Candidates' experience vs personality: Many recruiters’ dilemma and what to do about it

12. 5. 2019

Recruitment and selection is not exactly an easy or straightforward process, and it involves many key stages to hire the best candidate for the advertised and available role. Many recruiters today also face a common challenge when making hiring decisions, such as recruiting based on experience or personality. This article aims to understand the factors that recruiters consider when making recruitment and selection decisions and the more pivotal characteristic they think is fit for the job.

When perusing job applications, it is considered standard and normal practice for recruiters to eliminate the majority of those applications based on their lack of experience. In fact, most recruiters tend to focus more on the skills and qualifications stated on resumes, assuming that they will be more successful in the job since they had previously done similar roles. Those with the most relevant experience are most likely to advance to the next stage when their educational background and skill set are further examined. Then, those who meet the mandatory criteria will score a face-to-face interview. It is only at this stage when candidates‘ personalities and behaviors are evaluated if they are taken into account at all.

Why don‘t recruiters put much weight on the personality factor?

Amongst all the aspects to be explored before appointing the right candidate, interpersonal skills are perceived to be the most elusive in determining how well they can contribute to the mission of the company. Many employers hire entirely on skills and experience because they want someone who can hit the ground running with limited induction or supervision, which translates to reduced training costs and faster productivity.

Other employers also prefer a hassle-free approach to short-list qualified candidates who meet their exact needs and remove any risks and guesswork that hiring a less experienced candidate entails, although they may have more positive attitudes. In other words, they believe that hiring more experienced and skilled candidates give them a competitive advantage.

Why is having a defined recruitment and selection strategy paramount?

Recruitment is undeniably a substantial business strategy to leverage employer branding. It may seem difficult at times to source excellent candidates in the market, however, they do exist and it is only a matter of finding them and utilizing their talents. Thus, companies must always be well-aware of the current talent landscape and make smart and informed decisions to form their plan of action. A successful recruitment strategy is also aligned with the company’s mission and vision and serves its best interests.

For example, such strategies may be to film a recruitment video to showcase the company’s culture and give potential applicants an idea of what it is like to work in the company or innovate their recruiting process by waiving resumes and introducing skill set and personality tests to stand out from the crowd and generate a better-quality talent pool. These strategies can immensely help recruiters attract candidates who reflect on the business‘ own mission, culture, and values.

Why should you hire for personality?

These are three important reasons why recruiters should consider giving greater weight to the personality principle:

  • Skills can be learned

Fundamentally, skills can be acquired, talents and abilities can be developed, and experience can be gained. However, it is more challenging, and sometimes, impossible, for people to change their personalities. Personalities are ingrained and hiring a very skillful applicant with a negative personality or attitude to work is an arduous activity to overturn. Meanwhile, a new and sharp employee who is enthusiastic and eager to learn can be competently trained on the job, and employers can still reap the advantages of their affirmative personal traits and outstanding work ethics to build a strong working foundation and relationship.

  • Stronger team

Managers should never underestimate the power of synergy and collaboration, even when some employees or teams work autonomously. Very few jobs can be completed totally independently and teamwork still remains to be an important factor in establishing a happy, enjoyable, and triumphant working environment. In fact, successful businesses thrive on the flourishing relationships that are formed in the office, how they treat, support, and interact with each other, and how they share knowledge. Unfortunately, no amount of experience can help blossom these relationships if the employees are not team players and have no motivation or interest in building solid networks (Gardner et al., 2012).

  • Higher customer satisfaction

A happy and strong team plays a monumental part in customer satisfaction and business success. Whilst highly-experienced candidates may maximize business processes, the results may be short-term. On the other hand, employees who have a higher level of passion and receptiveness can optimize the company’s corporate culture and values and deliver a friendly and professional service, leading to improved branding and reputation in the long term. Ultimately, organizations must establish a good foundation of employees who have the intelligence, drive, and dedication to execute their jobs effectively and surpass managers‘ expectations. These skills are harder to learn than most technical skills and employees can still fail if they do not bear the most valuable intangible personality traits.

When should you hire for skills?

There are definitely situations where experience is far more desirable than personality and it depends on the level of roles, industry, and sector. After all, a candidate’s skills are the very tools that enable them to perform and exceed in their roles. For example, a start-up company would favor a manager or director with firm leadership skills and extensive experience in business development. Similarly, a fashion magazine company may lean towards fashion editors with prior fashion experience and an acute eye for style to help the company set trends faster than its competitors. In the aviation industry, an experienced pilot is incontestably preferable to ensure maximum safety of passengers. It is fully understandable for recruiters to hire candidates with a robust skillset and experience to fill more senior, demanding, or specific roles to assist them with complex tasks and projects, especially in a niche industry.

Finding the right mix

Nevertheless, skills and experience are sometimes unreliable indicators of candidates‘ future performance and success, and recruiters should not overemphasize these offerings as they may not necessarily guarantee a high quality of work. Recruiters should also not select these candidates at the expense of the company’s corporate culture and values. Whilst building teams of people with similar personalities and morals is not ideal, it is recommended to have a diverse workforce whose personalities complement each other‘s and that will work well together. However, recruiters should never abuse such personality tests, such as the Big Five personality model to avoid any risks of pre-employment discrimination (Youngman, 2017).

Furthermore, change management is becoming a popular subject in recruitment and recruiters must consider other beneficial attributes, such as resilience to be flexible and adaptable in changing environments and their potential to grow with the organization. Basically, recruiters also need to evolve in their own roles and be confident in their abilities, experience, and intuition to make judgments and discover exceptional candidates who possess the skills, experience, personality, drive, and potential to provide them with the best outcome.

Trying to place the right candidates into the right roles is never a simple task for any HR department, however, recruiters can reveal an unlikely yet ideal candidate by shifting their perceptions and expectations and paying more attention to their personality, attitude, motivations, and other intangible attributes. Although having the applicable functional skills certainly strengthens an applicant’s case, sometimes it is not advisable to solely concentrate on these requisites. Recruiters must be more flexible and see the big picture, acknowledging how the right candidates can take their business to new heights. Presenting opportunities to candidates who are a better fit for the company with regard to cultures, ethics, morals, and values is indeed intelligent recruiting.


Bibliography (standard format of citations according to international standards):


Julie F. Youngman. The use and abuse of pre-employment personality tests. Business Horizons. Volume 60. Issue 3. 2017, pp. 261 – 269.

William L. Gardner, Brian J. Reithel, Claudia C. Cogliser, Fred O. Walumbwa, and Richard T. Foley. Matching Personality and Organizational Culture: Effects of Recruitment Strategy and the Five-Factor Model on Subjective Person–Organization Fit. Management Communication Quarterly. Volume 26. Issue 4. 2012, pp. 585-622.


Author: Ria Riadi, LIGS University student, under the supervision of Dr. Marian Stadler. 


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