Hiring Employees: Behavior vs. Skills

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I was just having lunch with a business colleague and we were talking about how companies generally look for new employees.

To me, there are two sides to a person’s “business capability” – behavioral and skills.

employee-skills

The behavioral side encompasses areas such as how they deal with learning new ideas, customer service and satisfaction, leadership, revenue and customer acquisition, meetings, morals, ethics and values.  It may also include the sum of business knowledge of successes and failures during their tenure in the world of the employed and in their personal lives, and the lessons learned from these experiences.

The skills side has to do with the specific job function they filled or the industries they’ve worked in.  For example, my skills are primarily focused on information technology, whereas others may have skills in engineering or accounting.

When I’ve interviewed individuals for employment at my company I have traditionally focused on the behavioral side.  This side has often been learned over a many year period and is often intrinsic in a person’s nature.  With regards to skills, anyone who is strong on certain behavioral components can certainly learn new skills within a short timeframe, and often with an outside the box view of it that brings significant value to us.

Unfortunately, I too often find that other organizations focus more on the skills side of individuals.  You need to have 5 years of experience doing this.  You need to have that degree.  You must have worked in such and such an industry.  I understand the interest in having people hit the ground running, but this is often a very short sighted view of how to promote success and leadership within your own company.  Good behaviors and past experiences will generally lead to more opportunity and growth than whether someone has or doesn’t have a specific subject matter skill on day one.

So I encourage you to look at your hiring practices.  Are you hiring the job?  Or hiring the person?

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Chris is Managing Partner of Fair Winds Strategies. Prior to this he was the Chief Innovation Officer at Internet Marketing Ninjas where he managed M&A activity, legal work, and also focused on the use of technology and other solutions to lead innovation and growth. Before IMN, Chris led the sale of his $10mil information technology company, twice an Inc500 fastest growing company in the US, to an investment banking firm in NYC. He has a strong passion for sailing, and had the opportunity to spend two years travelling from Lake Champlain to the southern Bahamas and back with his family.

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