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Hire for Character; Train for Skill

I used to be a high school English teacher at an alternative school. Eight years ago I took part in an "in service" training, conducted by the Character First Institute. This series of training sessions, focusing on the value of good character, changed my life.

One of the remarks I remember, because it was repeated often, was: "Hire for character, train for skill." The principle here is that it is better to hire a person with good character and low skills than it is to hire a person with bad character and high skills. This is obviously a simplified view -- you can't hire a grocer with supreme character and zero skills for a position as an astrophysicist; obviously there are basic skill requirements for an astrophysics job that can't be overlooked.  But as you are choosing between candidates who meet the minimum skill requirements, character becomes important in distinguishing between candidates.

The kind of character you have defines how you will respond to situations. A wise employer knows that it is easier to teach a new skill than it is to teach a core value like "honesty." A lack of honesty indicates a building block that is missing from a person's developmental past; and in adulthood this is extremely difficult to pin-point and address. Moreover, a good parent also knows the importance of character. When we train our children to be punctual, responsible, dependable individuals, we know these characteristics will give them real value and substance, whatever career path they may choose. Character principles are foundational for success.

Having been involved in the hiring process, I have had opportunity to consider and apply this principle practically: "Hire for character, train for skill." I have seen it yield incredible benefits. On the other hand, when I look back on times when I have been involved in the firing process; I see that 100% of the time, the people were terminated for an irreconcilable lack of character, which lead to disastrous outcomes.

For any job, the vast majority of what is expected relates to character. Whatever the industry, an employer wants people who are punctual, who are dependable, who are honest. People who won't steal or take advantage. People who won't jeopardize the business with poor or destructive choices. People who will advance the business and meet objectives through excellence and hard work.

Therefore, isolating and recognizing character strengths (and weaknesses) in potential employees is extremely important! If you hire people of character, you are investing in the success of your business and increasing your chances of a positive and effective hiring experience.

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