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Hiring for Personality vs. Hiring for Skills: The Dueling Doctrines of Richard Branson and Robert Herjavec

Posted by | October 12, 2015 | Employer, Hiring

Via LinkedInThe very different hiring practices of two popular entrepreneurs.

Earlier this month, LinkedIn introduced their September publishing theme: “How I Hire”. Many of LinkedIn’s “influencers”, the select group of 500 industry leaders chosen by the social network, have since published advice regarding their specific hiring practices.

Of course, hiring will differ based on the space in which an organization operates, as well as its particular culture. But I found two posts especially interesting due to their contrasting approaches — those of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Shark Tank’s famous investor (and founder of his own company), Robert Herjavec.

Richard Branson: Hire for Personality and Experience

Branson, arguably the most popular entrepreneur in the world, spoke to the benefits of hiring for personality and experience. (You can find his full post here.)

“In my eyes,” opines Sir Richard, “personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can’t train a personality.”

He goes on to highlight the value of hiring for experience over qualifications:

“The person with the top grades and most credentials isn’t always the best person for the role. Time and time again I’ve seen people with a background of broad-ranging employment and skills hired for a job where they don’t necessarily tick the specialist criteria boxes, but become incredibly successful by offering a new level of understanding to the role. With this in mind, we focus on hiring people with transferable skills–team players who can pitch in and help others in all sorts of situations. It’s important never to underestimate the power of versatility.”

Branson calls hiring his “number one priority”.

Robert Herjavec: Hire for Skills and Focus

Robert Herjavec, founder and CEO of the Herjavec group, is affectionately known by many as “the nice one” on Shark Tank. But he’s no pushover when it comes to interviewing.

In his post (found here), he relates a philosophy that is in direct contrast with Branson’s — namely, that a specific skill set should be a priority.

Notice the tactic Herjavec uses to get to the core of an interview candidate’s abilities:

“For example, if I’m interviewing for a sales role, I ask about the individual’s primary motivators. Then I let them know there is an opening in our marketing team and ask if they would be interested in learning more. To me, someone in sales needs to be laser focused on achieving their target and driving for that number. It’s not the same person that I would hire to work on our marketing or communications team. If you waver in your approach and express interest in the second role, you’re not the person for my team.”

Herjavec’s method isn’t a new one. Many Fortune 500 recruiters use similar techniques to narrow their list of candidates. But in the eyes of many, it’s simply a trick that disqualifies a lot of potentially great hires.

As software engineer Zoya Goldman put it in his comment attached to Herjavec’s post: “That fake opening trick is both underhanded and counterproductive. You would have dismissed [Leonardo] da Vinci from the consideration for an engineering position because of his interest in art.”

Every organization is different. And Herjavec’s method seems to work for him. He’s built and sold a number of companies–and made millions from doing so.

But my philosophy favors that of Mr. Branson. Before starting my own company, I worked years for an extremely nimble organization that placed a high priority on flexibility. I saw great value in being able to move persons between departments when necessary, and in the willingness of individuals to fill those needs. Of course, you need specialists, too. But employees who are willing to try “new and different” remove the ceiling that could be holding them — and your company — back.

Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, one thing is for certain: Finding employees that are a right fit for your organization is a learning process.

What are your thoughts? Do you lean more towards Sir Richard’s hiring philosophy? Or Mr. Herjavec’s? Look forward to hearing from you in the comments.

Source: LINKEDIN | Hiring for Personality vs. Hiring for Skills: The Dueling Doctrines of Richard Branson and Robert Herjavec

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