Talent Acquisition

Should You Hire for Personality or Skill?

Pop quiz, hotshot. You have two candidates coming in today for an interview. One is fairly skilled with solid experience, but has an attitude that is a little suspect. The other candidate, by all accounts, is warm and friendly but has less experience and accomplishments.

Which do you hire?

The answer, of course, is “it depends.” Sorry for the letdown, but it really is true…and you’ll see why in a minute.

But first, let’s back up a second. What tools are you using to help evaluate these two candidates? There are several types of pre-employment assessments that are useful in the modern recruiter’s toolbox. A huge percentage of the Fortune 500 utilize one or more of the following in their Talent Acquisition efforts:

  • Behavioral/Personality tests – Can assess whether a person has certain traits, perspective, is a positive vs. negative person, or predict the likelihood that an individual will react a certain way in specific situations.
  • Emotional Intelligence/Psychological tests – An emotional intelligence test can help determine a person’s ability to understand his/her own emotions, as well as others’.
  • Cognitive tests – Cognitive tests typically measure a degree of intelligence, such as reasoning, memory, mathematics or reading comprehension.
  • Skill-based tests – Skill-based tests are purely focused on determining whether an individual has the very specific skills needed to perform a particular job.

So, why are these tools important (and increasingly popular)? Simple. Finding the right talent is getting harder, even with the availability of more tools than ever before. Job seekers have more options, too, and culture and fit are increasingly important to both the job seeker and the employer.

So, back to our two candidates waiting in your lobby. Remember when I said the answer of whom you hire “depends?” Well, here are the two factors it depends on.

  1. What type of company do you have?
    1. Option 1: A company with strong mentoring/management that can take the time to nurture and teach.
    2. Option 2: A fast-paced company that needs new hires to step in immediately and perform the task at hand. This company’s model is much more entrepreneurial than Option 1.
  2. What’s the nature of the job?
    1. Option 1: Customer-facing, or heavily involved with the community and/or people in some capacity. Needs to foster relationships with a warm smile, friendly disposition and strong team work.
    2. Option 2: Relationships are less important than the quality of the work. Could be an individual contributor or someone behind the scenes.

If you’ve chosen Option 1 both times, then hire for attitude and train the skill. The personality is more important than the candidate’s hard skills or years of education.

Why? Two primary reasons:

  1. Customer service is critical to your business
  2. Your employees are your employer brand

Regarding customer service, check out these stats (taken from OneReach):

  • By the year 2020, customer service will beat out price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Walker Info)
  • If customers have a “very good” or “excellent” service experience, 97% of them are “very” or “extremely” likely to tell friends and family about it. (Survey Monkey)
  • 89% of customers will start doing business with a competitor after a negative service experience. (VPI Corp)

When was the last time you had a terrible customer service experience, but said “well, at least the sales person went to a good school”? Right. It doesn’t happen, because it doesn’t matter.

And, to the second point, remember that you don’t control your brand anymore (consumer or employer). Your employees do. They are your front-line brand ambassadors. Their interactions with customers reflect your culture, your values and the way you do business. And with the ever-growing popularity of review sites, don’t you want those interactions to be positive?

So, it’s absolutely critical to hire for attitude.

How? Implement one of the first two tests listed above (behavioral/emotional intelligence), and score the individual’s innate, inner workings. (Don’t know where to start? Take a look at some of these: Myers-Briggs, Caliper Profile, StrengthsFinder, DiSC and The Predictive Index.)

Now, please understand, I am NOT suggesting that you should turn off your brain and let these tests do all the work for you. They are another tool in your satchel as you play Sherlock Holmes and investigate the whether the candidate is hirable. Use the candidate’s test results in your interview. Did the test show that your candidate prefers a team environment vs autonomous work? Dig into that in the interview and make sure it matches with your work environment. Use the assessments to enhance your brain and your trained eye for talent, not replace it.

But, it doesn’t just stop at the point of hire, either. Make sure to evaluate your new hires as they join your team. Touch base – frequently – with your company’s managers during onboarding, the first week on the job, the first 90 days, etc. and calibrate your expectations against the reality of how she is performing. Has he been a good fit? No? Adjust your earlier approach and look to better match the personality assessments to the real requirements of the job.

It’s a bit of a see-saw to find the right balance of personality, attitude, skills and ability, but if you have any kind of customer-facing role, it’s crucial to hire for attitude and train the skill.

[Featured image: Shutterstock]

By Adam Glassman

With a depth of experience in Recruitment Marketing, Employer Branding, Social and Digital Recruitment Strategies, Adam Glassman is on a mission to transform Talent Acquisition. Connect with him on LinkedIn and join the battle.