Hiring for Skill or Character?

Hiring new employees costs a company an average of $4,000 an employee. Hiring the right people will save your company money, as well as employee retention.  A question that comes up is do you hire for Character or for skill? 

Let’s first look at both. Character is the mental or moral qualities that each person possesses. These qualities can be taught through upbringing or through life experiences, in special circumstances like the military. Skill on the other hand is the technical ability to do your job function. 

Out of curiosity I sent out a survey poll to the WordPress community while I was employeed by PostStatus for the GetHired newsletter. The survey asked companies what skills they looked for in a new employee. The majority of the answers we received back were not technical skills, they were soft skills. Most companies were looking for individuals who were coachable, dependable, honest, and the list goes on and on.  Character traits were the most sought-after skills in the responses we received. What we found out after inquiring, each company has different processes and procedures that they teach their employees to do. What they could not teach were the character traits. Most of the WordPress companies needed someone coachable that was willing to learn the right technical skills. 

There is a quote I came across some time ago that says,

Hire Character, Train Skill

Peter Schutz

The author of this quote, Peter Schutz, talks about how specific skills, knowledge, and understanding are teachable and easily learned by people. While an applicant’s demeanor, personality, compliance, ambition, and overall character are not in a company’s realm of training. 

I have thought about this quote a lot over the last few months. I think the author has a relatively good point. While you do need to hire some basic level of skills, you can teach the rest. Most companies have their own way of doing things anyway. Generally speaking, there is some form of onboarding process for every organization that teaches new employees about the company and how to do their job effectively for them. I have never heard of character training being a part of an onboarding process. 

In the digital remote work environments that most of WordPress is in. Character is an amazing quality to look for in a new hire. If a person is coachable and dependable, you can train them with the skills they need to know. If you hire a person who is not coachable, they will never progress past the basic knowledge that they possess. 

Talent got you in the door, but Character will keep you in the room