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HR/BENEFITS

Hiring? Personality Trumps Skills

A new survey finds that when it comes to hiring knowledgeable workers, personality beats technical wizardry any day.
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When you’re hiring a sales associate or a customer service rep, sure, you want to focus on candidates with the right sort of people-pleasing personality, but when it comes to solving tech problems or infusing your business with creative ideas, hard skills and sheer mental horsepower must be more important, right?

Not according to a surprising new international survey of 500 professionals conducted by Hyper Island called "Tomorrow’s Most Wanted." The research into what’s impressing employers at the moment found that personality far outweighed technical chops, even for higher-skilled roles.

A whopping 78 percent of those surveyed said "personality" was the most desirable quality in employees, beating out "cultural alignment" (53 percent) and "skill-set" (39 percent) by considerable margins. What particular skills were most valued? Drive (14 percent), creativity (12 percent), and an open mind (11 percent) topped the list.

"Personality, not competence, is the determining factor of who’s going to get the most attractive jobs among tomorrow’s recruits," said Hyper Island CEO Johanna Frelin, summing up the results. "There is a growing desire for talent with a unique combination of skill and flexibility--people who can collaborate, adapt quickly, and are enjoyable company, but also have the drive to get things done. All those traits boil down to a personality that is essential for businesses operating in an ever-changing digital landscape. Thus, specific competence is less important."

Are You Shortchanging Soft Skills?

In other words, the era of the awkward geek or unpleasant creative may be drawing to a close, as getting the benefits from specific tech or creative competencies increasingly comes down to applying those skills well in complex human contexts.

"We are beyond looking at digital as something techy," said Frelin.

The findings are great news for those with the golden combination of personality and skills. Already in huge demand, they’re unlikely to see their prospects dim anytime soon. The takeaway for business owners is less of a celebration and more of a challenge.

If you’ve been focusing largely on competence when it comes to knowledge workers, you might want to take a hard look at whether you’re really getting what you need out of your less-personable hires. If not, it’s probably time to revamp your hiring process to put more of a focus on not only hard skills but the ability to work with other humans to apply them.

How heavily do you weigh personality when hiring for these type of roles?

 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Apr 7, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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