There are only a few organizations that truly need to hire based on skill alone. The New York Yankees, for example. Major movie studios, definitely. Modeling agencies would be another one. It’s tough to win a World Series, an Oscar or land a major ad campaign with someone who doesn’t have the necessary set of skills to get there.
But for nearly every other type of business, a candidate’s skills are important, but they’re not the be all, end all. Especially when you consider the fact that, globally, 38 percent of employers had difficulty filling jobs last year due to a lack of technical competencies, according to ManPowerGroup’s 2015 Talent Shortage Survey.
It may seem counterintuitive to hear that a hiring manager or a recruiter shouldn’t zero in on an applicant’s skill level as they look to fill a role. But there are a number of reasons why focusing on a person’s skill set alone becomes dangerous. These include:
You can change a person’s skills, but you can’t change who they are.
It’s terrific if a new employee shows up on their first day of work fully equipped to do their job perfectly. However, it’s equally important that they mesh well with their new colleagues.
If you hire for skill and don’t weigh personality type or character, you could end up with the most technically talented new hire you’ve ever had, but also the one who creates the most tension in the office. It’s much easier to teach skills than it is to teach the ability to get along well with others. Consider both factors when making a hiring decision.
Skilled talent may also have learned a few bad habits along the way.
Companies within the same field can operate quite differently from one another. If you have an employee who was doing a job with Company X for years, they may come to Company Y with plenty of experience. However, they may have also picked up some habits at Company X that the managers at Company Y don’t love.
Because these patterns are so ingrained in their daily work habits, it can be hard to retrain this employee and break them of these problematic patterns. It’s easier to teach someone a skill when they’ve got a clean slate.
Technical abilities don’t always translate to passion for the job.
An employee might be great at what they do, but in no way does this mean that they love it. Those who lack a real passion for the job can end up causing the company (and the morale within that company) to suffer in the long-run.
You’re better off hiring someone who could use some additional training, but is eager to learn — as opposed to someone who naturally excels in the role, but couldn’t care less about the work they do each day.
Once you’ve taken hiring for skills alone out of play, what else should you consider as you vet candidates for an open role within your or a client’s business?
These are key traits to look for in a potential new hire:
Customer service skills
Regardless of whether an employee is in a client-facing role on a day-to-day basis, hiring managers and recruiters want to know that the individual will conduct themselves appropriately should they end up interacting with clients. Each employee represents a business, so professionalism and courtesy are essential.
The right personality
Employers look for a few key personality traits when they search for their next team member, including professionalism, high energy levels, and confidence.
People who come into the office each day fired up and ready to work inspire others around them to be the same way. Energy levels are contagious, for better or for worse, so you want someone in your office who’s going to motivate other employees to get out there and make a difference.
While exuberance matters, you don’t want someone who’s like a bull in a china shop. You need an employee who knows how to conduct themselves professionally in any situation. Whether they’re courting a new client or killing time with someone in accounting, they know what’s OK to say and what’s not. You also want this person to feel confident in various situations. They should trust their gut and feel equipped to represent their company.
Attention to detail
Regardless of position or department, careful attention to detail is a must. Employees who only focus on the big picture can end up inadvertently causing major mistakes to happen as they overlook details that become significant in the long-run.
From typos to decimals that could drastically change the outcome of a profit and loss statement, you want someone who makes it a point to check and double check their work.
Gets along with many different personality types
If you’ve worked in an office for long enough, you know that you’ll find a diverse blend of personality types who all have to coexist and share the same cafeteria. You have introverts and extroverts. You have those who love group brainstorming sessions and those who would love to be left alone with their thoughts.
A new addition to your team should be able to do business peacefully with these varying personalities. No need to be best friends with everyone, but treating all colleagues in a civilized manner is essential.
A passion for what they do
If an employee doesn’t believe in the company’s mission, eventually they’re going to experience burnout. Recruit people who truly love the work they do and believe in the reason they’re doing it. Employees who come in simply to collect a paycheck will quickly reveal themselves and will struggle to properly pull their weight.
Willingness to put in the work
It’s rare to find a job that’s always 9-5 anymore. There will be days or weeks when staff members are required to log extra hours. While they may not love missing time with their friends or family, the right people for the job understand they have to do what’s necessary to get the work done.
Seek out employees who are more focused on completing the project properly than they are on watching the clock and leaving at 5:01 p.m. on the dot.
Wants to improve
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing a job or how many degrees you’ve obtained, there’s always room to get better. When an employee decides they know everything there is to know about their field, they start to plateau. As a result, their value within the company decreases.
Seek out someone who constantly wants to improve their knowledge and skills. Someone who wants to attend conferences and workshops. Someone who reads trade magazines and blogs pertaining to the field. These are the employees who will continue to stay relevant, even as their field evolves.
Values the team mentality
Ask nearly any employee in America and you’ll probably hear that they regularly handle tasks that wouldn’t fall under their assigned job description. When a staff member cares about the business, they tackle these tasks to ensure that the company continues to flourish.
When hiring, look for an employee who’s focused on the team as a whole, rather than someone who obsesses over what is or isn’t “their job.”
Handles feedback well
No one loves to hear criticism, but from time to time, it’s necessary. Even if your employee is wonderfully talented at their job, there will come a day when they make a mistake that warrants correcting. Make sure the person you hire is someone who is responsive and receptive to this feedback.
Employees who blow up, storm out of the office, or melt down become disruptive to the business as a whole. Managers become hesitant to have a discussion with them, which means the mistakes that need correcting are allowed to continue. This can lead to a whole host of other issues. When feedback is received and acted upon, problems are squashed before they’re allowed to develop further.
Has the ability to multitask
Today’s working world is fast paced. You might be typing away on an assignment one minute, only to get called into a meeting the next. Find someone who can easily adapt to an ever-changing office environment without getting flustered. Multi-tasking matters, as does the ability to stay focused and keep priorities in line, even as situations change around you at work.
Can make decisions
Even if they’re not in a management role, it’s useful to have an employee who is comfortable making decisions. Inevitably at some point, they will find themselves in a situation where they have to make choices that will impact the company (What vendor should you use? What time should the event start?), and you don’t want someone who teeters back and forth, unable to trust their own ability to pick an option.
Seeks to innovate
Sometimes companies stall out because they continue to operate just as they always have. It’s not because this way is the most effective way, but rather because it’s the most comfortable. Find employees who are willing to innovate and think creatively. They bring fresh blood and new ideas to the office, and help identify outdated or unproductive patterns that are slowing the company down.
Takes responsibility for mistakes
Fessing up to a major work blunder is tough, even for well-respected members of a team. But doing so is important in order to keep the company operating smoothly. If an idea falls flat or a customer isn’t happy, the people responsible for the issue need to be OK with stepping forward and making it right. Passing the blame around can cause tension within an office, plus it makes the business look unprofessional to its customers.
Hiring managers are often in a tricky position. Even when they know what kind of employee they should be looking for, beyond just the hard skills and the flashy resume, it can be tough to strike a balance.
How do you make sure you’re getting the right type of person who also has the right type of experience? There are a few ways:
Make the interview more hands on
It’s easy for someone to fake their way through a series of standard interview questions. To really get a sense of what the candidate is all about, try shaking up your interview process. If you want to verify that they have the necessary technical skills, have them create a sample project.
Write a script. Build a model. Do a mock-up of a logo. Rather than talking about the work they would do if they came and joined your team, you’ll get to see it in action. This gives you a better idea of whether their actual abilities back up their interview answers.
Let them interact with your team
Because company culture and employee morale are so important, you’ll want to get a sense of how this person would mesh with your more veteran employees. Instead of hypothesizing and asking theoretical questions, give them a chance to meet everyone briefly. Any immediately negative interactions should be a red flag that perhaps this hire isn’t a good fit for the business.
See a person’s potential
Analyzing a resume is important, but you should also keep in mind that who an individual is right now isn’t always indicative of what they could be. If they were given career development opportunities, for example, they might obtain the skills necessary to become more technically sound. Take note of where a potential hire is currently at in their career, but don’t pigeonhole them. Professional growth is always possible in the right situation.
Analyzing potential hires based on technical skill is important in order to ensure that a new team member is able to effectively pull their weight at work. However, don’t underestimate the importance of getting the right personality type in the position either. Finding a charismatic, enthusiastic individual who’s ready to learn and has the potential to develop professionally can have a huge positive impact on your office.
What are some other things to consider in a new hire, other than skill? Let us know in the comments below.