It’s been a widely discussed topic – is it better hiring for personality or skill?
The overwhelming response – personality is more important. This is at least the result from Hyper Island’s “Tomorrow’s Most Wanted survey” of 500 professionals. 78% answered that personality is the most desirable quality in an employee, with only 39% answering skills as being the most important. But the question asked in this survey didn’t get the point.
The differences between knowledge, skills, abilities and personality
Traditionally, scholars of personnel psychology agree that performance is a function of motivation, knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics like personality (KSAOs), as well as situational constraints. Motivation asks the question, if people want to do something. KSAOs if people can do it. If people want and can do something, they need a chance to do so (that’s the situation). The main difference between knowledge, skills on the one side and abilities and personality on the other side is that former can be learned. In contrast, abilities and personality traits are very stable over time.
On LinkedIn, there are people, such as Richard Branson, stating that most skills can be learned and most people are able to learn the core fundamentals of a new position within the first three months in the position. This might be true for certain types of jobs such as those in retail and customer service, but for engineering positions or other R&D positions that require years of tertiary education, this isn’t the case. The main point is that abilities, skills and experience predict performance on tasks, but personality predicts contextual performance – in other words: how someone performs in a team, and you need people that fit into your team. (Find out how to assess cultural fit here.)
What does it mean to have a “good” personality anyway?
In general, there is no good or bad personality. For selection purposes, we should concentrate on competency dimensions (that rely partially on personality traits) that fit the requirements of a specific position. The same personality traits may or may not predict success for different professions. One example that workforce universe found a recent study: for a leadership or management position, consciousness is related to being efficient in the military. In business, there was no effect at all. Would it make sense if accountants needed to have the same traits as art directors for a media agency?
Assess the fit already in pre-screening
So first, it is essential to have a clear competence profile or model. Next, it may be wise to screen for the “softer” parts like the “harder” parts. Why wait until the face-to-face interview to assess all candidates’ competencies? Too often, preselection is exclusively done by skills and those that may be the perfect fit for the job are falsely eliminated too early. Simply switching your preselection method to video interviewing instead can help reduce this. Using this method, you are able to screen first your candidates by competencies that actually are needed for a position. Another added bonus is that you save time and money, as you can screen more candidates faster, and only invite those that are suitable to a personal interview.