Skills Come Second – Hire for Character

Posted by: Paul  /   Category: Interviewing / Team Building   /   No Comments

When interviewing candidates, focus on what they learned from their parents and upbringing rather than what they learned in school or at their last job. Obviously they have to have the skills to excel in the role you are interviewing for, but the candidate’s character traits should be more important than the list of skills they bring to the table. Technical skills can be acquired but teaching someone to be a good person and teammate is not a challenge that you want to take on.

1.  How to work hard. “I am a great believer in Luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.” – Coleman Cox

A good work ethic overcomes a lot of deficiencies in other areas. It is the source of pushing through when the going gets tough. Having “stick-to-it-iveness” either comes with the person or it doesn’t and often times it follows for how passionate they are about their chosen career.

A good interview question is “Tell me about the time you’ve worked the hardest in your life and what was the outcome”. See what they think hard work is.


2.  How to be a good team mate. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

A good team mate works with you, not against you. They are interested in your success and the success of the project and company as a whole because they understand that a rising tide lifts all the boats. They share information because they know that growing you helps the team get better. Strive to be that team mate.

A good interview question for this is to just be direct “What are your team player qualities”. See if their thoughts line up with your own.


3.  How to deal with stress. “A diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handles stress exceptionally well” – unknown

Every career has its stressful times and learning how to deal with these moments are critical to being a great addition to your team. Some people seem impervious to stress but those people just have it all figured out and manage stress in positive ways. Usually people who manage stress well have a good sense of humour, they are organized and they are typically good managers of time. Look for these attributes in your dealings with this candidate. Were they on time? Did they have a copy of their resume? Do they smile or react appropriately to some wit that you displayed?

A good interview question is “How do you cope with the numerous conflicting demands on your time?”. 


4.  How to be a positive cultural addition. “If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” – Simon Sinek

Happy people that are enthusiastic about what they do are worth their weight in gold. As a leader, you may have this quality in spades but you aren’t going to be in every meeting, every lunch room and every water cooler debate. Having people working for you that believe what you believe, they will inspire their coworkers when you are not around. This quality should be considered above all other things and there is no one interview question that will reveal all. It’s about finding out what they believe in and see if you believe in it too.

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About the Author

I'm Paul Birkbeck and I am the VP of Software Development and Operations at SPS Commerce. I love building and leading teams and genuinely love interacting with the people whom I work.

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