Hire character. Train skill — Peter Schutz


Oct 7, 2019 · 5 min read

When seeking to hire the right person for a job, the focus should lie equally on values and competence. However, studies and experience have shown that the character of a person, their core principles, values and life view are primordial in choosing the right applicant. Time and time again, it has been proven that skills can be taught or transferred, but a person’s character cannot be changed, therefore recruiters have a difficult task ahead of them, since they must put expertise on a lower position and try to identify the true personality of a candidate, as well as how well it fits within the company’s culture.

How do we do it?

The first step in accomplishing this is defining the business’ values and priorities, then making sure the people in charge of selecting the workforce know and embrace them, create behavioral questions and use them in interviews, for establishing the right applicants. The traditional screening and hiring process no longer holds water in this diverse and ever-changing world. Thus, after defining priorities, the next challenge is to objectively measure the candidates’ suitability with them. Ask smart, unusual, out-of-the box questions, gather data from various sources (references, former co-workers, social media) and use the acquired information to show if there is a mismatch between what you demand and what the person has to offer.

So what should you seek in a future employee?

Nowadays, the necessary skills for most jobs are developing and changing very fast, due to technological discoveries and advancements. In order to be efficient in a modern workplace, the most valuable quality a person can have is the ability to adapt and learn constantly. Regarding this, author and company owner James Reed wrote “I might not know which skills will be most in demand in 10 years, but I do know exactly what sort of people I will want to hire in ten years. Good people of integrity, who are persistent, passionate, energetic, innovative, optimistic and resilient.” Barry Hoffman, HR director of Computacenter, shares a similar opinion “Skills can be trained and our industry is fast-moving, so a skill today may only have eighteen months’ currency because the technology moves so quickly. What we want is the mindset more than skills that may well be out of date in as short time.”


The building of human character comes before everything else, therefore many companies prefer to employ a person for their character and then train them on the job. It is much easier to train a person of good character to do a job well than try to develop character in a very adept and experienced employee, but who lacks essential human values. The focus should lie on the person’s demeanor, personality, drive, adaptability, fast learning, problem solving and creative thinking. Specific knowledge, processes and products can be taught and then easily learned by the employee. As author Zig Ziglar so expertly and concisely put it, “You don’t build a business, you build people, and then people build the business”.

Character has become more important than MBAs, PHDs or training courses, because the traits and techniques necessary for getting a superior education and gaining more experience do not necessarily entail social skills, collaboration or even integrity. Many times, skilled employees end up being fired for character issues. The pattern can be noticed in most companies and institutions in any domain, and the truth is that this abnormal cycle will continue until employers will start prioritizing staff character. Selfishness, poor teamwork, a wrong work ethic, cheating, stealing, lying and toxic attitudes are the most common reasons why otherwise competent people are let go. As former president Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right character from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong character”.


A candidate may have the perfect set of skills that the company is seeking, but still be rejected due to other reasons. Talent doesn’t compensate for unfit values and principles, which make someone completely unfit for a certain organization.

You cannot teach someone attitude — either they have it, or they don’t. If an employee needs to be constantly reminded or even forced to perform tasks or behave in a certain way in order to reach the desired goal, the company will suffer because of it. Therefore, it is a far better idea to hire people with the right mindset and attitude, who come with some basic understanding, training or pre-requisites for the job, then provide further training that helps them excel in their future endeavors. Values are imprinted in our brains since birth and no matter how hard you try, you can never truly change a person’s character. Skills can be acquired and mastered over the years, but character defects are usually irredeemable.

Hire for character, train for skill

The ideal situation is where character and skills blend together in a healthy way, but reality tends to push us toward making a choice between the two. If we must make a critical decision between them, we should try to prioritize human values. And if you do have to choose, TRISOFT encourages you to hire for character and train for skills.


Written by

We are TRISOFT, a Symfony oriented software development company, lead by @symfonydevro. Get in touch with us at www.trisoft.ro or info@trisoft.ro

Remote Symfony Team


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