Hire for Character - Train for Skill
CHICAGO - How would you describe your best employees? What about them makes them valuable to your company? How would you go about hiring more of them?
If you mentioned character or integrity when describing your best people, you are in good company. Here is Warren Buffet's hiring strategy: “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. But if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Without character (integrity), intelligence and energy don’t matter.
It’s easier to train a person of good character to do a job well than to develop character in a skilled but unprincipled, undisciplined employee. If you have to choose, hire for character and train for skills.
Attitude and character are not usually characteristics that you can teach someone. Either you have a good attitude and a good character or you don’t. If a employee needs to be continuously reminded – or even forced – to do things or behave in a certain way in order to achieve the desired outcome, it is not something that will benefit the company. This works with personal relationships too.
There’s nothing neutral about character and integrity. Employees who do not share your corporate culture end up destroying it because they detract from the essence that drives your company's successes. Hiring individuals with good character and attitude not only helps to ensure a sustainable future for your business, it is also cost effective, leading to better retention rates, higher employee engagement, and the possibility of better relationships with customers.
No one would suggest that a business can succeed without intelligent, educated and skilled employees. You cannot hire someone of good character to be an attorney if they don't have the required education to do the work. Consider, however, the importance placed on character in James Coleman's graphic (top left), which shows that character should be the foundation upon which all other hiring considerations are evaluated.
Look first for the kind of character and cultural fit that creates potential leaders and a sense of community within your organization. If a potential hire passes the test of character, then evaluate for professionalism and personality. Check references, credentials and verify education but only if they pass the first two evaluations. And finally, commit to an investment in training employees in any skills they lack to do the job you need them to do.