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How 5 CEOs Hire for Character

You need to hire a new team member. You’ve scanned about 60 -70 resumes, narrowing your potentials down to the top 5 or 6 candidates. We know that “Hiring is a Human Activity“… but how are business leaders hiring for truly human characteristics, like character?

Well it starts with the CEOs! There is a book titled “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. It’s an HR book and it’s rather old now, but one of key chapters that remains timeless is “Get the Right People on the Bus.” It’s exactly what you think it is, hiring the right people from the frontlines to executives.  Jim explained“Start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” Bad hiring decisions are the most costly part of business. Finding the right character and personality is important on all levels.
For example, what if an employee tries to comprise a subordinate with “quid pro quo” and the company gets sued – that’s a bad hire. The CEO decides to ignore data regarding safety concerns with automobiles for over 10 years, and now the company is facing fines and possible jail time – that’s a bad hire. CEO lies on their resume to get the job – bad hire. Head coach punches or abuses student athletes? – bad hire. Those are some very embarrassing and costly character flaws.

There is no way to predict human behavior 100% and that’s what makes us all so unique. But the momentum to hire for character and integrity is gaining steam. Check out how these 5 CEOs do it:

Recently, Sir Richard Branson, billionaire mogul of Virgin Group wrote, “If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others you are on to a winner.” He went on to say “Personality is the key.”

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX spoke at the South by Southwest conference where he said, “[My biggest mistake is] weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality…it matters whether someone has a good heart.”

The CEO of Hermes US, Robert Chavez says, “When it comes to hiring, we look for people who have a sense of humor, people that can smile.” He particularly likes to ask candidates, “What’s important to you?” It’s obvious he’s looking for characteristics of personality, values and integrity.

Jean Regan, President, CEO & Chairperson of the Board of TranzAct Technologies shared, “Personality is something that cannot be taught – it’s inherent to each unique person. Job skills, however, can be taught, molded and polished to facilitate the job in which the person is placed. This is why it is so important to hire for personality and train for skill.”

Mark Murphy, CEO and Founder of Leadership IQ, says, “It’s not that technical skills aren’t important but they’re much easier to assess…Virtually every job has tests that assess technical proficiency. But what those test don’t assess is attitude. Attitude is what today’s companies are hiring for. And not just any attitude; companies want attitudes that perfectly match their unique culture.”

Each one of these CEO’s mentioned personality and attitude as things that they look for in candidates. The shift toward red flagging cynical, snarky, mean and nasty is on. You have to be a good person with a good heart. Of course you have to be qualified, educated and skilled, that goes without saying – or it should – but your next candidate can’t be a bad person because CEOs are looking for character.


Gladiator In A SuitChris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who also helps job seekers write great resumes and blogs. His work can be found at & Photo Credit Disney’s Up Character Development on Livlily.

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Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs and dispenses great (not just good) advice at Cost of Work & ResumeCrusade.