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Do Skills Trump Character?


Have you ever hired a candidate who is perfect on paper, with years of industry experience and the idea “skills list”, and later found yourself firing that “perfect candidate” for factors that have nothing to do with skills, but everything to do with character, behavior, teamwork, and well, in a word, culture? 

Peter Drucker famously said that  “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, a bit of wisdom fleshed out in a recent Staffing Stream article about the role of culture in employee engagement and business success,  and the importance of interviewing for character, behavior, motivations and fit within your culture, as much as industry skills.

Here’s part of the article’s thought-provoking discussion of Character vs. Skill:

“Character is ingrained in a person’s core being and dictates how he or she will behave.  It encompasses one’s ethics, values, dedication, motivation, and outlook.  It is nearly impossible to alter a person’s character, for better or for worse.  Skills are things that are learned.  If a person has everything you are looking for as a potential employee, but he or she does not have the exact skill set desired, it would be prudent to still consider that person for the position.


Of course, as an example, if you are hiring a search engine optimization specialist and the candidate has never worked with computers, that would be too much of a stretch. However, if you want a candidate who can type 80 words per minute, you should not exclude the perfect candidate because he or she can only type 65 words per minute.  A great personality and a high level of motivation will ultimately mean more than those 15 words per minute.  A magnetic organization should offer training for employees to improve their skill sets anyway. New employees’ skills should be developed through training initiatives, regardless of their proficiency level. If you try to develop character in training sessions, good luck to you.


In summary and your Call to Action: Skills can be taught, character cannot.  Evaluate your Recruiting Process for valuing character and attitude over technical skills and aptitude. “

Read the entire article here.

Do you agree with the author?

Given the choice of a candidate who arrives with industry skills in hand but lacks the character, work ethic and behaviors of your star employees, and a less experienced candidate who exemplifies the work ethic, integrity, work behaviors and dedication to customer service you look for in long term employees, who would you choose?








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