Why Traits Matter More Than Skills When Hiring Staff


Why Traits Matter More Than Skills When Hiring Staff - Eric Sachs SEO

When your business reaches the point where it’s time to bring on employees, there’s a certain happiness, accompanied by some nervousness. You want to bring on people who share your vision, and whom you can trust to take care of your baby when you’re not there. Hiring an employee can be a costly endeavor. If you hire someone who doesn’t stick around, or doesn’t perform the way they’re expected, you’re back at square one looking for another candidate. That’s why the decision to hire someone shouldn’t be taken lightly.

While skills matter, skills can be taught. Personality traits, on the other hand, cannot be taught. Whether you’re hiring one person or 50, and whether those people will work directly together or not, your goal as a business owner is to foster a healthy company culture. That’s why focusing on the personality traits, rather than skills matters. When you have that ideal company culture, you have a team of people who are happy to be working for you. When your employees are happy – your customers are treated better, and when your customers are happy, your bottom line will show it.

Seven years ago I hired my first Sachs Marketing Group employee, who’s still with us today. One of my goals was to create a casual work environment – no dress code, bagel Fridays, snacks and coffee in the office, and a personalized foosball table. I wholeheartedly believe the cool company culture I’ve created means people focus less on “office politics” and more on getting the job done.


Skills are Teachable

What you know changes from day to day, and though people can change, it’s not likely they will. Who you are at your core doesn’t fluctuate much – so if you’ve got someone who’s rude and has an issue with authority –  even if they are highly qualified in terms of experience and skill, they probably won’t be the better hire in the end.

Studies show while people can create new habits, it’s incredibly difficult to change a core personality trait, such as introversion or extroversion. This means, even if you have a highly qualified employee with lots of experience who does a good job at the skills required – they can still fail at your company because they don’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. It’s difficult for an extrovert to succeed in a culture of introverts – even though they’re good at the skills they know. The same can be said of an introvert who’s asked to excel in a crowd of extroverts. When these core traits don’t mesh, the employee may begin to feel isolated and alone, which could negatively affect their performance.

Sure, you may have to spend time (and money) teaching skills to the ideal candidate who fits the personality profile to a tee. But, wouldn’t it be worth it to know you’ve got someone who will feel right at home with your company, and know they’ll have a better shot at getting along with their coworkers? All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. One unhappy employee could easily impact morale, which has a way of affecting everything – down to your profit margins.


You Won’t Find It If You’re Not Looking For It

Before you can hire someone based on personality traits, you must first know and understand the traits you are looking for. The Targeted Selection hiring methodology is a popular one because it’s based on identifying the personal characteristics of people who are already thriving, and then ire people like them.

With this model, your company seeks to understand their best performers, by finding their target behaviors and attitudes. Then, they develop interview questions to help find people with those attributes. A key thing to remember here is these questions need to be about achievements and facts. Managers are not psychologists, so questions geared toward psychoanalysis should be avoided. If you’re asking theoretical questions, you won’t get useful data to help you find the employees you’re looking for.

For example, if you’re building a company culture based on flexibility, you could ask the candidate to tell you about the last time they broke the rules. If you have someone tell you they’ve never broken the rules – they’re either telling you this because they think it’s what you want to hear – or because they are so rigid and by the book that it would be nearly impossible for them to display the kind of flexibility you’re looking to include in your company culture. You can of course, go against your gut and hire them anyway, but if you do – don’t be surprised when they are not as flexible as you need them to be.


Standard Interviews Aren’t Effective

The best way to see how someone will do in your company is to watch how they work.The problem with this is, most industries don’t use this approach with their interviews, because it’s just not necessarily practical.

For others, like the culinary industry, it’s standard practice to have what’s known as a stage, where after a short interview, the applicant will come and work in the actual kitchen. Depending on the nature of the job and the restaurant, the stage may last a couple of hours, an entire shift, or several shifts. And it may or may not be a paid engagement. It’s an accepted practice, simply because you don’t know how well a line cook will be able to perform on the line – until you see him or her do it. And if you can’t see how they work until you throw them out there, you could see your restaurant go down hill – after you’ve made the hire.

In certain industries, it’s possible for management to go around to other job sites and look at the way the workers are performing. It’s how sports recruiters identify people they want to bring from high school to college teams on scholarship, and from college to professional league teams.

So, what about the industries where an actual on-the-job type trial just won’t work? That’s where simulation comes in.

Amazon uses simulation in their application process for customer service representatives. It also serves as a small amount of training for what those agents should do on the job, if hired. They use sample calls to demonstrate how it should be done, and give the applicant a certain amount of time to respond – knowing they have the information they need to complete the call correctly.

Though job simulations can help employers see how a candidate is likely to perform on the job, and can help applicants see whether or not they’d really enjoy the work in a fair way, they do come with drawbacks. Job simulations are time-consuming and expensive to development. You must have a space to conduct the simulation, as well as people to rate the simulation performance, and the necessary scheduling program that allows candidates ample time to complete the simulation.

Recruiting Efforts Matter

You cannot hire someone who doesn’t apply for your job. But, this is definitely a case where quality matters more than quantity. How can you ensure your business follows this philosophy? Rather than investing time and money into countless random job boards, start close to home. Talk to your current staff and ask them if there’s anyone who they’d be interested in referring to the company.

The reason for this approach? Generally speaking, people tend to spend time with people who are similar to them. If a person is thriving at your company, there’s a good chance they’ll know someone else who could also thrive there.

Many companies have employee referral programs in place, where if someone they recommend to the company gets hired to fill a vacancy, they get some kind of bonus. Sometimes, it’s a monetary bonus, while others it’s another kind of reward – but this depends on the terms of the program. Studies show referred employees are more satisfied with their jobs compared to jobs they’d previously had where they were not referred. And, they tend to work at a company longer – more than five years.  As they work with the company longer, their satisfaction with how and where they fit in the company culture and their ability to fulfill their job requirements tends to increase.

Enterprise Rent a Car posts a leaderboard to show what regions are referring the most candidates, to create a fun, healthy competition between branch locations. This results in a higher number of referred candidates.

While most would think the size of the referral bonus would directly affect the number of referrals, this doesn’t seem to be the case. When GoDaddy cut their referral bonus from $3,000 to $1,000, they saw an increase in referral volume. What this tells us is people recommend others for job vacancies because they’re happy and want to bring them on board, not because they’re concerned about the reward they’ll get if their referral is hired.

Another option, if you have the available staff on hand do take this route, is to promote from within. Employees who know there are opportunities for advancement are much more likely to stick with the company than people who think there’s nowhere for them to go from here. It’s less expensive to hire from within than to recruit an outside employee. It helps employees show loyalty, and teaches them that you value it. It also helps foster a seamless transition from one set of duties to the next.

Statistically, external hires are paid 18% to 20% more, and have higher exit rates. If they do manage to stay with your company longer than two years, though, they tend to get promoted faster than those who are promoted internally.

The Great Balancing Act

Personality matters when hiring, but it’s not the only thing you should base your decisions on. While skills are teachable – you can easily have two people who share the core personality traits you’re looking for, and have one be more qualified than the other.

Robert Jerjavec, CEO and founder of the Herjavec Group and investor on the ABC series Shark Tank says, “I’ve hired for the person, for the job, as a favor – I’ve done it all – but I can tell you that at the end of the day, it’s a balancing act to ensure you get the right mix of passion, drive, expertise, talent, and teamwork that will help your corporate environment flourish.”

You’re not going to get every hire right from the start – some people will stay with you for a while, and others will leave. Don’t beat yourself up if someone you thought would stay for a long time decides to leave. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way you expect, and that’s okay.

What kind of experience do you have hiring employees for your company? What tips and tricks would you say helps makes the process easier? Share in the comments below.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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