Are you Hiring for Character or Skill?

Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

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I recently attended a chat session about best hiring practices. The participants were asked when hiring: Should placement be based applicants blending well with the corporate culture or should it be based on applicants possessing the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job?

Both arguments were quite convincing but I chose to side with hiring for character over hiring for skill. Here’s why:

By definition, a skill is an ability coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well. While character is defined as a distinguishing feature or quality. It is a compilation of life events and knowledge that mold a person into who they are.The word 'Integrity' highlighted in green with felt tip pen

Character is about integrity, honesty, and moral or ethical quality. It’s not possible to duplicate quality employees, but it is possible to duplicate a product by teaching skill to someone.

Why is it that employers try pulling good talent from their competitors? For the product? No! For the knowledge, work ethic, character and skill they posses. You see, it’s a packaged deal; but it is wiser to hire someone with good work ethic and values and teach them a skill than it is to find someone with skill not possessing good work ethic, character or values; much-needed traits to stay competitive. The competitive edge one company has over the other are their employees; not their product – that can be duplicated.

Skillful people can execute processes and implement procedures; but those with great character, knowledge and work ethic can boost employee morale, encourage team building and engage workers. Having experience and skill is great, but if not paired well with company values and corporate culture what you have is an employee mismatch; which is a costly mistake.

When you hire employees with personal values in sync with the values of the organization you are adding valuable people with a vested interest in the company’s growth and sustainability. Employees become more creative and engaged therefore sharing ideas and innovative ways to help the company grow. New products and services don’t just fall out of the sky, they are introduced and suggested by great employees; invested employees with unique characteristics and fresh ideas.

Surely we cannot know everything about a person through a simple interview, but we can look for traits and ask the right questions during the process to find out more about hopeful hires. Try looking for those with previous volunteer or community work experience. Quality characteristics to look for are people involved with non-profit organizations; those that inquire about the organization’s social responsibility efforts and those having special interest in helping others. These interests and activities can tell you a lot about an applicant and can help to differentiate a hire based on character and values vs. skills.

“Life is less about what you do, and more about how and why you do those things. This is called character.” – Josh Verseput

MDD-160Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC., and creator of the Honest Model™. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing workplace performance, career coaching, leadership coaching and training & development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. Mary also serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of African American’s in Human Resources. To connect with Mary, you can follow her on twitter @MVDavids or you can email her at

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