During your leadership career, there’s a good chance you’ll need to be involved in hiring people. Most of the time, this will involve assessing candidates during an interview process.
While I’m not a huge fan of theory or models, they do have their uses when you can apply them practically. One such model I like to use as a guide for hiring people is the OCEAN Model, also called the Big Five Personality Traits.
Technical Skills vs. Personality
In any role, having the technical skills to do the job is important. However, technical skills can often be learned and developed on the job.
In fact, these days with the variety of tools, techniques and technologies available, it’s highly unlikely that your candidates will have exactly the right technical skills for the job. There is always something new that needs to be learned at any organisation.
Personality traits, on the other hand, are less flexible. While skills can be learned, personality is harder to change. Your candidates have been living their lives for many years, so their personality is a result of that experience.
People can change, but it takes time. You don’t have the luxury to change someone’s personality. When you’re hiring people, you need to get the personality fit right for your team and the role.
The OCEAN Model and How to Use It When Hiring People
The OCEAN Model consists of five broad personality traits, as shown in the diagram below. I’ll step through them one by one and explain how I like to use these to assess potential candidates.
Openness to Experience
Openness to experience is all about being willing to try new things. When hiring people, this is relevant because many organisations are in a constant state of change.
If your team is likely to be undergoing significant change or improvement, then openness to experience should be a key aspect to watch out for. You want people who are willing to learn, develop and try new approaches.
People who are open are generally good team members, because they respond well to development opportunities. But you need to be careful to provide this in your team, or they may feel like they’re not progressing.
Conscientious people are all about working hard and doing a good job. They care about quality, and they’ll put in extra effort to get a good result.
These people have pride in their work and take ownership to make sure the work is done right. If you have a job that needs attention to detail and where quality matters, then you need someone who is conscientious.
So why wouldn’t you want to hire somebody who is conscientious?
Well, if you are hiring for a role that is quite repetitive and where the work is completed using a “cookie cutter” approach, you probably don’t need someone who is overly conscientious. When your team is working on varied tasks and producing custom work all the time, you probably do.
Extroverted people are likely to be ideal for roles that require interaction with other people. Extroverts are generally enthusiastic, assertive and comfortable working with others. They draw energy from their outside environment, whereas introverts tend to be highly introspective.
Keep in mind that extroversion / introversion is a spectrum. You aren’t either just extroverted or introverted, people can have qualities of both. If you’re looking to hire people who are going to be mainly working independently, more introverted people may be ideal.
This one is quite tricky, because you can’t box people into one category. Try your best to work out whether their introvert / extrovert tendencies would help them fit the role.
Agreeable people are generally pleasant to work with. They are less likely to argue for the sake of it, and will get on board with your ideas. They are generally polite, and promote a nice working environment, with less tension.
However, agreeable people aren’t always what you want for every role. If you need people to perform contract negotiations or to enforce safety regulations, agreeable people may feel uncomfortable.
Highly agreeable people may also fall into the trap of avoiding conflict. Depending on the role, this may actually cause problems that less agreeable people may tackle head on.
In general, I would say that you never want somebody in your team that has highly neurotic tendencies.
However, we all have them, so unless you find a unicorn, you’re unlikely to eliminate these personality traits completely.
But if you notice a candidate who is cynical, self-doubting, low on confidence or anxious, you might want to avoid them. Neurotic people are not generally nice to deal with in a team environment.
However, if you are hiring people for a role that works independently and doesn’t need to interact too closely with others, then you may be able to get away with a higher degree of neuroticism.
Consider Performance and Enjoyment of the Role
The OCEAN Model is useful as a framework for assessing somebody for a role. The ideal personality type for each role will be different, and you’ll likely never find a perfect fit.
However, you should use the model to assess not only the person’s capability to perform the work, but to assess their potential enjoyment of working in the role.
There are many different personalities that could fill a position. However, you should consider how comfortable your candidates would feel taking it on.
Your candidate may have the skills to do the work, but if their personality traits aren’t aligned to the role, they are more likely to experience burn out and increased stress.
How do you assess personality traits when hiring people? Let me know your stories in the comments below!
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