based management versus leadership, a true leader hates surprises far more than mistakes. In fact, there's almost no comparison because that's how far apart they are. So where does all this start?
One theory is about the person in question being a 1- or 2-stage rocket - someone who just burns out too quickly. They have enough thrust to get off the ground, but not enough to go into orbit.
What does this mean to you as the hiring manager? Right about the time that the evaluation period is ending, your new hire is quickly running out of fuel to impress you. Day #91 is fast approaching which makes your job a lot tougher if you need or want to fire the person.
While there may be some truth to the whole 1- or 2-stage theory, let me suggest one other thing. In reality, there may be an imposter in your midst. Generally, there are two types:
This happens all the time in sales, though I've recently seen one even this past week for an executive administration position. They sound good, smell good, so what could be wrong? More importantly, what can you do to know before it's too late? How do you know they can or can't be a long-term and productive part of your organization?
First, let's cut right through the crap. In other words, let's get to the truth as quickly as possible. Use some type of assessments to figure out who the real person is behind the interviewing mask. Are these completely accurate every single time? Of course not...I've even been fooled on occasion. But this happens less than 10% of the time. Calculated risks are much safer, right? The assessments I use reveal enough to predict someone's exact responses to questions before they're asked. I have bona fide proof with past hiring managers who have been stunned by responses I've predicted their candidates would say.
Second, you absolutely need to drill into historical performance with behavior-based questions. And insist on specific answers. Question deeper when the answers don't meet the caliber of the question you asked. Personally, I like the "he said - she said" version of answers. In other words, you should insist on those answers which dig into the details that you can understand, and more importantly, you believe.
Third, use some type of third party to help retain your own objectivity. Someone who has no stake in the hiring of this particular individual OR whose reputation is at stake based on the performance of the new hire.