11 Mar 2021

Character vs. Skill: Which Matters Most in Your Organization?

For hiring managers, navigating the character and skills of potential candidates can be a real challenge.

Personality and character fit an individual to your business, brand and work culture, integrating them into teams that thrive on cooperation.

But skills matter too – candidates must possess the right hard and soft skills required for a job.

Character or personality is perhaps the more elusive component, not easily documented through work experience, qualifications and education. Skills are perhaps easier to assess, but can also be fickle and tough to quantify.

So, character vs skills, which should you focus on when hiring, and how?

Soft vs. hard skills

Skills can be divided into soft and hard skills. Hard skills are much easier to quantify and measure whereas soft skills somewhat blend into personality and character.

Hard skills refer to technical and practical skills. They’re usually documented through a candidate’s experience and education. An assessment of qualifications and job experience can reveal the technical skills required to succeed in those activities.

Soft skills are more interpersonal: communication, etiquette, time-keeping and teamwork.

In an analysis by Guy Berger, Ph.D, soft skills were more frequently in-demand than hard skills with communication topping the list at 57.9%. Teamwork and organization followed closely behind at 56.5% and 56.4% respectively.

Soft skills are tough to screen and delineate, with 60% of hiring managers stating that they find it hard to screen candidates effectively for soft skills. Research by PSI found that 67% of employers would hire candidates for strong soft skills even when hard skills were lacking.

The trouble is, soft skills are often self-reported, so without proper assessment, they’re notoriously hard to verify. It’s natural to make oneself seem professionally and socially desirable on CVs and job applications; this is where difficulties arise as hiring managers have to discern between social selling and reality.

Personality and character go deeper than 1-to-1 interactions and traditional interviews, psychometric assessments can analyze personality in an environment that is comfortable and natural for the candidate.

Test procedures are the best way to pierce the veil of social selling, helping you objectively understand candidates.

Hard skills for technical jobs

For jobs that involve a great deal of technical or practical work, hard skills are often the priority for hirers. Sometimes, you simply cannot be skilled at a task or procedure unless you’ve practiced it for thousands of hours.

Ariadne Labs showed that doctors and surgeons are often lacking in interpersonal soft skills, especially communication skills, something which has been echoed in public health research throughout the years.

Ultimately, though, there is no trade-off between hard and soft skills when it comes to being a doctor or surgeon – hard skills will always take some form of precedence.

In these cases, it’s crucial to discover how robust those hard skills are and how well they balance with soft skills.

Skills can be taught

Employers expect candidates to already possess both hard and soft skills but it’s important to not undermine the role of training. Candidates with significant hard skills but potentially lacking, or understated soft skills can be worth training instead of refraining from hiring them completely.

Similarly, hard skills can be learnt on the job and someone with evidently strong soft skills could pick up hard skills very quickly.

Soft skills for customer-facing jobs

Teamwork and work culture is changing with the increase in remote work and work-from-home setups, but many jobs still require personal communication between employees and customers, whether that’s via telephone call, email or Zoom.

Where ongoing communication is required, personality and character play a very important role in building and retaining rapport between businesses, brands and their customers and clients.

But, hiring candidates based on a stellar telephone manner comes with no guarantees that this will transfer onto real-life. Screening for personality and character is particularly important for customer or client-facing roles.

Psychometric results illustrate natural personality insights that are easily broken down, analyzed and compared to employment priorities.

Going the extra mile

Transparent, honest and hardworking candidates will usually be the ones to bridge gaps in their hard and soft skills, going the extra mile to ply themselves to the role.

Conscientiousness, diligence and a transparent attitude are very important for roles that require ongoing development and independence.

Self-aware candidates may not possess the same level of hard and soft skills as others, but they will at least be aware of what they need to work on and may exceed the skills of other candidates if given time.

Analyzing these sorts of skills is tricky and likely requires psychometric or other personality testing.

Quick-starters vs. developers

If you’re looking for someone that can make a quick start then candidates with proactivity and pragmatism combined with a get-up-and-go attitude are ideal.

Strong all-rounders are likely to be flexible and willing to learn to maintain their diverse skill sets.

They make quick-starters that can be pitched straight into a job role with minimal training. At the same time, strong all-rounders may possess less scope for specialism or niche development.

Developing a test procedure ensures a transparent recruiting procedure that eliminates prejudices and ensures fairness.

Sophisticated psychometric testing goes beyond the bare aptitude metrics to uncover insights about self-awareness, responsibility, empathy and leadership. It’s the most accurate and fair means to assess candidates for almost any professional role.

Credit: Charlotte Murphy, HR Expert Contributor |Human Morning | hrmorning.com