Signs you might be a personality hire (and what to do if you're working with one)

women chatting in modern office
Signs you might be a personality hire PixelsEffect

Are you the big name in your workplace? Essentially, the MVP who knows every colleague, knows every customer, and always gets the best goss. Then chances are you could be a personality hire. Or, maybe, you're just super popular. But how do you tell the difference? What does it mean if you are a personality hire and should you do anything about it?

You'll be pleased to hear, a careers expert has the answers. Chatting to Cosmopolitan, Career Coach & HR Expert, Jessica Brewer broke down everything you need to know about these employees — whether you suspect you are one, plan to hire one, or you're working with one. Because it turns out, being a personality hire is not always as straightforward as being the chatty colleague everyone wants to catch in the canteen.

It's possible you were designated a personality hire during your very first interview with the company. But, don't fear, it could be a positive thing, and the rest of us may have lots to learn from you. Intrigued? Let's get into it.

friendly happy diverse team workers talking laughing eating pizza together in office

What is a personality hire?

"A personality hire is someone that is recruited more for their behaviour rather than their experience or demonstrable skills to do the job," explains Brewer. What exactly does that mean? "They are often people that have high levels of emotional intelligence and perform well when meeting people, typically they are known for being positive and upbeat."

Naturally, you're more likely to encounter personality hires in client-based roles or service-based industries, according to Brewer, but you can find them in any industry. Ultimately, it all comes down to the recruitment process and how decision-making is weighted, she explains.

Is being a personality hire a good thing?

If you think you may be a personality hire, you'll be pleased to know it could be a very good thing (though it isn't, always). "Hiring into junior roles, in particular, based on behaviours is often a good thing," says Brewer.

Think about it. A personality hire could be "a new employee with emotional intelligence who can quickly build rapport with a new team and clients, can bring new energy and if supported correctly can bring new ideas and motivate the existing team". Who wouldn't want to hire that candidate?

That said, there are other important attributes hiring managers should be looking for. "It is really important that as well as ‘bringing the vibes’, they also bring the right attitude to learning and developing their skills," adds Brewer.

"If someone comes into a role and brings the energy and ideas but doesn’t actually follow through with the work, this can increase the workload for others in the team. In turn, this builds frustration and resentment, especially if the personality hire takes credit for work they’ve not really been involved with."

How do you know if you're the personality hire?

Suspect you might be a personality hire? There are likely signs. "If you are wondering if you have been hired for your personality over your skills, think back to the interview process as this can tell you a lot," Brewer advises. "Did you have to demonstrate your skills and how did you show them? How was the interview — was it more informal or were the questions more probing about the specifics of the work you have done?"

Alternatively, consider your role (and how much of your work relies on your people skills) and whether you're the team member who brings the office together, the expert adds.

What should you do if you think you're a personality hire?

"If you feel that you have been hired for your personality, rather than your skills, this can be an opportunity for you to learn and develop skills and expertise in your role and hone your soft skills, which will set you up for success as you continue through your career. It is no bad thing, but the combination of deep knowledge and understanding as well as excellent people skills will set you up for success," Brewer says.

business colleagues having fun during lunch break

Could we all learn a thing or two from personality hires?

Undoubtedly, yes. "Soft skills within the workplace are incredibly important in a lot of roles," the expert explains.

She says personality hires often excel when it comes to skills such as listening to people; building rapport and being able to negotiate; and showing empathy and understanding. They are great problem solvers, too.

"Everyone can benefit from working on and broadening their soft skills as well as their knowledge and expertise in their chosen field. Soft skills are something that aren't really taught in education, or certainly not explicitly so it can be hard for some people to acquire them," Brewer reasons.

If you're looking to improve your soft skills, she says: "Getting a mentor or coach can be helpful, alongside asking for feedback from managers and colleagues to understand your own blind spots."

So, should bosses make personality hires?

Given all that's been said about personality hires, you might think the answer is an obvious, yes. In fact, it's a tad complicated.

"Hiring for behaviours over skills can be a good decision if managed correctly, and hiring a diverse team that includes those with high levels of emotional intelligence and excellent soft skills can be hugely beneficial for a business, but it is so important to make sure that a personality hire builds their expertise and knowledge so that they are also able to deliver," suggests Brewer.

Nonetheless, she thinks personality hires are likely to become more and more important in the workplace. "With AI tools aiding the work environment, the most valuable skills to employers are going to be deep technical knowledge and soft skills, to facilitate and generate ideas and bring the ‘human’ element to the work.

"This is why for most people building up your soft skills, like motivating others, building rapport, negotiation, conflict resolution and empathetic listening, is as important as building your specialist knowledge and expertise."

What should you do if you're working with a personality hire?

If you're so over working with a personality hire and came here seeking solace we're a) sorry you just had to read about how brilliant personality hires are, and b) hopeful we can offer a solution.

"If you feel you are working with a personality hire and it frustrates you that your boss can’t see who is doing all the work, see the opportunity to develop your own soft skills," advises Brewer.

It might be that you want to work with a coach or a trusted friend to reflect on your own skillset. "Coaching can be really beneficial to help you understand your personal strengths and opportunities for development, and help you navigate those trickier work situations, like how to make sure you’re getting the credit you deserve and how to speak up your own ideas and not get overshadowed by a personality hire," Brewer explains.

Yes, in certain situations, like if you're being forced to pick up someone else's slack, it might be recommended to sit down with your manager. But if you're working with a well-meaning personality hire, well, you know how the saying goes: if you can't beat them, join them.

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