August 27, 2014

Are You Hiring for the Right Traits?

hiring for the right

There’s lots of talk lately about the talent shortage – how employers, especially small ones, can’t find workers with the skills and experience they are seeking. But maybe the problem is that small business owners are putting too much emphasis on the wrong things. A recent survey from Hyper Island, Tomorrow’s Most Wanted, reports that when it comes to finding the right employees to hire – personality matters more than skills.

Hyper Island surveyed more than 500 leaders and employees and discovered that overwhelmingly, companies rated “personality” as the most desirable quality in a job candidate. More than three-fourths (78 percent) of respondents rate personality as important, while 53 percent say cultural fit is key. Just 39 percent say “skill set” matters most.

But exactly what personality traits are employers seeking?

Hyper Island CEO Johanna Frelin says companies are looking for “people who can collaborate, adapt quickly and are enjoyable company, but also have the drive to get things done.” Respondents to the survey cite a mix of creativity and drive as most desirable; also high on the list are “an open mind,” problem-solving abilities and the ability to generate ideas. When candidates exhibit these traits, specific competence becomes less important, Frelin says.

While this study focused on companies in communications, technology and business development industries, I think the results are generally applicable to all types of businesses in today’s fast-changing marketplace. After all, whether you run a restaurant, a manufacturing company or a PR firm, don’t you want employees who can adapt, be flexible and work well with others?

If you’ve been struggling to find qualified employees, here are some takeaways from this survey that can help.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Specific Skills

Yes, skills are important, but if you weed out potential candidates too early because they are missing very specific skills, you may be missing out on a great employee.

For example, if you own a graphic design firm and you’re looking for someone creative who knows a specific design program, focus more on the creativity and less on that design program. Maybe they’ve never used program A, but they’ve used programs B and C. More importantly, they have an impressive portfolio of work.

Isn’t it worth giving them a chance (and a little time to get up to speed on program A)?

Look Beyond the Resume or Job Application

Big corporations use computers to sort resumes by keywords, but as a small business you can see the things this automated approach is likely to miss—such as an employee’s creative cover letter or life experiences that may not meet your exact job criteria, but could indicate potential for success.

I still remember arguing with a colleague about whether to hire a job candidate who we both thought was fantastic, but who was one semester short of a college degree. I argued for hiring her, even though technically, having a degree was a job requirement. We hired her and decades later, I’m still working with her.

Build Personality Into Your Want Ads

Along with skills and experience, make sure your want ads indicate what type of personality you’re looking for – whether that’s meticulous and detail-oriented, or energetic and personable. This will help candidates who don’t fit the profile self-select out of applying, saving you time.

Work Photo via Shutterstock

5 Comments ▼

Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a staff writer for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

5 Reactions

  1. I agree. While you can get extremely talented employees, you need to have a system that will properly compensate them. If not, they’ll be sure to look elsewhere. In the end, you hire for personality and that will depend on the fact if the individual can really stay in your company in the long run.

  2. I feel there are two critical traits a good hire will have.

    1. They work hard & learn new skills in order to get stuff done.

    2. They can put themselves in the customers shoes/mindset.

    If someone can do both those things well, they’ll do well, even if they end up taking on tasks outside the job’s defined role.

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