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Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

What’s More Important: Professional Qualities or A Fitting Personality?

As we’ve touched on multiple times, finding the right candidate for your help wanted ad is crucial – after all, bringing someone on board and training them for the job is an expensive endeavor, but letting them go when they don’t pan out can still cost you as much as a full year’s salary!

With this in mind, there’s no denying that hiring a new person to your crew is a high-stakes endeavor. But what should you value most when you’re making a decision – the skills listed on the resume or the personality of the person that sits before you?

But first, let’s break it down. When we talk about professional skills, we’re generally talking about so-called “hard skills.” These skills refer to the competencies, certificates, and even level of education of the candidate. They are usually the first introduction you get to a potential new hire simply because these are the skills most frequently tallied up on a resume – and they are usually what you review before determining whether you want to pursue an interview with the candidate. When you’re conducting the actual interview, you’re generally evaluating their so called “soft skills.” These skills refer to the candidate’s personality, their ambition, and even the way they communicate their ideas or explain the hard skills on their resume.

But if you have two candidates before you, one with all the skills for the job but a few personality quirks, and one who’s lacking in skills but who has a dazzling character, which should you hire?

Sadly, there is no one right answer – rather you must base your decisions on the following criteria:

  • How skills based is the position? If the position you are hiring for is highly technical and requires significant certifications, education, or skills, it is in your best interest to put professional qualities at the forefront, simply because of the time and financial investment required to get the employee up to snuff.
  • How team-based is the position? If the position you are hiring for requires the new hire to lead teams, be part of collaborative idea generation, or even just partner with folks on a regular basis, personality should perhaps rise to the forefront. After all, it’s ok to have a “big idea” guy on the team, provided there is someone else that can really think through the mechanics or technical side of the situation.
  • How communications-focused is the position? In a similar vein to the above, personality may trump skills if you’re hiring for a position where the individual will spend a significant amount of time communicating with either other folks in the company or with customers. Sure, they’ll eventually need the skills to back up what they’re saying, but a winning personality is essential – especially in customer service roles – to retaining business and keeping coworkers and customers happy.
  • How effective is your teaching/training? If your company is well positioned to provide in-house training or even has a relationship to outsource your education, then getting them up to speed skills-wise shouldn’t be a problem and will allow you to place more emphasis on personality. If you don’t have such a program, that doesn’t mean that only skills should matter, rather that you should consider whether beefing up your on-the-job training programming or even offering a mentorship opportunity could help to bridge the gap.
  • How big is your company? Seems strange to say, but when you have a small company, personality fit becomes even more important, largely because when you have fewer people on staff, you all tend to interact more closely and thus one bad apple could spoil the whole barrel. This one can seem especially tenuous – since small companies usually have fewer resources and time to train – but you also need to consider this one hire as being someone that you have selected to uphold your company culture and grow and evolve with your company.

As you can see, there really is no easy way to determine whether professional skills or personality should be important in making your hiring decision, but we hope that this guide will help you to make the best decision for your open position.

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