Pity Hires

Some of the best business interactions I have each week are on the back channel with the gang over at Fistful of Talent.  It usually starts with one of our tribe asking the rest of us a question, and quickly spirals out of control.  Almost every time someone will say “this email string should be a blog post”.  Almost 100% it’s not, because the snark level is Defcon 1!  The concept of “Pity Hire” came from one of these recent interactions and I’ll give credit to the brilliant Paul Hebert (original FOT member and if you need an expert on rewards and recognition, and almost anything else, he’s your dude!).

The conversation actually started around “hiring pretty“, which I’m a huge fan of and have written about it several times.  It’s my belief that over hundreds of years, genetics has and will continue to build better hires.  Hires that are more attractive, taller, etc.  It’s just simple science and human behavior interacting.  I won’t go into detail here, you can read my previous post to get the background.  Let’s just say smart powerful rich men, get pick of women. They have kids. Better healthcare, nutrition, family wealth, access and education, lead to the cycle starting all over again. Eventually, pretty people are not just pretty, they are also smarter.  Looks at our business and political leaders for the most part – usually pretty people.

So, it’s not really that hard to then make the jump to the fact that all of us really like to hire pretty people.  Like it!  We actually love it!  Therein lies the problem.  There are only so many pretty hires to go around, and let’s face it, not all pretty people are genetically superior!  This gets us to Pity Hires.  A Pity Hire is a hire you make of someone out of shear pity for them.  They might not be so good looking, or smart, or they come from circumstances that are less than ideal.  So that you can identify and help stop this kind of hiring I wanted to list out the types of Pity Hires we tend to make:

Pity Hire Types

Second Place Hire:  The second place pity hire is the hire you make when you someone doesn’t get hired initially because you actually had a really beautiful person to hire.  The second place hire was probably a better fit, but not as ascetically pleasing.  You find another lower level position, at lower pay, and offer that to them.  You feel bad, so you give them a lessor job.

Crappy Situation Hire: The crappy situation hire happens when you interview someone who is in, or has went through recently, a crappy situation. Newly divorced and the spouse left them for a younger, more beautiful person (happens to both males and females).  The boss from their old job, they were having an affair with, found a new younger, more attractive admin to sleep with.  Things like that – crappy situations.

Recent Breakup Hire: They were fired from their last job, when they were let go through a layoff where their past company was getting rid of the less attractive people.  You feel bad they had to go through those situations, so you hire them for your job.

No One Will Give Me My First Job Hire:  One of the most common Pity Hires is the entry level hire.  Many of us have given out this hire in our careers.  Entry level candidate, got some worthless degree in something like “Historical Urban Anthropology” and can’t figure out why no one will hire them!  They’re not good looking enough to get a job like a normal person, so you hire them.

 Pity hires aren’t necessarily bad hires.  It’s really a kind of HR charity.  We do them for friends kids, and favors for old co-workers.  They usually don’t work out well, but we can compartmentalize them for what they are, Pity Hires.  As I write this I’m wondering if we might have just come up on the next great Recruiting Metric for 2014!  Can you imagine going to your executive team — “Well, we lost 25 hires last year, but we aren’t counting 5 of those losses, they were Pity Hires!”



4 thoughts on “Pity Hires

  1. You mention physical attractiveness about 10 times. In my experience, that’s about the very last item on the list of any HR person.

  2. You left out hiring the developmentally disabled. Those of us who normally get passed over as “too high risk to hire” or “are just not worthy of work”. I fall into the latter.

  3. Believe me, I’d be thrilled to be a “pity hire”. All I’ve got is brains and talent. And an ego that can survive a little pity.

  4. I have done pity hires that have turned out great. They ended up being great employees and still are. I have also had pity hires turn out terrible. There was a reason they were in their situation and it was themselves.

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