Employers should care more about personality than skills

The most successful businesses are increasingly realising that people’s personal and cultural qualities should be at the forefront of HR decisions.

The knock-on effects of hiring creative, adaptable and motivated workers is immeasurable. From increased productivity to lower staff turnover and better, more collaborative working environments, building a team of people with the right mind-set can be the difference between success and failure, mediocrity and magnificence.

Why a smile can go further than a skill

Jason Stirman, an influential Silicon Valley entrepreneur, says you should only hire people you “wouldn’t mind getting stuck in an airport with”. Similarly, Richard Branson has gone on record saying that the first thing to look for in a hire is a personality that fits “the company culture”.  

Stirman argues that hiring on skills over cultural fit is the worst type of hire there is, warning that a highly skilled person who becomes embedded into an organisation’s’ processes and structure is very difficult to remove if (or more likely when) cultural clashes become overwhelming and damaging to the firm.  

This attitude from business leaders is supported by our own recent research at Hyper Island. In our ‘Tomorrow’s Most Wanted’ survey we canvassed 500 business leaders across the globe to determine what attributes leading organisations are looking for to take their business forwards. Some 78 per cent of them rated personality as the most desirable quality when recruiting. Only 39 per cent gave skillset the top rating.

This school of thought makes even more sense when one considers the fact that technology changes the tools and platforms we use so rapidly that technical skills have to be constantly relearnt, developed or adapted anyway. It’s inevitable, for example, that the ability to use a smartphone will be as useful to future generations as the ability to use a fax is to today’s youngsters.

How to get the personal fit

Research from Google relating to recruitment suggests that after about three years of leaving college an individual’s academic results have little relevance to predicting how they will perform in a job. So simply evaluating skill sets and achievements on a CV alone will not help predict an employee’s worth.

Unilever, in the top five global list of ‘most-in-demand’ employers according to LinkedIn, place huge emphasis on potential recruits’ individual or personal perspectives. Paul Maxin, Global Resourcing Director at Unilever says employees need to demonstrate they share the values of the organisation if they are to be a fit.

Additionally, large numbers of firms are now favouring ‘behavioural’ interviews where people are questioned about their direct experience and approach to solving complex problems. Believing this gives a better sense of personal qualities and potential, as well as giving an insight into their thought process and areas of work they find challenging.

These developments and attitudes are reflective of a growing working culture where companies are placing emphasis on employees who are driven, able collaborators, quick to adapt to technological and social changes and are keen problem solvers. All of these traits are, of course, personality based. Technical skill sets are an added bonus that can enhance a person’s ability to thrive in a role.

Getting personal means getting business right

The world of business is constantly evolving and the technical skills needed to operate successfully in it are constantly changing too. What never changes is the need for the open, creative and driven people with a passion for learning.

Organisations need people who are adaptable to change and can move smoothly and confidently within a changing landscape. Who can – and crucially want to – embrace lifelong learning. Age or technical ability need not a barrier.

By focusing on the personal aspects when you hire you can ensure you are constructing a company with a culture that will bring out the best in your employees and be a place people want to work at and do business with. There can be no better building block for success.

David McCall is UK managing director at Hyper Island.

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