November 10, 2023

Balancing Skills and Personality in the Hiring Process

You want to hire the best person for the job.

The obvious first step is to scan candidates’ resumes for evidence of their hard skills, right? Then comes the interview, which serves as an opportunity to get to know the candidates, to try to gain a window into their respective personalities, with the end goal of determining how well they will “fit in”. Then, it is decision time.

According to an extraordinarily revealing study conducted recently, personality trumps skill sets during the hiring process most of the time.

Here’s what the results looked like. Seventy-eight percent of respondents chose "personality" as the quality they most desired in employees. “Cultural alignment” was next; "skill-set,” last. As for the personality traits employers most value, they include—in descending order—“drive”, “creativity”, and “open-mindedness”.

These results may come as a surprise, particularly as they relate to the tech industry, in which skills cannot be overlooked entirely. The conclusion was that personality matters more than skills when vetting job candidates.

Richard Branson, founder of the conglomerate Virgin Group, agrees. Here’s what Branson had to say about the topic in an article he wrote that appeared on LinkedIn: “The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring, and love helping others, you are on to a winner.”

News and recent events about the employer

It is always a good idea to be knowledgeable about the company’s latest news and updates. Most companies have a page on their website dedicated to press releases and events. This is a great source for you to find out information regarding the company’s latest news and updates.

Hiring: A balancing act

Most if not all employers strive to hire people whose personalities translate into team players who are driven and passionate about their work. However, not all employees can have the same personality or clashes and potentially unhealthy competition will ensue.

Then there’s the skill piece. Yes, some skills can indeed be taught. But it’s downright dangerous or just plain poor judgment to hire someone to be, say, a computer programmer if he or she has zero experience, skills, or natural inclination toward programming, or to hire a writer who has all the drive in the world to become a writer—but no idea how to formulate a simple sentence.

No one ever said hiring was easy. Making good hiring choices involves time, patience, introspection, and external input. Even then, what seemed like the perfect candidate can sometimes turn out to be a nightmare employee. But when you put the effort into getting to know a candidate’s personality and skill set before making an offer, and balancing these two competing priorities based on your company’s needs, chances are you’ll come up with a winner.

Experience: a strong foundation for success

Much like skill, experience functions as one of the most significant variables in the recruitment decision-making process. In mission-critical roles that require a threshold level of skill and experience to ascertain a candidate's suitability, accumulated experience may serve as the most important factor. For example, it would be ill-advised to rely on factors like fit and personality rather than verifiable experience when filling managerial positions, or when staffing technical kitchen roles.

So, should you hire for skills or personality?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. When you’re faced with a tough hiring decision between two candidates, you’re going to have to make the best choice for your company. The right choice depends on several different factors. Are you going to hire someone with all the degrees, certifications, book smarts, and portfolios you could ever want OR are you going to judge a job candidate on their human attributes like attitude, values, people skills, and personality? It’s a tough situation to be in.

There are three key questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s better for your company?

  2. What’s better for your team?

  3. What does the job require?

Ultimately, it is your decision whether you are going to hire for skills or personality. Make the best choice for your company based on the person, the job, and the role. There are no clear-cut answers here. It just depends on the situation.

Find the right balance, and you’ll boost your company’s bottom line.


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