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Oct 9, 201801:27 PMOpen Mic

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Employee character: A key to hiring all-star employees and creating a competitive advantage

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We have all heard and shared stories about the woes of hiring employees. It can be a daunting and unsuccessful task. Many would agree that great employees are the backbone of a company and can be an owner’s secret sauce in differentiating from the competition. Sadly, however, what you often see in the interview is not what is observed six months after hiring. Candidates who appear to be all-stars on paper do not produce the results that you need, and worse leave or have to be let go. The latter creates an increase in expenses and time in hiring, training, and onboarding your next hire. Many employers try to select employees solely based on ability, skills, and experience. To solve the employee conundrum and cook up that secret sauce for your competitive advantage, the key is to place a greater emphasis on the character of your future employee.

The importance of character

A mentor likened a person’s character to the foundation of a skyscraper. Early in a career, we’re building, and like a skyscraper, we start building with our foundation. Many don’t spend much time here and quickly focus on what’s on the surface — the part others can visibly see. However, as one’s “skyscraper” grows, if the foundation isn’t deep enough to sustain what is built, there is the all-too-common crashing down experience. We have all witnessed leaders and those in the public eye collapse. The reason is they did not have the character to support what they grew. Thus, if you are making your hiring decision solely based on what your next hire can do and not on who they are, you could be the one cleaning up the next demolition site.

What does a solid foundation and character look like? 

Character encompasses a person’s values, attitude, integrity, commitment, and the overall substance of who he or she is. Our character can be seen in how we treat others, how easily we can admit our mistakes, how flexible we are, and who we are when no one is looking.

Practically, what do you get when you hire based on character? You get what everyone wants! One survey of 1,200 of the world’s largest companies showed the following most desirable traits in prospective employees:

  • 86% said they desire professionalism
  • 78% said they desire high energy and enthusiasm
  • 61% said they desire confidence
  • 58% said they desire self-motivated attitudes
  • 57% said they desire intellectual curiosity

Furthermore, research shows that most employers seek the following traits in their next hire:

  • Hard working
  • Honest and self-aware
  • Ambitious, goal oriented, and self-motivated
  • Action-oriented
  • Modest
  • Self-reliant, confident, and proactive
  • Positive and upbeat


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