Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hire for Personality, Train for Skill

Last month, I attended my oldest son’s graduate school commencement. The keynote speaker gave a fabulous speech about teamwork in the global economy and the need to have personality traits which naturally lend themselves to building relationships. 

Personality is something that cannot be taught - it’s inherent to each unique person. Job skills, however, can be taught, molded and polished to facilitate the job in which the person is placed. This is why it is so important to hire for personality and train for skill.

Besides the need to build relationships and network with an ever-shrinking global community, it’s important to respect the people with whom you work. A new hire could have the best-honed skills in your business but if mutual respect is lacking, your workplace will suffer.

So how do we find those with the great personalities and potential to excel in the skill department? First, pay attention to the flow of conversation in the interview. If your candidate is pleasant, smiling, maintaining eye contact and picking up jokes, she might be a great addition to your team. Furthermore, know the limits to the position for which you are hiring; some positions do require skill above personality.

Look at the skills upon which your candidate can build. Obviously, you don’t want to hire someone with no skills relating to your field, but there are some basics which translate to any business. For example, in customer service, a great and friendly personality is a must. In sales, a great personality can get you in the door but knowledge of the industry and selling skills are what makes for success.

According to, the five most hirable skills (and for the most part, inherent to personality and temperament) are: confidence; strong communication; concentrated purpose (goals); definitive passion; eagerness to learn. Being teachable is one of the greatest aspects of personality a candidate can have and it relates directly to the eagerness to learn.

Of course, there are certain jobs for which training for skill are not applicable (think doctor, dentist, marine…).

But for the most part, look for an innate sense of leadership and discipline. Provide resources which encourage new hires (and old) to improve themselves like lectures, books, assignments.

There are those whose personality may not affect their jobs. We have an amazing auditor who, in his interview, admitted that he was a complete nerd. First of all, the honesty was refreshing. Second, his attention to detail, focus and work ethic make him one of our best auditors.

So, next time you are reviewing candidates, pay attention to those with amiable and courteous personalities. Match them with a great leader already within your company and train for the skills to be successful. The other advantage to this is that you can mold this new employee to your way of working and thinking, making your business cohesive and more successful.