Hiring Wisdom: The No. 1 Reason the Wrong People Get Hired

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May 12, 2014

The No. 1 reason the wrong people get hired is because we hire them for the wrong reason.

No matter how logical we may try to be, most hiring decisions still come down to: “Of those qualified, who do I like best?

This means our No. 1 hiring criteria is personality. Unfortunately, personality has nothing at all to do with success on the job.

Focusing too much on applicant personality

In fact, the word “personality” stems from the Latin word “persona” and refers to a theatrical mask worn by performers in order to either project different roles or disguise their identities. This is why the best applicant and the best employee are rarely one and the same. (Now you also know how you hired the perfect person only to have their evil twin show up for work.)

So, if you like the bright, younger applicant with a firm handshake and winning smile, remind yourself that it’s possible that what you don’t see (and what that person certainly will not tell you) is that he’s been very successful at dodging responsibility most of his life and has a well-rehearsed litany of excuses to use on the job that will probably even sound quite plausible — until the third or fourth go-round.

So, how do we start making better hiring decisions?

We need to do our best to disregard our gut instinct likes and dislikes and hire for attitude instead. Whether the job at hand pays $5 an hour or $50, successful people all have one thing in common; they use their positive attitudes (responsibility, dependability, initiative, etc.) to get the job done.

Discovering an applicant’s underlying attitudes

Three ways to discover an applicant’s underlying attitudes are thorough:

  1. Interview questions (For instance, “Tell me what your responsibilities were when you started the job and what they were when you left.”)
  2. Pre-employment attitude (not personality) testing. (Click here for sample.)
  3. Reference checks (“The applicant told me she is a 10 when it comes to dependability, would you agree?”)

Some words to remember: “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame head football coach.

This was originally published in the May 2014 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.