Hiring The Right Candidate: Why Personality Matters

   Agile Software Development
Hiring The Right Candidate - Why Personality Matters

Articles and books teach us as job seekers how to find the perfect job. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, talks about the hedgehog principle and his 3 intersecting circles:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about?
  2. What can you be the best in the world at?
  3. What best drives your economic or resource engine?

By answering these questions, you can find your perfect career. But how does this affect us as hiring managers? How do you know you are hiring someone whose passions match the role of your open position?

Find Candidates that Embrace your Passion

We know the best situation for all parties is when the role in the company matches the employee’s passion. This is a win/win when the perfect candidate matches the perfect personality of the person in that role. The cost of hiring an incompatible team member is turn over, loss of productivity, and poor job satisfaction to name a few.

So how do we get there? The easy part is interviewing for technical skills. You can screen a candidate and they either possess the technical knowledge or do not.

Interview for Soft Skills

Not every great player makes a great coach, the same way that not every great developer can master the soft skills needed to work with customers or lead teams. To see if we have a well rounded candidate, we need to interview for soft skills. For this, we remove the technical aspects of the interview and focus on the emotional characteristics of their personality.

We can boil it down to two questions designed to move past the canned google responses and cut through to the true personality of the candidate.

  • Good Day Bad Day

Question: Please tell me, you come into work today and it is a great day. What makes it a great day? What are the types of things you are doing? What makes you feel happy?
In converse, you come into work and it’s a bad day, what are the things that you have to do? What makes it a bad day?

  • Project Passion

Question: Tell me about a project you worked on that you loved. What was your role? What were the things that you did on the project? Why did you love working on the project? What made it special?

Properly Evaluate Applicants’ Responses

Noting key words or themes can help us compare the candidate’s responses and their passions to the role and the attributes that make up an ideal person in this role. Candidates will eagerly tell you what they love to do and many will share what they do not enjoy. Pretty quickly you can see if they will be a good fit for a given role.

The easiest way to do the comparison is to create a profile of attributes that make a good candidate for the role. You should prioritize the attributes. This will help if you need to weigh results from multiple interviewees. Below are some basic examples:

Example: Help Desk Associate

Important Attributes

  1. Enjoys solving problems
  2. Likes working with customers
  3. Can multi task and handle many issues, owning them to completion

Candidate Response
Good day: I come in and get to play with new software and set up servers
Bad day: I have a lot of tickets and have to work with users all day

Resume had all the right experience, but in the long run this candidate will not enjoy his job and you may even find him avoiding his responsibilities.

Example: Business Analyst

Important Attributes

  1. Enjoys documenting requirements
  2. Likes working with customers
  3. Likes learning about systems

Candidate Response
Good day: I come in and my customers are available for me. I get the requirement written and review them with the team.
Bad day: No one is around and I spend all day chasing people down.

Responses match the basics of what you would expect. Kind of a no brainer.


Hiring candidates who have not only technical qualifications but also personalities that match the role pays off big. Morale is always better when one’s passions suit the role they are in. And we also know that teams of passionate, happy employees can make great things happen.

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