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Hiring Right–Corporate Values Must Match the Candidate’s Personality

Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

If your organization chooses words or phrases to live by, then these words become your core committed values that your business will hire and fire for.

You’ve heard these sayings before:

Hire for attitude and train the skill. 

Hire slow, fire fast. 

The best companies hire right. They hire for more than just the attitude. They also hire for personality and synergy with the company’s core values. And just as important, the best companies will fire for a deficiency in these areas.

The Why:

The assumption: Your company needs customers. They are the lifeblood of a company. They create revenue, cash flow, pay for the lights to be turned on, the employees’ salaries and much more.  Let’s assume that as you’re hiring people, your business wants to hire people who are customer focused. The first step to creating a customer-focused organization is to have the right people and not just those on the front line.  It’s the entire organization, from the top executive or owner to the employees on the front line and everyone in between.

It’s not to say that skills don’t matter. There has to be some reasonable level of skill, but if the behaviors and values aren’t there, then your organization risks eroding your brand and destroying the morale inside your organization.

One of my clients is a chain of stores that has employees singing for the customers while they serve them. The employees have so much energy and enthusiasm, creating a fun environment for both the customers and the employees. The manager explained the unique way they screened potential employees. The applicants have to audition for the job and actually sing before they have an interview. I asked, “If they can’t hold a tune, do they not get the job?” It turns out that it has nothing to do with singing ability. It is simply about the willingness to sing. The client is looking for outgoing personalities, and if applicants aren’t outgoing enough to sing, they don’t have a chance of getting the job.

Core values are what the company stands for. 

Another client is a health care system. In a discussion with its executive team, I was informed of a decision to shut down a portion of the operation. The business couldn’t find enough nurses to keep the entire operation active. It’s not that there was a nursing shortage because there were plenty of nurses. However, there weren’t plenty of nurses that had the right personality. The company had worked hard to build up a brand that was focused on its customers (patients and family members), and it wasn’t about to let someone with the wrong personality or attitude destroy everything the organization had worked for.

Both of these organizations have the common strategy of hiring people for more than their skills. They hire for attitudes and personalities. But what about the core values mentioned at the beginning of this article?

That’s where the good companies become great and the great companies become even greater.

Core values are what the company stands for. While they are simple words and phrases, it is no simple task to come up with the right core values for your company. Some of those words include friendly, helpful, integrity, fun, passionate and many more. These words are more than adjectives. If your organization chooses words or phrases to live by, then these words become your core committed values that your business will hire and fire for.

The “How To”

Your company needs clearly defined core values.

If your business hasn’t already created core values, don’t just do it upstairs in the C-Suite. Get a group of employees from different parts of the organization and create a task force to work on it. This will create buy in from other employees. It’s also very important that this isn’t a short-lived theme. This isn’t a flavor of the month. This is every bit as important as developing your mission and vision statements. Once your company figures it out, it stays.

These values are what your organization will look for when hiring. If a bad hiring decision is made or an employee isn’t living the values, it’s time to let them go. This may seem harsh, but let’s take a look at the two bad things that happen when there is an individual that isn’t buying into the culture.

First, that individual brings down the rest of the team. This is the “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” theory in action. Whatever negativity or anti-core value attitude this person brings to the table could destroy other employees’ morale.

Second is that a customer might somehow have an interaction with this “bad apple.” There could be 100 people working at a company. Only one of them may not align with your mission, vision and values, and if a customer happens to get that one person, it may create the perception that the other 99 great employees are not so great. At any given time, one person will represent your entire brand, everything you’ve worked for and the rest of your employees, as well.

As tough as it may be to let people go, it’s a good decision if they don’t align and believe in your values. That doesn’t mean I won’t speak to how your company can go about firing an employee. There are most likely procedures and a system that falls within the laws of your state and your company’s HR policies.  I’ll leave the specifics to your handling.

First Steps

Define your core values. They define your culture. Create a task force that will work on this. Start with your vision and mission statements and find the adjectives used in these statements that best define your business.

Make these values public. Rally everyone around these values. No one is left out, it’s the entire company. This is the DNA of your culture.

Next, if this is all new to your organization, kick it off strong. Keep it going by modeling the behavior from the top down. Leaders can’t preach one thing and behave differently. Everyone is a leader in modeling the core values of the company.

Have all of your employees, if they haven’t yet done so, take some type of behavioral style assessment, such as the Personal Profile System, referred to as DISC, or the Predictive Index, known as PI. Business leaders know who their best people are. Take the top 10 percent-20 percent of the employees who embody your values and based on the assessments, find the similar characteristics that they have that are different from the bottom 10 percent-20 percent. This involves looking for common traits to help your organization identify superstars and the laggards. This will provide a good benchmark for future hiring. These assessments shouldn’t be your only decision-making criteria, but they can help.

Make it clear that everyone lives these values. Support the values with training. Reinforce them with ongoing messages. Celebrate success to recognize the best practices and employees who most embody the values, making them role models.

Before your company can be the best at what it sells, it has to be the best place to work. This starts and ends with your people. The culture is defined by your core values. Hire right. Your employees’ attitudes and personalities must align with your organization’s values. Those values aren’t just words; they are the backbone of your brand. ⎯

Shep Hyken is the chief amazement officer of Shepard Presentations, LLC. He is a customer service expert, speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He can be reached at 314-692-2200 or

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