In 2008, organizations were in survival mode. Many survived through cut-backs, layoffs, and pay-cuts. With less staff, the remaining employees took more responsibilities, and wore a lot of hats. It’s now 2011, and things have improved for most. Many are building staff to previous levels. My question is — whom do you hire? What’s you hiring objective? 

How Important is Experience and Knowledge?

I believe experience and knowledge are useless, if not destructive, without character. Hiring for character takes a tremendous amount of work. It’s so much easier to hire for experience because it reduces the need for training. Consider whether some of your best employees are people who came to you with little or no experience. Have you worked with experienced and knowledgeable people who caused problems due to poor character? Heaven forbid you have an employee who is good at their job, but malcontent. They are toxic and poisonous to others, and they’re often listened to because they do have work skills. So… what should you look for–experience, knowledge, or character?

If You Want Valuable, Productive Employees, Hire For Character

If you want to build an outstanding organization, hire for character. Hiring for character is hard work because it doesn’t begin with the interview. It starts with developing a training system. If you don’t have to depend on experience and you can teach the job, you can concentrate on hiring good people. Training is hard work; developing the system may be harder.

My friend, Bob, competed in martial arts as a young man. He was able to stand on either foot indefinitely, and with the other foot, kick higher, harder, and faster than most contestants. He was often asked what his secret was, and he would politely share how he got up early every morning, before his job, and practiced. And he practiced during lunch. He went to the gym every night. He worked out every weekend. A normal response to this was, “No really, how do you do it?” Bob is now a very successful businessman. There is no easy way to be outstanding. It’s hard work to hire for character first.

Are You Convinced?

Do you know of skilled employees who’ve stirred up trouble? How about knowledgeable people who broke policies? Have you dealt with experienced workers who were lazy, negative, selfish, or irresponsible? Have some of your best teammates been those who came to you green? Are you convinced yet? Okay, how do you interview for character? Well… that’s another post.