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This is how to hire the right personality vs. someone with the right experience

Before you get to an applicant’s résumé during the interview process, find your own way to measure their optimism, tenacity, and emotional intelligence. 

This is how to hire the right personality vs. someone with the right experience
[Source Images: Peter Dazeley/Getty]

I spend my days working with customers in highly emotional situations as a VP of sales and client experience at SOLD.com. Selling a home brings up all kinds of issues for people. For many, it’s not only the biggest financial decision of their lives, but it also can mean leaving a place where they’ve built lifelong memories. Helping people use technology to make decisions is table stakes. What makes someone really good at this job is providing support beyond the standard of basic counseling. That means making sure customers are heard and offering them tailored solutions that address the things that keep them up at night.

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The personality traits needed to do this effectively don’t usually show up on a résumé, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile. But we have found a few ways to incorporate personality and EQ into our hiring process.

Pay attention to the way they answer, “Tell me about yourself.”

Hiring first for personality factors often takes the back seat to what gets the job done. Yet factors such as emotional intelligence, compassion, and flexibility are incredibly important in today’s changing work environment.

While there isn’t necessarily a tangible way to measure emotional intelligence during the interview process, consider the way applicants paint the picture. How do they tell their story? In what ways do they articulate their past experiences and people they’ve worked with in the past? Do they highlight both their passions and the lessons they may have learned along the way? Or do these applicants simply “read” their résumés to you?

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Those who go into greater detail about their passions and about those who molded them along the way will often be more understanding of and grateful for the experience that paved the way for their careers. Don’t be afraid to also follow up on past passions and experiences. For instance, if someone made a career adjustment, or they’re moving into a different industry, ask why and how.

Understanding a candidate’s “why” helps gauge what drives them each day to strive to do their best. When a candidate has a rooted reason to drive their level of effort each day, this will result in a more invested employee who not only delivers results but also has a personal investment in themselves and their role.

Ask about how they worked before COVID-19 and how they work now. Have things changed?

Remote work has changed the way the workforce interacts forever. Even if your workplace is in the office full time again, the abilities and flexibility resulting from COVID-19 have changed the ways many employees navigate difficult conversations. Be sure to create questions tailored to your organization’s unique challenges. COVID-19 created new challenges for many, but it also shined a light on previous workplace inefficiencies and mishaps. Ask interviewees specifically about the challenges they faced while working during COVID-19, and how they solved them.

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In today’s environment, many hard skills, company routines, and working patterns can be trained remotely or online, but training future employees to empathize with their coworkers and organization takes far more. Instead of experience or skills, team leaders need to focus on personality traits because you can’t teach personality. But you can help someone improve their skill set and gain experience.

To help measure, share your own story during the interview process. Highlight the ways that you may have struggled in your work amid COVID-19 and its shifting work environment. Doing so will allow you to take note of the way your applicant reacts to change in the workplace. Do they share your concern, or glaze over your story? Interviews should always include dialogue.

For leadership roles, identify what’s needed to showcase emotionally as a leader at your company.

With flexible working, it has never been easier to help upskill employees, and it carries long-term business value, so it’s in each leader’s best interest to invest in the tools and infrastructure needed to ensure employees and to continue to grow. Consider how the interviewee speaks about their approach to teaching and growing teams. How do they approach helping future employees expand their knowledge and experiences?

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As leaders, we also need to drive morale to maintain the highest operating standards, especially in the wake of departures. Our employees need to see our support and encouragement to execute at the top of their game and feel empowered to improve their skills. How does the candidate answer interview questions about empowering others?

Vulnerability and transparency can only go so far. Your candidate must show an interest in rebuilding and growing under the new normal. The leadership tone needs to be balanced with an unwavering sense of optimism, i.e., the Ted Lasso approach. Take note of the way in which those in the interview process kept their chins up during more difficult times. Do they share stories that highlight their tenacity and grit?

Ultimately, consider applicants who contribute to company culture in addition to your workforce. Hard skills and company processes can be taught in many ways, but creating an environment for the deeper development of emotional intelligence among employees starts before the hiring process. Ensuring that your future employees are empathetic to the needs of others and understand how to navigate difficult conversations fosters an environment where others can gracefully grow from their mistakes.

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Before you get to an applicant’s résumé during the interview process, find your own way to measure their optimism, tenacity, and emotional intelligence.


Deanna Haas is VP of operations and customer experience at SOLD.com.


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