How to hire for personality and train for skills

Even in a tight IT labor market, finding talent with the right technology skillsets probably isn't your biggest challenge. What's much more difficult is finding talent with the right personality fit.

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Look for opinionated and open-minded

Labourey says he also looks for talent that's opinionated enough to speak up, but open-minded enough to actively listen to others advice and benefit from spirited discussions.

"This one is tough, because it also applies to the recruiter, the hiring manager, the CEO -- like me. It's easy to say, 'Sure, I want your opinion about this feature, product, company direction' -- without really listening. Of course people are going to listen to me; I'm the CEO. But I have to actively make sure I'm really listening to them, too, because my opinion can't be the only one with merit," Labourey says.

Talent with the right personality and potential must be able to not only share opinions and advice, but to be sensitive when other team members suggest a course of action or a solution that might differ from theirs. High-potential talent must be able to listen, absorb information and be flexible enough to change their mind when new information's introduced, he says.

"I want opinions and suggestions about solutions, not opinions about problems. Don't just be opinionated about the way something is wrong, or how a mistake was made, unless you have a solution already mapped out or a suggestion for how to fix a problem," Labourey says.

Look for growth and progression

Labourey says when reviewing candidates' resumes, he focuses more intently on progression and growth over time rather than the nitty-gritty of what a candidate has done. Whether or not they've made mistakes, longevity at their last position and hard technical skills aren't as important as a clear indication that someone is taking steps to grow, change and progress in their career.

"Were they an object -- someone that change happened to -- or a subject -- someone who made change happen? Were they trying to find their way; exploring new opportunities and taking on new challenges? Even if someone changed jobs a lot, that's not necessarily a red flag for me. Depending on how they tell their story, it could mean they weren't satisfied and needed to affect change in their work lives," Labourey says. Looking for talent that's continually evolving can help ensure a candidate has that 'spark' that will keep them challenged, engaged and growing instead of stagnating, he says.

Bad hires do happen

Hiring for personality and potential isn't a panacea. Bad hires happen regardless of what criteria you're using. The key is to acknowledge, accept and move forward. "I can really like someone and think they're great, but sometimes it's not the right fit. In those cases, you have to make the hard decision and let someone go -- but I've found in those situations, that person innately knows it's not a fit, and there's a sense of relief, almost, that neither one of you will be stuck in a bad situation," says Labourey.

This focus on potential and personality doesn't always work, adds Jersin, and it's also not the best way to do things if you need a very specific job done quickly, or if you have a project or feature that isn't that complicated, he says.

"But because of the speed of change now, even baseline tools like Excel, for example, are going to change, and change fast. So, if you're going to be hiring anyway, why not look for potential -- for soft skills and these evergreen needs that you're always going to have so you don't have to keep repeating yourself and replacing your hires?" Jersin says.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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