Top 5 Signs Your IT Employee Is Probably Incompetent

Bad hires happen, but they don’t have to be permanent. Determining that an IT employee is incompetent isn’t easy. After all, we invest a lot of trust and confidence into a hired individual, and when that individual doesn’t perform as expected, we tend to internalize the failure as an inability to make sound hiring decisions. It’s important, however, to realize hiring mistakes are just part of the process and that they’re hardly the fault of the hiring entity. In most cases, an incompetent IT employee simply misrepresents his capabilities on the job application or during the interview. It’s additionally important that we don’t let invested emotion cloud proper performance evaluation. A bad hire is a bad hire no matter how you feel about it. So let’s look at five clear signs that indicate an incompetent IT employee.

Difficulty Understanding Job Requirements

A telltale sign of an incompetent hire is a person who consistently misunderstands or misinterprets job requirements. It’s one thing to parrot the job listing in an interview; but it’s an entirely different thing to apply the same requirements in dynamic situations. As an example, let’s say a web developer claims he can adequately redirect specific page requests to a different server. And let’s say the redirection must occur from a server hosted on a Windows IIS server. The incompetent IT employee may only redirect pages on an Apache server without noting the difference. If this sort of situation happens frequently, it’s a pretty clear sign that the employee isn’t fully qualified. That leads into the next sign.

Consistently the Source of Multiple Errors

On-the-job mistakes are normal and expected. A high number of errors that consistently disrupt critical business processes, however, aren’t, and they’re a reason to suspect employee incompetence. There isn’t any set number of errors that qualifies incompetency, but reasonable metrics can be an increase in shipment delays, product returns, customer complaints, or a loss of profits. You can solidify the suspicion when these problems constantly originate from a specific person.

Making Excuses for Work or Placing Blame on Others

Competent employees not only own their errors, they fix them. Incompetent employees won’t, and they’ll blame everything but the person responsible. They’ll place blame for their own mistakes on things like co-workers, equipment, or working conditions. One woman we’ve encountered even blamed her product delay on the government shut down! It was an inexcusable and embarrassing encounter, and it’s a phenomenon you can’t afford in your own working environment.

Outright Laziness

You’ll hear “no, I can’t do that,” and “sorry, I’m too busy” from the lazy, incompetent employee, often without any reasonable explanation. This type of person is the last to volunteer for projects, if he volunteers at all. He also contributes very little, if anything at all, when assigned to a team task. Consider the following example. Let’s say a company needs to completely revamp its on-site database, and there are only five employees qualified to do it: four competent ones and our lazy employee. The four competent employees define goals, deadlines, and required milestones in-between; while the lazy employee silently invents reasons for why he can’t participate and then ultimately excuses himself from the task. Repeated occurrences like this should make you wonder why he even applied for the job in the first place.

Cutting Corners at Every Chance

Although there may be a minimum amount of work that’s acceptable, competent employees typically strive to provide more. The incompetent employee, however, will provide nothing more than that minimum, and needlessly cut corners in places that would otherwise create a good business impression, encourage word-of-mouth advertising, and increase sales. Consider, as an example, a social marketing company that wants to serve the mobile market through its website, but doesn’t have the required equipment (code, servers, etc.). Let’s say that this task is assigned to the incompetent employee as well. Instead of researching how to do this with new technologies and requesting a budget for required equipment, the incompetent employee creates a solution using existing technologies that were never designed to handle the traffic of a mobile social networking site. What results is a mobile mess full of bugs, unpredictable server crashes, and corrupted data.

Cut the Incompetency and Cut Your Losses

Don’t let an incompetent IT hire bring your company down. There are simply too many alternatives available. Like every other thriving business, you want to reach your goals without the fear of extraneous costs, missed deadlines, and poor performance. Fortunately, we know a resource that can help. At, you’ll find help to assist with IT staffing for a wide variety of IT requirements; and we highly recommend that you give them a good look over if you want to avoid the problems described above.

Finding good IT employees is key to helping your company move forward efficiently. While as a layperson, you may sometimes feel unqualified to judge performance in this highly technical field, looking for these 5 signs will give you a good basis to make decisions from.

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