A Psychologist Discusses The Merits Of A “Personality Hire”

Tech & Finance Recruiting

By Ringside Talent Partners

January 24, 2024

Social media users are conflicted over an emerging trend related to the workplace: “personality hires.” Characterized by their congeniality and ability to bring “vibes” to the office, personality hires are understood to be employees hired for their attitude, “culture-fit” at the workplace and their impeccable interpersonal skills.

With hundreds of hilarious TikToks emerging of what the personality hire’s day to day looks like, many are left wondering, “Am I the personality hire?” Debates are ensuing all over social media regarding how impactful personality hires are in the workplace, as well as what it means to be one.

Luckily, personality and organizational psychology easily outlines the unmistakable signs of a personality hire, as well as how to assess whether they elevate or complicate the workplace.

1. They’re Great At Boosting Morale

If you have a colleague whose greatest contribution to the workplace is an ability to boost morale, they might be a personality hire. Employees that are always friendly, have a great attitude and can seemingly transform a mundane day into something more upbeat can be assets to the workplace—and studies confirm this too.

According to research, employers are increasingly valuing personality traits such as agreeableness, conscientiousness and emotional stability over what we traditionally think of as “intelligence” or hard skills. The research shows that, in the eyes of an employer, someone who can build strong rapport with others, encourage a positive mindset and happily and easily collaborate with others might be a greater find than technical expertise.

A personality hire, from this perspective, can appear like the glue holding a team together. They contribute to company culture and create an environment that feels more like a collaborative family than just a team of co-workers. To an employer, hiring them might be less about skills on paper and more about having an employee who can nurture the workplace’s atmosphere.

2. Their Soft Skills Outweigh Their Hard Skills

One of the strongest indicators of a personality hire would be their ratio of soft skills to hard skills. Someone who may not possess an overflowing toolbox of technical skills but is a powerhouse when it comes to emotional intelligence, communication or problem solving is often the result of personality hiring.

Soft skills, which mostly involve inter- and intrapersonal abilities, are essential to the workplace. Hard skills, on the other hand, refer to the technical expertise required to complete work tasks, and are also considered important in hiring decisions. According to research from the Journal of Intelligence, soft skills can often support the development of hard skills at work.

For personality hires with an abundance of soft skills, developing hard skills on the job might come easy. Their adaptability and ease of working with others pave the way for them to learn the technical ropes as they go, making them look even more desirable to employers.

However, as pleasant as a personality hire may be as a colleague, there looms a question of whether soft skills and contribution to workplace culture alone are sufficient indicators of a truly effective employee.

Do Personality Hires Do More Good Or Harm In The Workplace?

While the abilities to boost morale and excel in communication are undoubtedly valuable, they might not always translate to proficiency as an employee.

On one hand, research shows that employers hiring for a positive attitude and adaptability can be a strategic move. The research emphasizes employers’ sentiment of “hiring the smile” and “training the skills.”

The idea is that a personality hire, with their natural friendliness and optimistic demeanor, can seamlessly integrate into a team and evolve into their role over time. Emotional intelligence, courtesy and teamwork are often regarded as critical components of success at all levels of training. However, the pitfalls of prioritizing personality over qualifications should not be overlooked either.

The traditional emphasis on hard skills, as outlined by the Journal of Intelligence study, stems from their measurable impact on performance outcomes. A lack of relevant experience in a specific role can result in a steeper learning curve for a personality hire, requiring extensive training that may divert resources from other team members.

Further, over-emphasizing subjective assessments can create potential bias. Relying on vague measures like “fit” can inadvertently open the door to hiring discrimination. When aiming to build a team of hard workers with good personalities, benchmarks for skills become crucial to ensure a fair and effective hiring process.

Spotting a personality hire isn’t difficult; look for the co-worker with the perpetual smile, constant kind words and the uncanny ability to turn a dull day at the office into a lively one. In a team desperately in need of a morale boost or lacking in camaraderie, the personality hire can be a breath of fresh air. Although personality hires bring good energy that’s often needed in the workplace, technical skills remain the backbone of any efficient employee. So, while the personality hire is a fantastic asset for the team’s spirit, the importance of a robust set of skills, both soft and hard, shouldn’t be underestimated.


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