Experience or personality: which should you hire for?

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Should you hire for experience or personality or skills? Which is most important when recruiting? When recruiting new staff, you’d be forgiven for admitting your main focus is on how candidates look on paper. Hard skills, experience and career history clearly count for a lot.

But in your quest for the ‘perfect candidate’, are you missing out on attributes that could work far better? Maybe not just for your team, but for your business as a whole?

For the shoe repair and key-cutting business Timpson, it’s an easy choice. The chairman, Sir John Timpson, has admitted this. Unless they’re recruiting for specialist roles in finance or IT, they ‘really don’t bother about CVs or qualifications. The only thing that matters is personality.’

And when business leaders in the communication and technology sectors participated in a 2013 survey the results were that ‘personality’ was the quality they most looked for in potential employees. For them, ‘cultural alignment’ came next while surprisingly, ‘skill set’ came last.

Of course, it would be a bad idea to hire someone who doesn’t have any of the skills and experience needed to do the job. And for specialist or senior roles it’s clearly not a viable strategy. As an employment business, we’d also argue for the need for CVs. And we most certainly value qualifications. But could paying as much attention to a candidate’s personality as their skills help you find some hidden gems in the talent pile?

Fit is crucial 

Company culture plays an increasingly crucial role in attracting and retaining staff. So it makes sense that it’s important to find someone who’s the ‘right fit’ for a happy, productive and cohesive workforce.

After all, you might recruit someone who ticks all the boxes when it comes to skills and experience. But once they start work, it quickly becomes obvious that they just don’t get on with other people in their team.

Smart employers know that having shared values and beliefs is one of the crucial ways teams perform well. And even someone with the potential to make a great contribution to a business won’t feel happy or comfortable working somewhere that turns out not to be right for them.

Customer-facing roles 

Clearly, the right disposition is crucial for roles that involve interacting with clients or the public at large. That doesn’t just mean having a positive attitude and ability to work as a team player. It’s about being able to deal with obstacles and tricky feedback like a pro. And it also means leaving every customer feeling positive about the experience they’ve just had.

In those cases, it’s a reasonable idea to hire for personality. And to acknowledge the person will need extra training or support to overcome a lack of experience and get their skills up. That’s why when we get to know candidates at HR GO, we focus as much on what they’re like and what motivates them as the achievement bullet points on their CVs.

It’s also why we often place real value on video interviewing for employers. This allows us to find out more about candidates in a pre-interview stage. Qualities that otherwise wouldn’t come across on paper can really shine through. We’ve experienced cases where a personal quality a candidate has makes their lack of experience irrelevant.

Getting the balance right 

Well-matched candidates turn into happy members of the team. And hopefully they stay an asset to your business for years to come.

That’s why we feel personality can be as vital as experience when it comes to landing a magic mix of passion, drive, teamwork, skills and expertise. Finding the right balance might mean you should be a little more open minded when you’re recruiting,. And the results could be that you’re on to a winner.

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