The Cult of Personality: Part Two – Which Traits get the Green Light?

Posted On: March 10th, 2016 By Helen Main No Comments »


When it comes to focusing on personality traits during the hiring process, how do we make this a practical approach to candidate selection? While the idea of being able to select people who tick all the boxes in terms of appealing character traits, in reality, we don’t have time to train a new hire from the ground up, simply because we like their character.
At the same time, however, nor should we hire someone with an unpleasant or abrasive character, simply because they’ll save us money by having all the skills and experience we require!

So where is the balance and how do we achieve it? Should we be examining each individual independently and weighing them up accordingly? Or should we have a shortlist of favoured traits to look out for?

The answer, helpfully, is all of the above. The best stage to truly assess applicants’ character is at the interview stage. Hopefully, you’ve been able to make your interview selections after a chance to rely on a gut reaction, either through a brief phone interview or through a video they sent through with their application. To help you with this next bit, we’ve put together a list of traits you should look out for and one surprising one you should avoid.

Positivity & Perseverance

The first key character trait we’ll talk about is positivity. This doesn’t mean we advise hiring every Pollyanna-esque applicant who walks through your door, not by a long shot! Positivity can come in many forms – quiet resilience, constantly reframing events so that their best features are focused on or simply having a warm, all-encompassing energy all fall under the positivity umbrella – and all of these forms of positivity have a place in your business!

The right attitude will get employees through the tough, boring times that every business faces, whether they be a key decision maker or a temping picker packer. Remember, positive attitudes (and similarly, negative ones) are infectious – attitudes will organically spread through the rest of your organisation, which is an added bonus if you are into hiring people who are constantly on the lookout to see the best in everything.

Ask these questions to ascertain your applicants attitude..

Can you tell me about a situation where you struggled recently?

Looking back at your previous employees, did you ever clash with any of them? What would you do differently now?

Self- Motivation

A positive attitude alone will not get anyone very far (although they might not mind about that, after all, things could be worse…) For a positive attitude to really shine through as an appealing trait in a candidate, it helps if it is combined with our second Key Trait, self-motivation.
A candidate who is self-motivated may drop into the conversation that they are fitting in training for a marathon, or teaching themselves a new language, or picking up a new skill set in some way or another. This kind of display of initiative and curiosity about the world should be looked on very favourably indeed.
A proactive employee will be able to connect the dots and take on some responsibility for decision making, or, at least, know when to ask what to do next. Self-motivated employees will take it upon themselves to improve their work-related skills and keep up to date with work-related technology and news. All this makes for a more reliable, switched on employee. Who doesn’t want that?

How Motivated is your Candidate? Questions to ask..

Outside of work, what do you want to achieve in the next two years?
Are you comfortable making decisions on the fly?



The final trait in this ‘ideal attitude’ trifecta is humility. Not to be confused with the neurotic perfectionist who blames themselves for everything, a humble employee is one who knows when to let someone else take the floor, and when to own up to their mistakes. They are willing to accept criticisms of their work or actions, and will voluntarily point out flaws or weaknesses in past decisions and behaviours. Of all the traits, this is probably the most highly underrated!
Of all the traits, this is probably the most highly underrated! In terms of business, employees with humility will incress the adaptability of your company, which helps future-proof your organisation by allowing growth and change to take place without employee egos slowing the process.
Assessing humility in a job interview environment might seem tricky at first, but knowing whether your applicant is more likely to take all the credit or take all the blame will help assess whether they are a good choice for your business.
Braggart or Wet Tea Towel? Ask these questions for assess your candidates humility..

Do you think you deserve more or less recognition for the work that you do?
Tell me about your biggest achievement to date?

Making it All Work for You

Assessing individuals’ true characters in an interview that they’ve prepared answers and possibly practised for is not easy, but being able to do so will give you an edge over other hiring staff and allow you to make truly informed decisions about your hiring choices.
The process of character assessment is not a one-size-fits-all thing, everything laid out here is simply guidelines to get you started. To effectively utilise this approach you will want to examine the kinds of people who are successful in roles similar to the one you’re hiring for. Try to pick out common character traits and perhaps any that are lacking. Create a list of these traits and work out how you can assess each interviewee for these traits.

Remember, this is simply another tool in your hiring toolbox – you couldn’t build a house with just a hammer, and similarly, you can’t make a successful hire without using a few different hiring tools!

Keep an eye out for our next blog where we discuss some more clinical ways of assessing personality, and whether they are as effective as free discussion in terms of showing candidates’ true colours.





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