Hiring For Personality (And Why More Of Us Should)

May 11, 2016

I learned of a study recently in which over 500 business leaders were asked what set great employees apart. The biggest surprise? Of all surveyed, 78% of those leaders said that personality set the individual apart – 78%! Even more so than cultural fit and skills!

However, the more we think about it, the more we shouldn’t be entirely surprised by how essential personality is as a key component to success. Consider how important it is for many of your employees to be optimistic rather than an army of pessimists, particularly if you’re a leader striving to paint a vision of the future. You need to have optimistic people who are willing to believe in that vision and get on board with it, right?

Can A Candidate Change To Fit The Culture? Should They? One of the most interesting aspects of hiring for personality is that we don’t always know what we can and can’t change in a person. From the candidate’s perspective, he or she may ask themselves, “Should I try to change my personality to fit the culture of a business better? Or should I aim to find a culture that already fits who I naturally am now?”

To find the answer to that question, I’m reminded of when I took a DISC Assessment, which is typically used to measure behaviors in terms of how you like to communicate, manage, work in general and more.

On one hand, the report will show you how you naturally operate without any influence of your environment – essentially, who you really are. On the other hand, it will also reveal the adapted style that you tend to take on to meet the demands of the environment.

Both sides of the equation are measured, but you have to really start with what comes naturally to you – and personality plays a big part in that.

Nurturing Biggest Strengths Rather Than Fixing All Weaknesses At GForce, we often engage the talent we work with using an exercise called StrengthsFinder. This concept is very different than the typical assessment that might show where someone is deficient in a skill and needs improvement. Instead, we give people projects and initiatives that fit their natural strengths. Do we instantly know what these strengths are right away? No. However, that’s the beauty of the journey in finding one’s natural strengths in business.

Many up-and-coming companies these days will take a similar approach, looking for the person’s strengths and then exploiting those strengths within the best role for them. We hear variations on this theme all the time – “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” Or“Hire the best athlete, not the best resume.” The idea is that it’s better to look beyond just the job description and look to someone who can function well in many different scenarios they can be trained for.

Do they have self-discipline? Are they enthusiastic and generally happy? Are they eager to learn? Do they have determination and drive? More companies than ever are valuing the versatility of someone who displays these qualities.

Conversely, let’s take a look at the kind of organization that’s continuously rigid about the role that needs to be filled and the precise manner in which the job has to be done. Sure, some people who have the personality for that like being put in that tight of a box. However, for many others who don’t have the personality for such rigidity, that kind of job won’t be a very good fit. They won’t feel fulfilled or content. Even if they’re somehow hired, it’s highly unlikely they’ll stay for the long-term.

How Much Can A Personality Match Influence The Right Hire? This is what company hiring managers are challenged with all the time: Knowing the amount of time and money invested in bringing talent aboard, how can they get it right the first time and cut down on turnover?

There are no guarantees, of course. Nobody can say they’ve got the magic formula for finding a perfect match of candidate and culture. And no matter how many positive behaviors the person displays, it can’t make up for glaring weaknesses. For example, when a candidate is being considered for a Sales position, we can’t exactly ignore it if they’re clearly a terrible salesperson.

That said, we do know that having the right attitude, a strong work ethic and an eagerness to learn quickly may at least make for a very good foundation when we’re evaluating whether someone is a fit or not. Generally speaking, we find that when candidates work more on enhancing their strengths rather than trying to address every last weakness, they’ll go farther.

Weaknesses Are Like New Year’s Resolutions What do we mean by that? Like a New Year’s Resolution, you know you have to address weaknesses but having the energy to do can be daunting. Think about the typical New Year’s Resolution of losing weight. Sure, you may know you have to lose some weight, but let’s face it – it’s not easy for many of us to be consistently motivated to exercise some days.

However, those areas that are compelling to you will feel more natural. You’ll not only be more drawn to them, but you’ll be more likely to continue to follow through with your advancement in those areas.

Among hiring managers, an interesting side effect can occur when you place a higher value on positive elements of personality – you find yourself thinking about more than just the role in front of you that needs to be filled. You view the candidate through a longer-term lens and consider the impact they may have in the company years from now. Can you picture them growing with the company, taking on more responsibility and earning the trust of managers along the way?

Ready To Be An Archaeologist? Good. Because when you’re in a hiring position, you’re going to need to keep digging and digging for the best qualities you’re looking for in your next candidate. After all, those qualities may not always be as obvious as you’d like.

For example, let’s say that yours is an environment where entrepreneurialism and determination in the face of challenges is highly valued. You can’t tell for certain from a resume whether or not the candidate in front of you has those qualities. But then you have a conversation with him and your perceptions begin to change. You probe a little deeper and discover that when he was 14 years old, he started a window washing company with his cousin. One of them had a driver’s license and the other had an extension ladder, so they found a way to work together in order to make money during the summer. These days, he buys and rehabs houses in his spare time.

It’s easy to see that there’s a pattern here. He’s got a certain quality of drive and a little extra spark – there’s an entrepreneurial-like feeling to him. It’s funny how some of these qualities can be “baked in” from a young age and stay with a person over time – often their entire life, in fact.

Looks like a little personality can go an awfully long way.

How have the best parts of your personality helped you throughout your career? Have you had success hiring someone based on strong behaviors that you trained up for skill? We love hearing stories like this, so please feel free to share in the comments below!