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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Hiring: Are Values > Skills?

How Prioritized Values Dwarf Skills

We’ve all been there, skimming a job description for a role we may be interested in pursuing. We scan for the position’s title, the years of experience required, and the job skills requested. There may be some light personality desires listed, like “warm and extroverted,” or “detailed and independent,” but not much is given to the deeper reaches of the persona. Maybe that’s because many leaders fear HR litigation, or maybe it’s because hiring managers don’t know there’s a more predictable way to hire.

In my 15 years of helping companies understand how to build stronger teams by connecting their mission and vision to the candidates who naturally exemplify those qualities, it never ceases to amaze me how few hiring managers and leaders talk about values. Patrick Lencioni, a leading organizational development consultant, often talks about how leaders should hire and fire for values, and spend time developing and training skills. But, it seems most leaders do the exact opposite. They hire the skill set they need now and try to will the employee to become the person they want long term.

Hire and fire based on values. Train and develop job skills. So, why values? Values inform the culture of your team and organization. Values inform the quality of relationships and execution of results.

Do you know your team’s or organization’s values? If not, then you have some work to do with the executive team to gain some clarity there.

If you have a team member who consistently delivers great results, but that employee tells white lies, gossips, shows up late, or makes other team members angry, I think we’d all agree that the wins created are somewhat counterfeit. An employee with great skills with misaligned values creates unhealthy team tension.

If you find yourself as a leader having imaginary conversations with a team member that isn't about the quality of their work, then you might have a values problem. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to hire employees who exemplify your values. That comes first. If you also can find employees who have the right skills, it’s a homerun.

Good organizations know their values. Great organizations know the priority of their values.

Let’s talk about how to build a hiring, selection, and interviewing process that maximizes insight into how a candidate’s values match yours.

Every day in your organization, there are circumstances that create tension between your values. For example, if you value relationships and results, it’s often difficult to know which to prioritize when a relationship and a result are at odds with each other. When an organization isn’t clear on which must win when they find themselves in a battle, leaders can feel stuck. Creating the priority of values beforehand allows leaders to make less emotional decisions when emotions are high.

Once you prioritize (or rank) your values, you’re ready to build an interviewing question set that assesses a candidate against the prioritized values. Using our example above, a sample question could be:

If you are leading a team, and an employee is exhibiting some performance issues, what do you do? (Give it some time, address the issue, fire the person, etc.)

The great news is, every organization will likely have a different preferred answer to this question. The magic is understanding what is your organization’s preferred answer.

With questions created to assess for prioritized values, you’ll certainly increase the insight in your interviews, and hire people who better fit the culture and values of your organization.


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