What to Look for When Hiring: Values, Abilities, Skills

The most important qualities to consider when looking for your new team member

I recently finished reading Ray Dalio’s Principles book, which had many great nuggets to apply to both business and life. One area he discussed was hiring based on values, abilities, or skills. Often I see companies looking to hire skills, with not enough focus on values and abilities.

Values

Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; core values that your team can abide by. Things like positive, self-starting, team-first, etc. These can appear soft and touchy, but if you are going to set a great culture it is imperative that your entire team shares these values. It doesn’t mean you don’t have diversity in thought and style, but it does mean your core principles are in line across the organization. We have all seen the scenario where a great individual hire has a negative effect when they did not share the culture and values of the organization. It becomes a poison that ruins your team and undermines your culture. 

Abilities

Abilities are innate capabilities that people possess. Things like perfection, people-orientation, analytical, etc. These abilities are often core to the person and in most cases they are passionate about using these abilities. While you can improve these abilities on the margin, it is often difficult for people to change their fundamental abilities. Many personality type tests (i.e. DISC, MBTI, etc.) try and get after some of these ability profiles. When hiring, think through what abilities are required to succeed in the role and test for those. Remember that in a changing business environment, strong abilities allow you to adapt much better. After values, abilities are probably the next most important thing.

Skills

Skills are things that people can do well and are often learned from books, classes, and experiences. Things like coding, financial analysis, sales process, etc. While these are important, any bright and motivated person can learn new skills with practice and effort. While it is important to have certain skills for specific roles, remember skills can be learned and supported. It is much easier to change a person’s skills than their abilities or values.

While all three are important, I would consider hiring based on the values, abilities, and skills (in that order) required for the role. Don’t be fooled by someone with great skills but who lacks the values to fit into the organization and the abilities necessary to adapt to the role and an ever changing market.