hire for skill

Should I hire for skill or personality?

Getting recruitment right boost the UK economy by £7.7 billion each year. For most teams, making sure you have the right person for the job is one of the most critical parts of growing a successful business. Employees make a business what it is – and the quality of people makes a huge difference.

In small companies, a mis-step in recruitment can spell disaster. Hiring and onboarding new staff takes time and effort, so if it does not work with a new team member a lot of energy, time and ultimately money has been wasted. A poor hire can also have an impact on morale which can impact the whole team. There is nothing worse than a staff member leaving under a cloud.

So what makes a good employee? The ultimate question! When hiring, the idea of someone being a “good fit” is often mentioned, but what does that mean? The truth is of course that the skills and personality type that would suit a particular role can vary enormously. For example, if you are looking for someone for a sales position, someone who is outgoing with excellent communications skills and self confidence can be a real asset. For a management role, an individual with proven leadership skills who is cool under pressure and can motivate others is highly desirable.

Of course, the gap between skills and personality can often be narrow. A person with an extrovert personality may have natural people skills. Someone who is conscientious and methodical will often have a good eye for detail.

When starting a new recruitment process, it can be helpful to visualise the type of person and the skill set that you are looking for, and communicate that when advertising the position. Once you begin to shortlist and interview, it can be useful to ask yourself questions about who you will be appropriate to fill the role. If you have budgeted and planned for a thorough induction and training programme, bringing in someone with the personality type you are looking for – such as self-motivated and enthusiastic – but who may not have the existing ‘hard’ skills you are looking for could be a wise investment.

hire for skill

It’s also important to consider the management style of the person who will be line managing a new position, bringing someone who prefers autonomy and a flexible management style under a micro manager will often lead to fireworks! That being said, managers also need to be prepared to adapt their styles to their employees to get the most out of them. Research by Mckinsey has shown that having a diverse and inclusive team helps businesses to perform better. Encouraging diversity when it comes to gender and race is now well understood as good for business, as well as ethically essential by managers. However, having diversity of personality, background and skillset is also valuable for many of the same reasons. Diversity brings fresh ideas, new perspectives and more opportunities to grown and learn.

How can I hire with purpose?

We’ve come up with a couple of open-ended questions that recruiters should ask themselves when hiring.

What are the attributes you are looking for with a particular position?

Formulate interview questions to allow candidates to demonstrate whether they have them.

What are the skill gaps in your team?

Finding someone who can not only add to your existing skills, but also has the aptitude to share what they know is a big advantage for your team.

What level of support will the newcomer receive?

How well someone can adapt to a new environment is often reflected in their personality. Confident, self-starters may be able to adapt more quickly.

Always be open and honest with your new hires, what can they expect from you and your agency as well as the day to day role.

Finally, don’t be afraid to rely on your gut feeling on how well you think a candidate would perform given your expectations and needs.


Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.