Why Hiring Based on Personality is Better than Hiring for Skills

There has never before been an employment environment that has favored skill-based labor as much as the current one.

Fifty years ago, the average adult could get a low-skill job that would train them on-site. Today, it’s almost impossible to find a job listing that doesn’t require familiarity with at least one suite of software tools, and that doesn’t even account for the increase in technical jobs like engineers and technicians. Considering the current job climate, it might seem counterintuitive to hear that hiring for personality has never been more critical.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

As Herb Kelleher, one of the co-founders of US-based Southwest Airlines famously said, “hire for attitude, train for skill.” This ideology follows the concept that attitude is what contributes to making a successful employee. For many entry-level jobs, skills can be trained on-site. Employers in this position can look for candidates that match their company’s core values, drive, and find a match there.

But while jobs that require no technical skills or education have seen a precipitous decline, so have the number of jobs that require a static skill set that will endure for an entire career. Gone are the days when a programmer could learn Python, C++, or Java and expect to live off that knowledge indefinitely; so are the days when a doctor or nurse could expect their medical-school education to be sufficient for their entire career.

Should You Hire for Personality or Skill?

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see employers who have failed to adapt their hiring practices to the new world of continuing education. Rather than any particular skill set, this new environment favors the adaptive and curious mind. At its most basic level, a skill set is a snapshot of a job candidate’s current abilities—but that’s no longer what’s needed. Hiring based on personality means that the skills that your potential hires have today will almost certainly not be the skills that they need five years down the line. It’s likely that it won’t even be the skill set that they need a year from now. Some companies are even encouraging employee training programs to happen on a weekly basis. Hiring by skill set is myopic; what is needed is a holistic view. Enter hiring by personality.

How to Hire by Personality

Hiring based on personality is a much more effective way to ensure that your employees will be a good fit, both when they join your team and well into the future. However, employers need to be careful. All too often, the decision that personality is more important than skills when hiring employees can be used as an excuse to be lazy. Hiring by personality is not the same as hiring the candidate you get along with best. It’s also not the same as going with your gut.

The decision to hire based on personality is important, but even more important is to do it the right way. When bringing on new talent, using hiring strategies might help make it more efficient. Consider these three different steps to help make hiring based on personality more easy: establish the job criteria, create a rubric to measure each candidate, and be evidence-based.

Establish Job Criteria

As mentioned earlier, the decision to hire by personality is frequently used as an excuse to hire the candidate who the hiring manager gets along with best. You can avoid this tendency by determining the personality criteria that you’re seeking. Fit with your team can be one of those criteria, but that is a different attribute than “gets along well with the hiring manager.”

When hiring new talent, make sure you have criteria to be established before the interview process begins. If criteria are established after the fact, they are more likely to be nothing more than a rationalization for a preconceived bias.

2) Create an Objective Rubric

Making an objective, quantitative, case for which candidates possess the personality attributes you need is essential. This means creating a rubric that multiple interviewers can use to score candidates. Rubrics force a certain level of objectivity and help interviewers see beyond their subjective likes and dislikes, like a customized personality test for employees.

Objectivity also means looking to external sources of information. An interview is a great resource for learning more about a candidate. At the same time, it’s only one measurement and not a complete one. External references should also be utilized.

3) Look for Evidence of Success

This brings us to our third point: seek evidence. While interviews can be very helpful, it’s important to remember that people often embellish the truth, twist facts, and sometimes even outright lie during interviews. Interviews should look at hard evidence whenever possible. That means assessing the candidate’s track record, including education, projects, accomplishments, and yes, skills. This is where we come full circle.

Skills are very important to evaluate in an interview—but not as the end goal. Skills tell you a great deal about a potential hire’s personality. For example, someone may tell you that he or she has a passion for technology and is a quick study, but if that person has no technical certifications, it’s unlikely that this is the case.

Can Personality Tests be Used for Hiring?

Some companies might consider using a personality test for hiring. They have been used to help employers decide whether a potential employee is suitable for the job, how they will fit into the team and company, and how they work and operate.

Hiring a new employee is an important decision. With more information provided to you, the more it can help your decision. Personality tests highlight a person’s motivation, thought process, mannerisms, communication style, and behavior. These attributes matter when you’re adding new members to the team.

While there are a lot of variations of personality tests out there, the most common are:

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
  • Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI)
  • DiSC assessment
  • Caliper Profile

When employers hire by personality (and are intentional, objective, and evidence-based in that process), they are most likely to get candidates who not only meet their present needs but will be able to grow and add value to the company over time.

Related Services:

About the Author

CMOE

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.