If you’ve ever worked in a team where everyone gets along splendidly, then you know how important it is for employees to have the right personal traits. Beyond the qualifications on paper, the alignment of personalities plays a pivotal role in fostering collaboration, innovation, and a positive workplace culture.
In this article, you’ll learn the concept of personality hires, the top personality traits to hire for (according to experts), some tips for hiring new employees, and what not to do when searching for the right fit.
Table of Contents
- What is a personality hire?
- Top Personality Traits to Hire For
- How to Hire for Attitude and Skill
- What Not to Do as a Hiring Manager
What is a personality hire?
A personality hire is a hiring strategy that focuses on the candidates’ personality traits, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as their skills and qualifications. This hiring system ensures that you hire candidates who are not only capable of doing their job but also align with your company’s culture, values, mission, and vision.
Last year, this hiring strategy went viral on TikTok, where Gen Zs and young millennials described themselves as personality hires. Some interpreted the term “personality hire” to mean someone who was hired only for their personality — and not because they’re qualified to do the job.
This isn’t necessarily true. While some companies prioritize personality over experience, they don’t completely ignore the necessary knowledge, skills, and qualifications a candidate needs to execute the role.
That said, it’s not uncommon to see HR teams hire people with the necessary skills and qualifications, only to realize that the person doesn’t fit in (or get along) with the team and isn’t contributing to the company’s larger goals. Personality hires aim to fix that by ensuring that qualified candidates also have the right personal traits to work well and thrive in their roles.
“In the process of recruiting and vetting potential candidates, personality traits are as essential as technical skills or work experience,” says Michelle Delker, the founder of The William Stanley CFO Group. “These qualities indicate an individual who can handle the demands of a role, navigate the ebbs and flows of the business landscape, and contribute positively to our team culture.”
Delker shares that she hired a candidate for a critical role that didn’t have the vast experience most would expect for the role. However, Delker continues, “He had a unique combination of adaptability, tenacity, and problem-solving capabilities, coupled with an insatiable appetite to learn.”
Fast forward a couple of years, the candidate became a stellar performer, “proving that personality traits can often outweigh experience or in-depth expertise,” Delker says.
Why Personality Hiring Is Important
Considering candidates’ personalities during the hiring process is important for several reasons. Let’s explore a few below.
Your company culture defines the beliefs, values, and expectations you live by in your organization. It also determines how your employees communicate and collaborate. Hiring people who share the same values as your organization helps you create a positive and productive environment where employees feel appreciated.
Team Dynamics and Collaboration
Diverse personalities contribute to effective team dynamics. A well-balanced team that comprises a variety of personalities is better equipped to collaborate smoothly and solve problems creatively. Individuals with different strengths can complement each other, leading to a more robust team performance.
Teams made up of individuals with diverse perspectives, ideas, and problem-solving methods are better positioned to generate creative solutions than homogenous teams.
Diverse team members challenge each other’s ideas, complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and avoid groupthink (the tendency to formulate a group decision without critical reasoning or evaluation).
Employee Engagement and Retention
Employees who resonate with your company culture and feel a connection with their co-workers are less likely to resign from their jobs or be poached by your competitors. Instead, they’ll engage more with their work (and with colleagues), which leads to increased job satisfaction and lower turnover rates.
To filter out unqualified candidates or people who won’t match your company, you’ll need to explicitly define your work culture. While that may be confusing to do, our Company Culture Code Template can make the process a lot easier.
In the template, you’ll get section prompts for your company’s culture code, mission and values, policies, and more. Get your copy of the Company Culture Code Template now.
Top Personality Traits to Hire For
When hiring new employees, here are some traits you should look out for.
1. Communication Skills
As an employer, you likely understand that effective communication is essential for successful collaboration among team members. It’s also integral in customer acquisition, especially in the customer support and sales teams. Candidates with strong communication skills can convey ideas clearly, listen actively, and work well with others.
This trait fosters a positive and productive workplace, as it reduces misunderstandings and promotes a smooth flow of information within teams.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is one of the most popular job interview questions — and for good reason. The answer to this question often shows whether the candidate has ambition or not.
Candidates with ambition have something they’re working towards. To achieve their goals (which usually involves promotion), they have to do their work well and hone their skills.
This trait shows you, the employer, how motivated and focused candidates are and whether they’ll take the extra time to learn new processes and skills that’ll take them to the next level in their careers.
As an employer, you know how hard it is to find someone who meets all the requirements in your job description. So, instead of looking for someone who ticks all the boxes, find someone curious enough to want to fill the gaps they might have in their skill set.
Curiosity is a valuable trait to look for because it shows that the candidate strives for excellence and will readily seek to learn new skills.
“During interviews, I pay attention to how candidates ask questions about the company and their interest in their career growth. Curious people tend to dig deeper and aren't afraid to ask questions,” explains Campbell Tourgis, the chief operating officer at Wainbee. “This trait often leads to continuous learning and fresh ideas, which is a big win for our team.”
Speaking from personal experience, Tourgis recalls that one candidate asked about the company’s sustainability initiatives and how they could contribute. This genuine interest set the tone for their journey with Wainbee.
“They later spearheaded a successful sustainability project that improved our eco-footprint and brought in cost savings,” Tourgis says. “This solidified my belief in the importance of curiosity as a reliable predictor of an employee’s potential impact on the organization.”
4. Problem-Solving Skills
Candidates with strong problem-solving skills are a great catch for organizations because they can analyze situations, identify key issues, and think critically about potential solutions.
Effective problem solvers often bring innovation and creativity to the workplace as they come up with unique and out-of-the-box solutions to challenges and foster a culture of continuous improvement.
These employees also navigate challenges efficiently, as they’re able to find more streamlined and effective ways to complete tasks and achieve more goals.
As an employer, chances are you’d prefer employees who can work on different tasks and adjust their hours when needed, especially if you’re a small business. To get these employees, you’ll need to focus on flexibility during the hiring process.
Candidates who are flexible offer more to companies because they’re able to handle diverse roles, switch between tasks efficiently, and contribute to different aspects of the job.
They’re also able to adapt their communication and work style to complement their team members’ strengths, as well as adapt to different customer needs and preferences. This enhances customer satisfaction and makes for a harmonious work environment.
Just like flexibility, adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions. The difference, however, is that flexibility focuses on short-term changes, while adaptability focuses on long-term changes that could affect the way teams work or relate to one another.
If you’re a business that experiences major changes frequently — whether that be in terms of workflows, tech stack, or working arrangements — you’ll need to find employees who can easily adjust to new situations, embrace change, and learn quickly.
This trait makes it easy for the candidate (and the company, by extension) to navigate the constantly evolving business landscapes and stay competitive.
First impressions go a long way in helping employers (or hiring managers) vet a candidate. So, if you’re hiring for a role, gauge how professional the candidate is — from their dress to their language to their overall behavior during the interview.
Professional candidates are not only perceived as competent and reliable, but they’re also more likely to convey their ideas, experiences, and qualifications in a compelling manner — a trait that is priceless in a customer-facing role.
Meg Hellerstedt, the president of Sylvane, who has over two decades of experience hiring people, explains, “In the first interview, I keep an eye out for candidates who care to make a good impression by being punctual, dressing well, and generally having proper decorum.”
According to Hellerstedt, how candidates behave says a lot about their character, especially because this is the first time both parties meet.
“Professionalism matters more to me than whatever school you went to. At the end of the day, what’s more important is how employees conduct themselves in the workplace,” she says.
Conscientiousness is commonly associated with awareness. In job candidates, this personality trait denotes a tendency to have a strong work ethic, as well as reliability and organization.
Conscientious candidates also have a high level of attention to detail. They’re able to spot (and correct) errors and oversights quickly, which leads to accurate and thorough work.
“Detail-oriented people tend to be organized and committed to producing top-notch results. Whether it’s data analysis, software development, or quality control, attention to detail can prevent errors and boost the overall quality of work,” Rubin says.
In a previous hiring cycle, Rubin found that one candidate who, despite having an impressive portfolio, submitted a resume with several formatting issues and a minor inconsistency in contact information. However, in the interview, they mentioned that they were detail-oriented. Rubin noted that this contradiction raised red flags.
Rubin isn’t the only entrepreneur who uses resumes to gauge a candidate’s conscientiousness.
“Thorough and detailed candidates are already noticeable from their resumes, and we confirm these traits fairly quickly on how they present themselves during virtual interviews,” explains Nat Miletic, the owner and CEO of Clio Websites.
Miletic notes that conscientious candidates have concise, detailed resumes that don’t use a standard template.
“They are careful with the alignments and spacings, direct with their skill sets, and are clear about what they prefer in the workspace,” Miletic says.
How to Hire for Attitude and Skill
Hiring based on personality is an effective way to ensure that employees are a good fit. However, you need to be careful not to conflate hiring by personality with hiring who you got along with best during the interview process.
If you’re planning to hire new employees, here are some tips to help you gauge if they have the right personality traits or not.
1. Use personality assessments.
Personality assessments (or personality tests) are tools that evaluate and measure various aspects of an individual’s personality, behaviors, and preferences.
Using personality tests in the hiring process can help you gain insights into a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities. This, in turn, helps you determine whether a potential employee is suitable for the job, how they work and operate, and whether they’ll fit into the team and company.
There are various types of personality tests, including the following:
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
- DISC Assessment.
- Big Five Personality Traits.
- Predictive Index (PI).
- Hogan Assessments.
Pro tip: While personality assessments can offer valuable insights on their own, you should combine them with other methods such as interviews, reference checks, and skills assessments to form a well-rounded understanding of an individual’s suitability for a particular role or team.
2. Ask behavioral interview questions.
A great way to know how a candidate will behave in a certain situation is to ask them if they have experienced a similar situation in their previous role(s) and how they handled it. For example, you may ask:
- Have you ever been in a situation where you had to do something you were not familiar with — and how did you navigate that?
- Have you ever had a disagreement with your superior over how something should be done — and how did you resolve it?
Questions like this allow candidates to share specific examples of past behavior, revealing how they handled challenges or collaborated with others.
3. Do a culture-fit assessment.
A culture-fit assessment is a process or tool you can use to ascertain how well a job candidate aligns with your company’s norms, values, and work environment. The goal is to determine if a candidate’s beliefs, behaviors, and communication style align with your culture.
“Cultural fit is crucial, and we seek individuals whose values resonate with our company's mission,” Shah explains. “We hired someone with a remarkable attitude who had slightly less experience but displayed an eagerness to learn and adapt, ultimately proving to be an invaluable asset.”
4. Do emotional intelligence assessments.
When hiring a new employee, chances are they’re going to be working closely with other team members. Therefore, it’s imperative that you determine, during the hiring process, whether candidates have the ability to manage their emotions and handle interpersonal relationships empathetically and judiciously.
Emotional intelligence (or emotional quotient) assessments can help you do that. Hellestedt of Sylvane recommends it.
“An EQ recruitment test will evaluate a person’s awareness and management of their emotions and those of others,” Hellestedt says. “Some candidates may have high IQ, but low EQ, which makes them struggle while working in a group setting.”
5. Have informal conversations.
It’s not uncommon for an employer and a candidate to do interviews over coffee or lunch. The great thing about doing interviews in less structured settings is that it allows both parties to engage in informal conversations and talk about a myriad of topics.
These conversations allow you to observe the candidate’s natural behavior and communication style outside the formal interview setting.
What Not to Do as a Hiring Manager
As an employer (or hiring manager), there are some pitfalls to avoid while searching for the right candidate for a role. Here are a few of them.
1. Rushing the Process
While it’s excessive to have seven interview rounds with each candidate, you shouldn’t rush the hiring process. Instead, take a reasonable amount of time to thoroughly evaluate candidates through personality tests, their qualifications, reference checks, and more. This allows you to make informed decisions, avoid costly mistakes, and enhance team cohesion.
2. Giving in to Your Personal Biases
Everyone has a bias. But during the hiring process, you can’t let your bias get in the way, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI).
“So many of us have biases we don‘t even realize we have, and it’s really easy to let them cloud your judgment when you’re trying to hire someone,” says Gauri Manglik, the CEO and co-founder of Instrumentl. “You need to be able to separate your personal opinions from objective evidence about whether or not someone is going to be a good fit for the job.”
Manglik says if you focus too much on how “‘cool’ or ‘not cool’” someone seems, you’ll miss out on some truly amazing people.
Put your biases aside (or, better yet, dismantle them) and strive for a fair and inclusive hiring process to ensure a broad range of perspectives and talents.
Pro tip: Some biases are unconscious. Train your team (and yourself) to recognize and deconstruct unconscious biases that may influence decisions during the hiring process.
3. Evaluating Candidates Based on Their Resumes Only
A resume is not sufficient to correctly determine whether a candidate can take on a role or not. While a resume can tell you about the skills and qualifications a candidate has, it won’t tell you about the candidate’s communication style, temperament, and soft skills.
“Don’t limit the evaluation of a candidate to their resume; a piece of paper can only tell you so much,” Delker of the William Stanley CFO group says. “Substantiate this data with personal interaction, observation, and engaging conversation.”
Delker advises that teams avoid exclusively relying on technical interviews or assessments.
“Instead, aim to have a more holistic understanding of the person who might become an integral part of your organization,” she says.
4. Skipping Reference Checks
There’s no better way to know whether a candidate is genuine than to verify their work history and performance with previous employers. Reference checks allow you to:
- Verify the accuracy of the information provided by the candidate during the application and interview process, including their employment history, job titles, responsibilities, and the duration of previous positions.
- Assess the candidate’s work performance, strengths, areas for improvement, and overall contributions to previous roles.
- Verify the candidates claimed skills and qualifications, which is especially important for roles that require specific professional or technical expertise.
- Reveal any potential red flags that may not have been apparent during the interview process, including issues related to interpersonal skills, punctuality, or ethics.
- Validate a candidate’s soft skills, including communication, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.
- Gather insights about the candidate’s work habits, including their ability to meet deadlines, handle pressure, and work independently or as part of a team.
Personality isn’t a substitute for professionalism.
Focusing on a candidate’s personality traits during the interview process doesn’t negate the importance of professionalism and having the right skills/qualifications for the job.
In fact, the two elements complement each other in that a candidate who has both the right credentials and personality tends to last longer and be more productive in a company’s work environment.