Should You Be Hiring for Personality versus Skills?

Angela McDonald • 29/07/2016

Should You Be Hiring for Personality versus Skills?

It’s an ongoing discussion in business circles – and not just in HR. Should you prioritise personality or skill when you make a new hire? Everyone from famous entrepreneurs to the creators of hiring tests has an idea of what you should prioritise.

When you outsource, you might think that you can pass over this dilemma. What matters personality when your employee is working in another country?
Unfortunately, that’s completely wrong. Even at a distance you still have to work in a partnership with your remote employee.
And even more crucially, if you are building an offshore team, that team needs to be able to work together. Just because you personally are not working directly with a difficult employee, doesn’t mean that other members of your staff aren’t. Someone skilled but impossible to work with can become toxic for your company, even from offshore.

Sir Richard Branson said in a post on the matter:”In my eyes, personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can’t train a personality.”

Obviously, you are going to eliminate the extremes. Someone who clearly doesn’t have the skills to do the job, and someone who comes off as extremely abrasive are both not going to get the job.

But when you come down to two or three candidates, is it better to hire the one who you think will fit in better, or the one who has more of the skills you’re looking for?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you make the decision.

The ability to learn is a skill

It’s something of a mantra to the proponents of personality-based hiring. You can teach skills; you can’t teach personality. But that’s not quite true, and it’s not the end of the story. Some people will learn skills at a much faster rate than others. You don’t want to be teaching the same things over and over because your new employee – even though they may be the nicest, most enthusiastic person – just can’t get the hang of what you’re trying to show them.

This is particularly true in the tech industry where the only constant is change. The ability to learn new ways of working is vital to keeping up.
Looking at the skills your potential employee already has gives you an insight into the potential the employee has to learn. This goes double for self-taught skills – these show both the ability and the drive to learn new things.

Personality goes beyond just whether the employee seems like they can work with others

Enthusiasm, creativity, integrity, analytical capabilities, empathy, interpersonal abilities, EQ… These are all facets of personality which could affect the employee’s success in the role.
And which facets are important will change depending on the role you are hiring for, your company culture, the kind of team they will work in, and any other number of factors.

A lot of employers place significant weight on whether their potential hire seems like a confident person. While this is a reasonable quality to want in your workers, it often means introverts and those who are naturally softly-spoken are passed over. Being outgoing and being confident are not the same thing. Indeed, reckless confidence can be actively harmful in some cases.

 

Always hiring for personality is no silver bullet to avoiding potential employee difficulties – but neither is always hiring for skill. Striving to have a good mix of both in not only a single employee, but also in your remote team as a whole, is what will give your business the most benefit.

Hiring through Deployed, we’ll assess potential offshore employees for the characteristics you think are important and make sure that those who reach the interview stage have the qualities your business is looking for.