What Happens When You Hire an Expert Who isn’t an Expert?

We live in a modern-day Field of Dreams. If you hang a cyberspace shingle, they will come. Sometimes they do, in droves, and yet there’s a price to be paid beyond the final invoice. 

Companies hire them. Individuals trust them. You know who they are – the self-proclaimed expert who’s better at marketing than doing the work. 

We’ve all been there. The job complete, there’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction that ranges from “WTF did I just pay for?” to “Do I need to hire someone else to fix this?” to “Forget it. Let’s move on and never speak of it again.” 

I have trees that look like a three-year-old was set loose with a pair of scissors. My handyman fixes look more like a child’s attempt to cover up what they broke with some glue and mom’s nail polish than a professional job. Of course, there are the wires that permanently hang out of my wall, thanks to the expert who told me he’d “bundle them up” instead of removing them.

When an expert isn’t an expert, damage is done. Work is done poorly, and we begin to think that’s as good as we’re going to get

Why do mediocre experts still get a ton of work?

Let’s hold our horses right here. 

Not every job requires an expert. Someone who is growing their skills and committed to excellence has a place as a respected professional worth hiring. Moreover, someone mid-career or even motivated and well trained can do great work. Let’s not knock the future experts of the world. 

However, when you want someone who’s been there and done that more times than they can count, you want an expert. 

If you head over to Webster’s Dictionary, they include a key word in their definition: mastery


  1. One with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.

Keep holding those horses…

There are “experts” out there who have been doing what they do for years and years and doing a mediocre job of it. Why do they still get hired? Are they experts? Do they demonstrate mastery?

  1. A slick shingle.
  2. Limited choices.
  3. People are embarrassed that they hired them and the work wasn’t done well, so they don’t tell others.
  4. The business has grown, and while the founder is strong, the subcontractors or newer team members (who deliver to you) do not have the same knowledge, skills, and abilities. 
  5. We get used to mediocrity, and it ultimately meets our lowered expectations.

When an expert isn’t an expert, you need to make a decision.

Before you jump into hiring or engaging your next expert, ask yourself: 

  • Is your runway long or short?
  • Is there room to learn and grow, or do you need mastery from day one?
  • Are you hiring a contractor, consultant, or permanent employee?

After you’ve brought the expert on board, what will you do when you discover that your expert isn’t such an expert after all? 

Another thing that happens when you hire a so-called expert is you feel stupid – you’ve been had. Then, often you’ll shift blame from the expert who didn’t deliver to yourself. Suddenly, your self-talk takes a turn for the worse… You shouldn’t have wasted the money, should have tried to do it on your own, and did a poor job vetting. True or not, beating yourself up won’t change the outcome. It’s not your fault you engaged someone who wasn’t the right fit for the job. 

What now? Fix it or live with it?

There are probably more self-styled experts than actual experts, and for most of us, it’s hard to discern between the two. 

However, when you need the job done, you can find the right match for your needs. 

  • Accept that not everyone who calls themselves an expert is an expert.
  • Instead of grumping and groaning, identify the gap between your expectations and what was delivered. Address it head-on with your expert. If they can’t meet your needs, find someone who can.
  • Ask your network for references for the experts that they would recommend without hesitation – not just who they’ve used in the past.
  • Get clear on what you need so you can clearly express it to others.
  • Ask the expert if they understand your needs and get them to restate it back to you to ensure you’re on the same page.
  • Don’t be afraid to terminate the relationship. If time and time again your expert is missing the mark, they’re not the right expert for you.

What have you done when you’ve engaged the expert who isn’t an expert after all? What’s your advice?

Related: 7 Must-Ask Questions to Avoid Multitasking Pitfalls