Defining Your Ideal Candidate—A Personality-Based Approach

When recruiters ask hiring managers what they want in a candidate, the answers can be pretty surprising.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for the conversation to go something like this:

You: Who do you want to join our sales team?

Hiring manager: A good person who fits our company culture.

You: How would you define “a good person”?

Hiring manager: Someone who is professional, creative, gets the work done, is a great team player, kind and caring, outgoing, who learns fast, and is able to “get the customer,” and... (continues on for another 15 minutes). 

Sure, it's important for hiring managers and recruiters to define the type of person they're looking for, but it's also a challenge when hiring managers have many requirements and don't realize some of those characteristics may be nearly impossible to find in the same person.

Let's look at a few examples of what this can look like in real life and how you can help hiring managers to prioritize.

The “ideal” salesperson

When you list out the qualities of the “ideal” candidate, it’s important to consider what you may be giving up in return. There’s an extreme case of every characteristic, and choosing one means you may have to compromise on another.

For example, for a sales position, there are a few ways you might define a “good fit for the role.”

  • Someone who meets customers’ needs

You may be looking for a sensitive person with high emotional intelligence who can read prospects’ facial expressions during presentations and match their content to the audience. This type of person is skillful at predicting the outcome of their interactions, insightful, inspiring, decisive, passionate, and altruistic. However, remember that sensitive people often rely on gut feelings and decisions even if facts support other theories—and they can be stubborn and unswayed by logical arguments.     

  • Someone who makes data-driven decisions

On the other hand, there are data-driven people who prepare in advance to match the audience by studying past cases, facts and figures, and company history. This attribute can be extremely useful, but it can also come at a cost. These people might not pay great attention to the atmosphere in the room and emotions of the people there. Tough-minded people who are extremely rational and who trust only numbers and facts may be great analysts and abstract thinkers, but they can also be overconfident, insensitive, and even come across as unlikeable.

  • A team player

A solid team player is a good friend, sociable, sensitive, and well liked by their peers. This type of person is exceptional in organizing large-scale projects, but can sometimes struggle with decision-making and leadership. Team players tend to be responsible, but it’s harder for them to be leaders and entrepreneurs.

  • An independent thinker

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the independent thinker. This person trusts their own abilities, is very knowledgeable, charismatic, and inspiring, but could potentially push their own beliefs too hard, and may become frustrated when their own KPIs depend on the rest of the team's performance.

  • A creative type

A creative person is someone who has unique ideas, wide imagination, and can always find an out of the box solution to any problem. However, excessive creativity might lead to unpredictable performance or missing deadlines due to a lack of inspiration and focus.

  • A methodical problem-solver

The extreme opposite of the creative is a methodical person. This type tends to be a perfectionist, someone who takes responsibility and pays great attention to details. However, they may become obsessed with the details or too concentrated on a single solution and might miss other options and the bigger picture.

These are just a few examples of common traits that hiring managers want and how they can contradict each other.

So let’s say you find yourself in a situation where your hiring manager has too many requests: How do you allocate priorities?

Deciding what matters—and what doesn’t

There are tons of dilemmas like the ones I just described during the hiring process: introverted vs. extraverted, reactive vs. stable, flexible vs. structured, etc. So how do you decide which characteristics to prioritize? The answer is that it’s totally up to your company. You can make this decision based on your company goals, culture, and values; the current team; management style; and KPIs for that individual or department.

And, of course, you don’t always need to choose someone whose characteristics are at the extreme end of the spectrum: You can opt to find someone who is in between the “sensitive soul” and “the facts and nothing but the facts.”

How we approached this at Recualizer

At our own company, Recualizer, we  know the importance of creating and maintaining company culture, therefore our mission is to help others build their company culture and hire people who truly match it.

When hiring for our own sales team, we made sure to define what a superstar would look like, not just in that role, but in that role at our company. We are results-oriented, enjoy our work, and find excitement in growth. We are hard-working doers, we care deeply about customer satisfaction and value responsibility, and we love our team activities—and even Mondays.

For the salesperson, we decided to prioritize a more independent person rather than an extreme team player, because in order to deliver results, abilities like taking responsibility and making quick decisions were crucial.

We value when people can learn from their mistakes—after all, we are a startup! So we’re fine with people making wrong steps as long as they take responsibility and learn from them. Sensitivity was another important quality for us because the rest of our team is composed of tough-minded, extremely rational people. We wanted someone who would think differently in order to create an overall balance. We envisioned the salesperson to be insightful, passionate, and altruistic, able to adjust and tailor their message to the audience, and maybe even trust gut feelings.

What this means for you

I have one piece of advice for companies who are about to define their own culture: Be bold and don’t let society/fashion/trends define it for you. Look around and simply describe what you see in your company already (and what you’d like to see more of).

Company culture can make or break your company. Allocating priorities and choosing qualities wisely to fit your company culture can result in lower employee turnover, better performance, and happier customers.

It’s easier than ever to assess candidates’ qualities: We now have AI to scan candidates’ social media profiles and give detailed reports, traditional and modified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests, neuroscience techniques, and more.

What this means for you is that it’s essential to make sure that your recruiters and hiring managers are on the same page. Clearly define which characteristics are most important and which you’re willing to compromise on. Take the current team and company composition into account when making these decisions. And be sure to design an interview process that will help you assess those qualities.

Want a little help adding structure to your hiring process? Download the interactive Structured Hiring 101 eBook by clicking on the link below.

Aika Murzabulatova

Aika Murzabulatova is a co-founder at Recualizer, a platform that helps companies to discover cultural fit of potential employees. She's an Artificial Intelligence major from Manchester, UK and former smart city solution project manager. She's a strong believer in implementing AI in recruitment/HR. Aika is crazy about R’n’B dance parties, driving, her kitten named Rio, and her husband. 

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