Hiring conversations, tips, and tricks often focus on finding the absolute match in terms of skill-set and on recognizing and hiring top performers. Organizations also hire for resourcefulness, ambition, leadership, and communication skills. However, why do testing integrity and character almost never make the cut to hiring criteria of organizations?
It is not hard to see that an ambitious top performer with his eyes on the corner office may not necessarily have the moral compass to always do the right thing. He/she could let bias colour their opinions or not think twice before unfairly penalizing those who stand in the way of their success.
I have realized several times over the years that our workplaces are microcosms of society. It takes virtue to keep societies and communities from collapsing at the hands of cutthroat personal ambitions and unsubstantiated beliefs. The same applies to workplaces. Good, warm, honest, and hardworking individuals are always better fits if an organization wants to last. If the recent headlines from Uber are anything to go by, organizations are hopefully starting to see this too.
Having said that, recruitment training in most organizations does not account for testing personal values. Hiring managers are often not trained to spot signs of disruptive behaviour and dishonesty. Most of us simply evaluate organizational fit on the basis of past experience and academic credentials. In reality, what organizations need is a value-based approach to hiring. Not only does this ensure that their teams comprise of “good people” who get along and get work done, it also reduces their chances of PR disasters and, eventually, disruption of business on account of a lack of moral compass in employees. You see, integrity and character is not going out of fashion any time soon, no matter what the aggressive new Silicon Valley rock stars would have you believe.
How can organizations include ethics, integrity, and character checks in their hiring strategy? It is easier said than done, but here are a few essentials that could work in most cases:
Include a yes/no question that focuses entirely on integrity and character
Sometimes, the best thing hiring managers can do to spot signs of lack of integrity and character is to just ask potential hires point-blank if they’d be willing to tell a white lie in order to win a large deal. Making it a yes/no question reduces the need for rationalization. If a potential hire is willing to put his/her values at risk just for a little extra cash for the organization, chances are there is not much else they will not do for personal gain when the stakes are much higher.
Listen closely to how much credit or blame your potential hire is willing to share
Organizations run on collaboration. I can’t think of a possible big career win that doesn’t require teamwork or at least mentorship and guidance. Ask potential hires to share stories of work that makes them proud, and listen closely. If they take the full credit for wins that were obviously results of teamwork, chances are they are credit stealers. How much blame they are willing to share for failures is also a tell-tale sign of character and personal accountability.
Train hiring managers to evaluate the right things
Most organization-wide changes start with a simple premise – training. The onus is on organizations to train hiring managers to spot signs of strong character and integrity. Point them to relevant questions that allow potential hires to give examples of not just delivering award-winning work but also of doing the right thing.
With the size and diversity of workforce at an all-time high, organizations need to take a leaf from Warren Buffet’s lessons on building formidable teams, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities – integrity, intelligence, and energy. If you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it, it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” I couldn’t agree more!