When Eirik Horneland (Norwegian Football Manager) recently hired Erik Huseklepp (former football player) to his management team, he stated to the newspaper Bergens Tidende: "It is much more important who you are than what you know” It was Huseklepp's personal qualities that first and foremost led to him being hired.
I guess we can all agree that personal characteristics are important in most roles. Capabilities that allow us to fit in, based on who we are and not what we know. If someone does not succeed in a role over time, it is rarely because they do not have enough knowledge, but because they do not handle interpersonal relationships well enough. For some reason they do not fit in. How can we detect this in advance of an employment? How can we avoid hiring the wrong people?
Before the search for candidates begins, it is important to be aware of the needs of the company and expectations associated with the role. What results are expected and how can these be measured, how should this role complement other roles, what is the culture like, who are the people surrounding this role, and more. The role must be placed in a context to find the right candidates. This awareness makes it possible to assess competence, experience and personal qualities that are suitable for this particular role.
In a hiring process, it is of course important to get an overview of what the candidates know, in terms of competence and experience. A thorough review of their education, positions they have held and what they have achieved throughout their careers, can give us some guidelines on how they will take on a new role. This is largely based on facts and is often the easiest part to consider. There are many pitfalls that one must be aware of, such as candidates presenting themselves in an excessively good way and exaggerating their achievements in their CV. At the same time, it is relatively concrete and verifiable through thorough reference interviews. Such a “track-record” assessment gives us a good indication of what short-term results we can expect from the candidate based on history, what they have done already.
So, what about the long-term results? How can we assess the candidates to be able to predict long-term results? How can we ensure that the employee succeeds, thrives, and fits in over time? How do we assess the potential of the candidates, and make wise decisions based on this?
A thorough mapping of the personal capabilities is the key. The focus of the assessments shifts from what the candidates have done to what they can do. The potential they must have to create results in this particular role and fit into this particular culture, is being evaluated. Solid, evidence-based assessment tools, supplemented with thorough interviews can be used to reveal the candidates potential. The assessment will always be linked to the expectations of the role and the needs of the company. Some personal qualities will be important in one context and culture, and in others less important. For instance, leadership roles will require some personal qualities that other roles will not.
However, some personal qualities are never wrong, regardless of context, role and potential. The ability to create good relationships, be welcoming, kind and care for others will always provide a good basis for success. Being "a very good guy" as Horneland describes Huseklepp, will never be wrong.