Technical skills can be taught, character cannot. Hire character. Technical skills are easy to define and measure. You can quantify someone’s expertise on software. You can give a test to measure knowledge. You either have a degree, or you don’t. When hiring we focus on these measurable aspects of a person’s resumé, but these aren’t important, at least not as much as character. You can teach someone software. You can send them to a class to close some gap in technical skills. It’s much more difficult to send someone to a class to teach them to inspire, collaborate, or be visionary. When you hire, focus on the character skills that are non-negotiable.
I have seen many successes where a business associate or I didn’t have specific technical skills the company was looking for, but we were still able to deliver the project because we had the right leadership skills: communicating effectively, asking the right questions, facilitating meetings, etc. These skills were far more valuable than the depth of software knowledge.
When hiring ask yourself these questions:
What do I value most in a person? We all have non-negotiables, whether we define them or not. There are things we just won’t stand for, or traits that are must-have. If you are building a team, take time to define those. Do you value proactive employees? How important is timeliness? Think about your hot buttons and those attributes you really appreciate.
What character skills does a person need to successful in this position? In project management, the ability to get differing perspectives to see eye-to-eye is critical. A leader in IT needs to be able to go between talking with technical teams to talking with business teams in terms each group understands. What are those soft skills or inherent abilities that make or break it in that position?
What type of person fits well in our culture? Understanding the work environment is important to finding someone who will last in the organization. Every company, every department, every team has a culture. The culture is the guiding force for how work gets done. If the company is very collaborative, a lone wolf will not fit in well. If everyone tells it how it is without a lot of fluff, someone who is very sensitive may get offended. Think about how different personalities will mesh together.
What type of person would balance out our team? You don’t want a team of clones; diversification is important. When I collaborate on projects, I tend to look for a highly analytical partner. While I am analytical, I tend to enjoy the big picture more. I value someone who likes to get down into the weeds and assess if the vision is going to get the ROI I’m anticipating. Finding people who complement you and others on your team will help you build a high-performing team. Team-building is an art. You want to find characteristics that complement but don’t clash to the point the team cannot be cohesive. Really think about what dynamics you are introducing on your team.
People can develop their character and enhance their soft skill abilities, but it is a lot harder to teach those than it is to teach someone advanced Excel spreadsheet techniques. Character is ingrained in us, and it takes a lot of focus to improve. As individuals we should always be striving to be better leaders and better individuals, improving our character. When hiring, though, you will have a better investment if you hire character and use training to bridge the technical gaps.
Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.