Hiring The Right Person-ality


All employees come with personalities. Unlike skills, a personality can’t be taught and tweaking it, let’s just say, is difficult. It is far easier to hire the right person for the job than it is to fire a person who is not right for the position.

“It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!” is a line that originated, I believe, with Apple’s Head of Talent Dan Jacobs, but has been repeated by the likes of Sir Richard Branson. Sage words to keep in mind as we re-imagine the hiring framework.

General Hiring Framework: Re-envision the Job Description into Tasks & Traits And Away From Skills & Experience
Rather than start with a traditional job description that focuses on skills and experience, begin with a list of job tasks and a personality profile of a successful employee. Personality should be a focus of a hiring search because it is static and can’t be taught, followed by what the candidate enjoys/is good at doing, which is fixed as well, followed by his skills, expertise and experience, which a great to have but can be taught. Work with the HR team to:

  • List three to four major tasks to be performed in the existing or newly created job. In other words, note things the person must DO, rather than skills and experiences the person must HAVE. Remember to include with whom and for whom the tasks are to be performed.
  • Establish the amount of time typically devoted to the task each day, week, month and year.
  • List personality traits of successful employees vs. traits of unsuccessful employees in relationship to the job, company culture, team, and leadership.

Focus on Candidate’s Wants and Needs
In the interview, instead of focusing on what you need as an employer, ask the candidate what he needs, aside from money, to be happy as an employee. Ask him to discuss the type of roles or tasks he enjoys performing. “Tell me about what you really enjoyed in your last job(s). What responsibilities or roles you enjoyed or come naturally to you? What would you like to do more? What would you like to try? What do you find challenging? Why do you want to work here and do this job? Why do you believe it’s a good fit?”

Impact & Growth
In the interview, ask the candidate how he would like to contribute to the team/company. What do you needs from the team and leadership to be successful? What strengths will you bring and give examples of how those strengths have contributed to the success of previous jobs/projects? What other areas/tasks/roles/jobs, he would like to develop or take on? Listen for intangible characteristics such as decision-making, approach to problem solving, team building, and conversational style.

It is not unreasonable to consider modifying the job to best leverage the candidate’s skills.

Tackling “Hypothetical” Problems
Discuss “hypothetical” issues the company is facing and ask the candidate how he would approach and resolve them. Listen for cues in strategy, questions about information he would need, and how his personality drives his leadership and decisions. Consider questions from Lou Adler ‘s “The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired”:

“How would you solve this problem?”

“If you were to get this job, what would you need to know or do to ensure the product launch was handled successfully?”

“We need to launch a complete series of new business software applications over the next six months. This is under a very tight schedule with limited advertising resources. Can you tell me about some major accomplishment you’ve led that’s most comparable?”

“Based on the person’s response, get into a back-and-forth dialogue asking about how he/ she would put a plan together, determine resources needed, uncover potential problems, compare alternatives, decide which course of action is best, and prioritize activities.”

Background Check Should Include Personality Profile
In addition to quality of skills, expertise, and experience, the candidate’s personality should be understood and established as a talking point during hiring discussions. The HR team should develop a profile of the candidate’s personality based on conversations with the candidate as well as others who have supervised, worked with and for the candidate.

Is he a good guy, well liked by others? Driven and a stickler for details? Quiet and takes direction well? Quick learner? Tone deaf.

Specific Take Away
A few small adjustments in how candidates are evaluated can make a big difference in everyone’s overall satisfaction and performance.