Weighing the Character vs. Skill Dilemma When Hiring

A potential employee’s skills might be impressive, but make sure you judge their character for company fit.

There is so much opportunity to pursue and so little competent talent to select in the chase for success. A management conundrum wrapped in a riddle of our modern business day.

Make no mistake, everyone succeeds or fails through the work of individuals and collectively as a team. Often the default decision-making process relies on an individual’s past, which we will call “skills” for the moment, rather than how this individual will contribute to your company’s future success.

Separating the realities from flights of fancy on a candidate’s resume and their subsequent tales of heroic campaigns is hard to verify in our current litigious society.

Is there a big difference between “skills” and the “character” of an individual? Is there a different perspective to consider that will help make sense in your hiring?

We think so; as do some of our most successful security dealer clients. They tend to view their business as a marathon race rather than several 100-meter dashes.

They hire people for character, cultural fit, growth potential and loyalty for the long race toward success. They take responsibility for a thorough recruitment, interview, hiring, and onboarding process while making investments in people who will pay long-term dividends.

If you look at skills alone, you enable “tunnel vision” toward short-term needs, urgency to fill a position, and potential short-term profit gains. Think of investing in the stock market. I know, pretty scary these days! Are you a day-trading kind of company or a value investor company?

Seek Out a Solid Company Fit

A perfect example is hiring for a sales position. In our industry, we get caught in the old trap of asking, “Do they know how to sell security products and services?” This is usually followed by the thought, “I don’t have enough time or patience to train a new person, and it will cost too much to train them …” which defaults your decision toward “skills” and rolling the dice for the next six to 12 months.

How has that worked in the past? Their selling skills may not fit your company culture or processes, resulting in “this is not how we sold security at xxx company; your pricing is way too high to be competitive; you have to provide me better and more qualified leads for me to sell …” Sound familiar? So what is the answer?

Actually you should consider asking yourself two questions: Can they sell well with the right character, and can we invest the time to teach them how to sell our products plus our company and culture? Do you want to read a mystery novel or start with a clean sheet of paper and write your own ending?

With recruitment and ramp-up to productivity costs over 12 to 18 months, with a 50% failure rate, what can be done to change and improve your option of hiring for skill and the right character for immediate impact?

Some Sample Interview Questions

I moderated a stellar panel discussion at PSA TEC 2019 and we addressed several important questions to ask on “How to Interview a Sales Person.”

The panel included Rebecca Bayne of Bayne Consulting & Search, a stellar company recruiter; Gretchen Gordon of Braveheart Sales Performance, a tremendous sales training consultant; and Tim Brooks, PSA Eastern Regional sales manager.

They shared these interviewing question examples:

“Can you share one way you handled a tough objection getting a prospect to make a decision, and the circumstances that affected this situation.”

“How long do you keep a quoted proposal in your sales pipeline and why does that make sense to you?”

“When I follow-up with your last employer about why you were so successful or may have fell short of expectations, what would they share with me?”

“How do you qualify investing your time with a suspect and convert them to a qualified prospect?”

Having sold in our industry, managed sales teams, and helped guide clients with their hiring practices for 40 years, I will tell you that hiring for good character with an accurate expectation of the sales role and then molding the sales clay on your potter’s wheel often delivers better results than buying pottery at a garage sale.

Start with good recruiting skills, great interviewing questions, training for development of skills and engaged sales management experience is what is needed to craft the perfect sales gallery.

Establish a complete “talent” acquisition process for more consistent results and hire some professional help to jump start your program!

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About the Author


Paul C. Boucherle, Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Certified Sherpa Coach (CSC), is Security Sales & Integration’s “Business Fitness” columnist. A principal of Matterhorn Consulting, he has more than 30 years of diverse security and safety industry experience including UL central station operations, risk-vulnerability assessments, strategic security program design and management of industry convergence challenges. Boucherle has successfully guided top-tier companies in achieving enhanced ROI resulting from improved sales and operational management techniques. He is a charismatic speaker and educator on a wide range of critical topics relating to the security industry of today and an accomplished corporate strategist and marketer whose vision and expertise in business performance have driven notable enterprise growth in the security industry sector.

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