I just came across this expression today, but according to at least one web site, the saying has been printed on many posters. “Hire character, train skill” has been credited since 2005 to former Porsche CEO and motivational speaker Peter W. Schutz, but it’s uncertain when he first said it.
Regardless of when it was first said, it’s an interesting phrase, and one I strongly agree with.
The web site HH Staffing offers an interesting perspective on the phrase, looking at the advantages of each approach.
Hiring for Character:
- Many companies hire employees for their character and then train them on the job. They do this with the idea that you can teach skill, but cannot change a person’s character.
- Experienced and talented employees with a bad attitude often fail at their jobs. However, inexperienced employees with great attitudes tend to succeed long-term.
- A person can have all the necessary experience and skills, but if their personality does not fit the company culture, are they really the right person to hire?
- Considering 99.9% of positions, regardless of the industry, require dealing with fellow coworkers, bosses, or customers a person’s attitude should be a priority.
- 89% of new hires lose their jobs due to something involving their character.
Hiring For Skills
- A person’s character can only get them so far. When real change is needed at a company, character is unlikely to be enough. This is where skills and experience reign supreme.
- For example, you would not hire a really bright and polite candidate to work on an assignment where certifications are needed. That would be a safety hazard, not to mention a waste of time.
- When you hire for skills versus character, you try to get the best talent available. A team of happy employees is great in theory, but if they do not have the qualifications to succeed you may find yourself in a pickle.
- 11% of new hires lose their jobs due to technical ineptitude.
Those last statistics quoted in each section are revealing; it seems to strongly suggest that since most people lose their job because of a character issue, that seems to be the more important quality to focus on when hiring. If only 11% of people lose a job because of a lack of skill, then skill does not seem to be much of an issue. This might suggest that skill is something that can be more easily trained than character.
And as to the argument that when you hire for skill you have a pool of qualified people but not if you hire for character, to me that reflects a problem with your training program. I think the vast majority of skills needed for most jobs could be learned on the job and with proper training. What you want are people who are willing to be trained and are of good character.
I also think that this phrase applies to our elected officials.
No one becomes a politician already having the set of skills needed to be effective at such a job.
However, you would hope that they can learn how to do the job once they are elected.
To me, that suggests that character is the critical quality to look for in a political candidate, and personally, it is a quality I value very highly.
*image from quotefancy