Hiring? Character counts.

Jun 6 2014

I’ve hired quite a few people over my career, and I’ve made many excellent choices. But I’ve also made my fair share of misjudgments. Hopefully, we all get better at this process as we gain experience, but I’m not sure that is true. Ingrained habits are hard to break. But I think I’m finally learning that the most important characteristic when hiring anyone is – well, their character.

Character is not easy to assess, which is why good recruiters are a sound investment, if you can afford their fees. Most interviewers within the corporate world are factually based, and focus on checking the boxes. Where did you go to college? What is your experience in C++? How many times have you done this or that? But attitude is harder to pigeon-hole. It requires more perceptive questioning and a practiced ear. It means asking the hard questions – and listening carefully to the answers.

In my experience, for these reasons, huge amounts of time are wasted by non-professional interviewers in the corporate world. Your company is looking to hire a head of sales so there is an obligation to have four or five or more potential colleagues interview the candidate. Most of these interviews are poorly-conducted and essentially useless, except for the purpose of making the interviewer feel that they are part of the process.

The solution might be to better train managers in interviewing techniques. Good interviewing saves a lot of time and money by making it much more likely that the right candidates are hired. Human resources managers – at least, the good ones – are highly skilled in determining character quickly. They can root out an imposter in seconds. Unfortunately, it is rare for this department to spend the time working with managers on what to ask or listen for in an interview. Surely it can’t be that they feel it’s an unimportant skill? Perhaps they feel it might diminish their status. If that is true, they should best utilize their skills elsewhere as it’s in everyone’s interests to get these character decisions right – the first time around.

Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

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