Dear J.T. & Dale: Here’s a question from the other side. My company expects to be expanding next year. I haven’t done much hiring lately and know so little; however, I’ve been thinking that character, integrity, self-discipline, and honesty are the most important traits to look for. I heard a radio interview where some guys were talking about “soft personality traits,” and one eventually said they were really talking about character. Then he said they use “personality traits” because “character” sounds too moralistic. Is having morals bad? Should I expect employees to develop character? How should I approach soft skills in an interview? – Tom
DALE: First, I’d urge you to talk openly and often about character; if it makes a job candidate uncomfortable, you know you’re looking at the wrong person.
J.T.: It’s fine to talk about “soft skills” and character, but the challenge lies in how you define and evaluate them. Can you measure them in a job interview? Job seekers will tell you that their soft skills are their best feature, and I guarantee they’ll all say they have an abundance of character.
One solution is to study the interview technique known as behavioral interviewing. That’s where you ask open-ended questions that typically start with, “Tell me about a time when…” or, “Describe a situation where…” Such questions help you see if the candidate’s actions and thought processes fit your company culture.
DALE: That brings us to the most important piece of advice I give any manager about to embark on hiring: The person you interview is never the person you hire. Some managers try to solve that dilemma by hiring for a particular background – interviewing only those from particular schools, or just hiring veterans or former athletes. I recently heard of a company that hires young Mormons just back from their missions.
Another option is to recruit candidates via trusted friends, colleagues or customers, or to hire talented people working for suppliers. The theme of the best hiring systems is that you are not passive, hoping the right candidate turns up, but you are out spotting and courting talent. The best employees have lots of opportunities and need to be recruited, not just interviewed.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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