What are the predictive traits of successful hires? This question from our good twitter pal @Kashifz jumpstarted quite the conversation. We listed a few obvious ones – adaptability, positive attitude, problem solvers… no argument there, right? Of course some of you might want to debate how you measure that…. But we’re not talking to you right now so shush. That led to a follow up question – what are traits that people think are important but actually don’t predict good hires?

Amy only had one answer.


She Said

That’s right, I said it. Being likeable is overblown. Too often recruiters and hiring managers fall into the buddy trap. Just because someone is “cool”, or “fun” or would be great to have beers with, does not in any way predict they will do the job well. I’m not against nice people, exactly. I just think that too many times we are shocked when someone blows it on the job because they were just so nice. Or am I the only person this has ever happened to?

Think about it – likeability can cover a multitude of sins. Have you ever heard “well, they don’t have as much experience as Candidate A, but they seem really motivated and I bet they could ramp up quickly!” Nonsense. You LIKE the person. That’s it. And if that’s the number one reason to hire someone, you’re asking for trouble.

I’m not saying we should be hiring jerks… nobody wants to have to deal with the class jerkface. My pal @HR_Nasty reminded me that HR is the one left to deal with the problem hire. So I get it. Likability can be important. It can even be critical in some roles, like sales, customer service, and yeah, probably recruiting as well. But a predictor of a successful hires? It’s way at the bottom of the list, if it makes the list at all. I’ll admit that if I’m looking at two candidates, all other things being equal, I’ll probably recommend hiring the “likeable” guy. There just has to be more to the story. We owe it to our employers and our profession to hold hiring managers and our recruiters accountable for their hires. We have to look at more than “he’s a nice guy”.

He Said

Okay Amy. I hear you. Just because someone has a killer smile and a great laugh does not necessarily mean that individual will succeed. Let me put another spin on it though. It seems that every trending article these days has something to do with culture. Companies are very concerned if he/she is going to be a good FIT with THEIR Company. They all want the candidates to CONFORM to their ideas, their thought processes, and their ways of doing things. How can you take a guy that is not a likeable guy and have him/her succeed when there is such an emphasis on culture?

They have the education. Check! They have the skills. Check! They have the years of experience. Check! They have great references. Check! Then why aren’t they getting hired?! I’ll tell you why. Something doesn’t click. I recruit product managers, executives, and high profile sales individuals on a daily basis and they are some of the toughest roles to fill. They are hard to fill because more times than often they have all of the SKILLS necessary to do the job. They simply don’t have the “IT” factor.

What is the “IT” factor? You either have the “IT” factor or you don’t. You have to want to sell (and be good at it). You have to be able to communicate with others. You have to be a natural born leader. If you are a complete pain in the ass, people won’t want to follow you. They lead by example, not by choice. Their likeability usually gets them to the top without them ever seeking it.

So, I disagree with you. You don’t have to be my buddy. You don’t have to drink a beer with me. You do have to be a leader though. Leaders are likeable. They may make unpopular decisions, but people trust them. They wouldn’t trust them if they weren’t likeable. How did JFK get to be president when he was in his 40’s? How did President Clinton not get impeached after having an affair? They were likeable.

It is important.