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Does Personality or Past Experience Matter More When Hiring? Here's What to Focus On to Find Your Next Great Employee. Strategies you can use to match candidates to your company's needs.

By Jonathan Small

Key Takeaways

  • Resumes tell you a lot about a job candidate's skills but not their attitude.
  • One study shows that personality traits are considered the most important attributes by hiring managers.
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Every hiring manager wants to find the perfect candidate for the job.

But the application process is set up against them. Typically, the first step involves reviewing a resume and possibly a cover letter that lists the applicant's hard skills and experience. Unfortunately, many job seekers don't make it past this initial screening stage if their prior experience doesn't perfectly align with the job listing, and they never have the opportunity to showcase their personality in an interview. This process plays over again and again thousands of times a day in HR departments across the country.

It doesn't seem very effective and according to a study conducted by education company Hyper Island, it is worse than it sounds. Hyper Island polled 500-plus leaders across companies in the communication, technology, and business development industries and asked which candidate attributes would make them want to hire them. Seventy-eight percent of respondents picked "personality" as the quality they most wanted in employees. "Cultural alignment" was next. Guess what was dead last on the list? "Skill-set."

Technology is helping hiring managers overcome this roadblock. New platforms, such as CandidateView, ask potential employees to record themselves answering custom-tailored interview questions. This way hiring managers can quickly get a sense of the person behind the resume before deciding whether or not to call them in.

So what are some key personality traits managers should look for before hiring an employee? Here are five attributes that experts say will help predict if this person will be a good fit for your company.

Related: Avoid Costly Hiring Mistakes With These Five Essential Tips

1. Good people skills

Playing nicely with others sounds like something valued in preschool, but it's just as important in the workplace. You want to hire employees who are good communicators, collaborators, and just easy to be around.

Billionaire Richard Branson argues that a good personality "always wins over book smarts." In an article for LinkedIn called "You Can't Fake Personality, Passion or Purpose," he writes, "Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can't train a personality. We look for people who are friendly and considerate and who like working with others."

2. Problem solver

A resume may tell you how long a potential employee worked at a certain job and what they accomplished, but how good are they at solving problems? The ability to face and resolve challenges head-on is a characteristic worth its price in gold in any business.

How do you find a problem solver? If you are using a video pre-interview platform, start by asking them about a problem they faced in a previous role and how they pushed through it. This is a strong screener question that can help determine if you to take the time to meet this candidate in person.

3. Confident

A job candidate's resume might tell you they've accomplished much in their career. But competence is one thing—having self-confidence pushes a person past the finish line.

Whether your job candidate is coming in at a junior or senior level, their self-confidence matters when communicating with others, making decisions, and taking risks.

Look for employees who can explain their strengths with real-life examples from past jobs. If someone avoids eye contact or has trouble speaking clearly during the interview, that might be a red flag.

Related: 'Quiet Hiring' Is on the Horizon – Here's What Employers and Employees Need to Know

4. Reliable

Trust is the foundation of a strong manager-employee relationship. Without it, you will continually feel anxious about delegating any responsibility and will either avoid this co-worker or start to micromanage them. Neither is a good strategy.

Reliability is one of those soft skills that's hard to predict just by looking at someone's past experience. Be sure to identify candidates with a stable work history who don't hop around jobs every few months. Trustworthy employees tend to commit to roles for extended periods.

Also, check their references. If you don't want to ask upfront if they're trustworthy, ask about their attendance record, consistency, and whether a past employer was comfortable assigning them a complicated task.

5. Coachable

Is the potential employee open to learning, or do they think they know how everything is supposed to be? If the answer is the latter, you want to stay far away. One key personality trait is an openness to learning. You want to hire an employee who is eager to grow and has enough humility to ask questions if they don't know how to do something.

To determine if someone is coachable, ask them about their past experiences learning from a colleague. Have them share an experience in which they learned a new skill from someone in the workplace. Ask them what they learned and why it was meaningful for them.

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Founder, Write About Now Media

Jonathan Small is an award-winning author, journalist, producer, and podcast host. For 25 years, he has worked as a sought-after storyteller for top media companies such as The New York Times, Hearst, Entrepreneur, and Condé Nast. He has held executive roles at Glamour, Fitness, and Entrepreneur and regularly contributes to The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, Maxim, and Good Housekeeping. He is the former “Jake” advice columnist for Glamour magazine and the “Guy Guru” at Cosmo.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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