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Why Hiring for Character Can Often Make All the Difference


Written by Steve Lees, Operations Director, DealTrak 

Finding the right new person for your business is often one of the hardest decisions managers have to make.  So, how do you go about making sure that they will be the right person for the role? Most people will study their CV and make a decision to interview a candidate based on their past experience and skills. However, I suggest that there is a better way.

Hiring for character over experience is a strategy that can pay huge dividends, and something that I believe you should spend some time thinking about.  Instead of asking yourself, “What knowledge does this person need to do the job?” rather ask “How does this person need to act in order to add value to my business, and are their values aligned to ours?”

Here is an overview as to why I think you should hire for character first and knowledge and skills second.

How Character Trumps Skill:

  • It is critical to ensure that the candidate’s values are a strong match with your company’s and you should look predominantly for the cultural fit.  It is this that will determine if they can work in the way you want, interact with colleagues/clients and add value to your business.  What you don’t want is a round peg in a square hole.
  • Considering someone’s technical skills is clearly an important part of the process but should score no more than 50% of whatever measure you use to make a hiring decision. Be careful, even when the technical match is strong, if the cultural fit is not there, it’s best not to recruit.
  • People with a winning and positive attitude are more capable of coping with and adapting to change. These people are always hungry to learn, highly coachable and more than willing to adjust to changes in your business.
  • While you can usually train people in skills they might need for the job, it’s almost impossible to train someone to have a better character.
  • A great approach is often infectious in the workplace and perhaps the most important reason why you should hire for character. Increased productivity and a positive workplace that everyone enjoys are benefits that are hard to put a price on.

What happens if you don’t place importance on hiring for character?

  • Talented Terrors– Most of us have experienced these sorts of people.  They are highly skilled and talented, but their character doesn’t fit. While it’s tempting to think that their aptitude will be enough, it never is and the impact on everyone else means it just isn’t worth it. They will become a disruptive element in your business and will be emotional hoovers.

New Ways

I have just been on a workshop looking at this topic and have come away with a huge amount of renewed vigour to get this right.  The key challenge posed in the work shop was:

“How can you tell if the person’s CV or what is said in the interview is really how they act and behave?”

The answer, is that you have to test for it.  You need to agree what the character traits or values important to you are, then during the recruitment process you need to provide opportunity for the candidates to demonstrate them.  Try this for example: If tenacity is really important, how about asking candidates to complete a simple activity every day for a period of time, even before interview.  This could even be an online challenge.  If they don’t complete the task every day, are they likely to complete the tasks that are important once they have joined you?

Here at DealTrak we have over the course of the last 18 months doubled our workforce.  We have followed the guidance above and have placed great emphasis on making sure the cultural fit was strong. We didn’t get it right every time.  However, we have interviewed many very talented people and in the end still said no because their character was not aligned to our culture and purpose.  It can at times seem like trying to push water uphill, you have a vacancy that desperately needs filling and you are seeing people who have the skills to complete the work, but not the right character.  My advice, is to hold fast and wait. Having the wrong person is far more painful.

You will know when the right person is sat in front of you and it makes all the effort worthwhile.


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