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Hire for Personality, Not Skill

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You’ve heard the saying before, “hire for personality, train for skill” but how true is it? Are you really supposed to overlook skill in favor of a candidate’s character traits? Yes, and no.

April 6, 2020
Author: Amber Ornelas

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You’ve heard the saying, “Hire for personality, train for skill,” but how true is it? Are you really supposed to overlook skill in favor of a candidate’s character traits? Yes and no.

This doesn’t mean hiring someone with no skill whatsoever. It also means that if the least qualified applicant has a personality that outshines all the others and is eager to learn and grow, consider hiring them for their personality instead of their skill.

Here’s why:

Skills can be trained, personality…not so much

Depending on the type of job you’re hiring for, you can always train someone to do the job right. It’s a time-consuming commitment but it’s worthwhile. You might actually find it beneficial to hire someone with a clean slate. They can learn your company’s standards and not have to unlearn a past employer’s way of doing things.

Personality on the other hand is pretty much hardwired. Yes, people can learn, grow and adapt to new environments but it’s not your job to change someone’s personality. It’s much easier to train for skill than reshape behavior.

Compatibility fosters a work environment where everyone thrives

When you hire someone, they become part of an established team. That means you have to consider the health of the team and not just your new hire’s ability to do his or her job. Hiring someone with a compatible personality makes collaboration easy, keeps your team strong and employee morale high.

Hiring for personality = lower turn-over rate

The greatest threat to a company is a toxic work environment. Why? Because you’ll never be able to retain employees. It costs time, money, and effort to find, hire, and then train a new employee every few weeks or months. Hiring for personality creates a work environment where people genuinely like each other and get along easier. More often than not, employees tend to stick around when they like their company.

How Do You Hire for Personality, Then?

Finding the right person for a job isn’t just about matching skills to the role; it’s about finding someone who fits into your team like a missing puzzle piece.

Tip #1: Define What You’re Looking For

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to hiring based on personality. If your company values creativity and innovation, look for candidates who demonstrate openness to experience and curiosity. In contrast, you might prioritize candidates who exhibit agreeableness and conscientiousness when teamwork and collaboration are important to you.

To make things easier, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need someone who is highly collaborative or team-oriented?
  • Do I need someone who is independent and self-motivated?
  • Do I need someone who is flexible and resilient?

Tip #2: Assess Cultural Fit

Cultural fit refers to how well a candidate aligns with your company’s values, norms, and working environment. While a candidate may possess the right skills and personality traits on paper, if they don’t mesh well with your company culture, it can lead to friction and dissatisfaction down the line. Look for candidates who share your company’s values and bring a diverse perspective that can enrich your team’s dynamics.

Tip #3: Create Personality-Focused Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are often seen as a laundry list of qualifications and responsibilities, but they can also be a powerful tool for attracting candidates with the right personality traits. Instead of focusing solely on technical skills and experience, consider incorporating language that speaks to the type of person you want.

Use phrases like “We’re seeking a team player who thrives in a collaborative environment” or “We value creativity and innovation.” This not only helps to attract candidates who are a good fit but also signals to them that your company prioritizes personality and culture fit.

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Tip #4: Use Personality Assessments

Personality assessments can help you evaluate a candidate’s personality traits objectively and consistently. These assessments usually involve standardized questionnaires or exercises designed to measure various dimensions of personality. Examples include: 

Tip #5: Implement Behavioral Interview Techniques

Behavioral interviews allow you to assess a candidate’s suitability based on past behavior. Instead of asking hypothetical questions like “How would you handle a difficult situation?” you ask questions that prompt candidates to reflect on their past experiences.

For example, you might ask a candidate to describe when they had to work under pressure to meet a tight deadline. Their response can give you insight into how they handle stress, manage their time, and collaborate with others.

Here are some sample questions to help you get started:

  • “Can you tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a significant change in your work environment? How did you handle it?”
  • “Describe a situation where you had to collaborate with a diverse team to achieve a common goal. What was your role, and what was the outcome?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you faced a challenging deadline. How did you prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively?”

Tip #6: Conduct Team Interviews

Involving other team members in the interview process can provide valuable insights into candidates’ potential fit within your organization. Team interviews let you gauge how candidates interact with different personalities and how they might contribute to your team’s dynamics. These can take various forms, such as panel interviews, group discussions, or meet-and-greets.

Tip #7: Emphasize Soft Skills

Although technical expertise is undoubtedly important, don’t underestimate the value of soft skills in hiring. Soft skills encompass a range of interpersonal and communication abilities, such as emotional intelligence, adaptability, and conflict resolution. 

These skills are closely tied to personality traits and are crucial in how well individuals collaborate, communicate, and thrive in a team environment. Pay attention to their soft skills and consider how they align with the role’s requirements and your organization’s culture.

Key Takeaway

Yes, skill is important but so is personality and, in some cases, more important. Because the reality is, who you hire affects the whole team. You have duty to your current employees to find someone who will compliment and strengthen the team and not destroy it. Remember…it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

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DISCLAIMER: The above material has been prepared for informational purposes only, containing opinions of the provider and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consider consulting tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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