The Only 4 Dimensions That Matter!


Reposting this great article by the CEO of oDesk. Its seems that just about every interview process I’ve been thru recently is only focusing on the last (and least important) two. Just because someone does have the exact skills sets and knowledge bases you think you need to have right now, don’t undervalued their motivation and their and character. Its way to tactical!


Does this sound familiar? You interview a candidate who has deep knowledge of your industry and checks off every box in the ‘skills’ section of the job description. They assure you that they are the perfect fit for the position, able to hit the ground running on day one. They look great on paper and seem to be excited about the job. You make an offer, the employee starts working, and soon you are inundated with red flags and problems coming at you from all sides.

What went wrong? You didn’t assess the two most important criteria for any new hire: personal characteristics and motivation.

There are four key hiring dimensions: #1 personal characteristics, #2 motivation, #3 skills and #4 knowledge. In the above scenario, the focus was on just skills and knowledge. And while these are still critical to predicting the success of a potential hire, they should take a backseat to personal characteristics and motivation.

For the most comprehensive picture of a potential candidate, you have to look at all four dimensions, in this order of importance:

1. Personal characteristics are just that—core to one’s personal character. They are what make a person who they are, so for all practical purposes they are unchangeable (or at least too difficult to realistically change in a business context). After all, you can teach a chicken to climb a tree, but you’re better off getting a squirrel in the first place.

When I’m evaluating personal characteristics, I focus on:

Strong communicator
These characteristics, at least for me, are deal-breakers. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to the most experienced, most talented web developer in the Northern Hemisphere; if she isn’t a strong communicator, or he doesn’t have good judgment, nothing else matters. How do you assess these behaviors? That’s another fascinating topic for another post.

2. Motivation is next on the list. As with personal characteristics, this is often deeply embedded and therefore difficult to change. Motivation is often the best determinant of whether the person is a good fit for the role (and vice versa). Because preferences about work environments, stress levels, challenges and team dynamics can vary greatly, misalignment in this area is one of the primary causes of job dissatisfaction and under performance.

For oDesk, this means finding people who get excited about our mission, who like challenges, and who want to make an impact on the company and the world. Some people are energized by this environment; those are the ones we look for. For some, targeting impact and facing challenges drains energy, leading to unhappiness on both sides.

One of the reasons motivation is so important is that people who are a great fit with the role and environment will find much more personal growth as they rise to the challenge of a job they enjoy.

3. Skills—which sit on the secondary tier of dimensions—can’t be overlooked entirely, but they do require some reframing.

Most people think of skills in terms of job-specific expertise (graphic design, programming languages, etc.). While those job-specific skills do matter, they are much easier to learn once in a role than the more foundational skills you should be evaluating first: skills like communication, project management, organization, the ability to handle rapid context switches, etc.

As long as those foundational skills are present—and the position is flexible enough to support learning additional skills along the way—the skills dimension can often be considered met (of course there are some exceptions — you won’t be training any surgeons on the job).

4. Knowledge is the least important dimension—not because it doesn’t matter, but because it is the most easily changed (and is very likely to change anyway).

As a result, when evaluating this dimension, what’s most important is not the knowledge that the candidate already has. Instead, assess their foundation and framework for gaining new knowledge, as well as how able and willing they are to do so.

As with skills, those who don’t currently possess all the knowledge needed to be successful in a given role can still be great candidates, as long as they have that foundation and the position provides the opportunity to gain knowledge as they go.

In my experience, placing too much emphasis on knowledge (at the expense of the other three dimensions) causes the majority of hiring mistakes. Remember, just because a candidate knows their domain inside and out doesn’t mean they are a good team player or that they won’t jump ship as soon as the tide turns.

At the end of the day…

… to determine whether a particular red flag or concern really matters in predicting a candidate’s success, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: can it be changed or learned? If the answer is no to both of those, spare yourself a hiring disaster and move on.

What’s your experience with these hiring dimensions? Which are most important to you?

Want more from Gary? Follow him on LinkedIn and @garyswart.

Featured on:Recruiting & Hiring
Posted by:Gary SwartGary Swart


13 Months in the Philippines – Lesson 6 – October 2012 – You Can’t Go Home Again

004Alabang, Metro Manila, Philippines

October was a crazy month. Started out with an office in Taugig. Then spent most of the month in Clark. End the month back in California for vacation. Each story could be its own blog post, but for the sake of moving the narrative along, I’ll just briefly touch on each.

We found this great office space in Taugig. It wasn’t the best location, but good enough. It wasn’t the perfect size, but more than enough for our first year or so. And it was very reasonable as far as price and lease terms. The problem was we weren’t making enough money to cover the cost and my partners felt it to risky to keep the office with the hope that we eventually start making positive revenue. It would have made a great home. I’m still convinced that was a huge mistake because with a dedicated space I could have been running all kinds of trainings and seminars there. Anyway, it’s another simple analytics exercise. Basic accounting is always a foundation of any analytics exercise. Are you brining in enough money to pay the bills?

Going to Clark was a pretty cool experience. I got used to taking the MRT from Makati to QC everyday, I like the drive on the NLEX, and I felt at home in Clark. Being an old American Air Force base in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of the Philippines, it felt like I was in Florida. Having grown up in a military family and spending most of my childhood summers in Florida… its was like being home again. Getting out into the provinces on a regular basis reaffirmed my belief that the future of the BPO industry is not in Manila. Things didn’t work our with your client, but I made a lot of connections in Clark that will always be worth the lost time on the failed project. One of the key lessons here, understand the amount of effort it takes your workforce, clients and/or customers to travel to get to you. A lot of companies don’t really analyze the market they are set up in, especially when it comes to recruiting talent.

At the end of October we came back to the US for a mini vacation and it was well-timed. BPO Elite was dying, the family needed some comfort time back home and it was just in time to catch the Giants winning the World Series. However, after spending six of the most amazing months of my life in the Philippines, it really didn’t feel like home. Its a lesson I’ve known since I spent a semester of high school in Japan, but home really is where the heart is. And for so many reasons for me that’s no longer the US. It’s the Philippines. You cant go home again, because where ever you are passionate and feeling alive… that’s where home is. And its the hardest part of analytics to understand… because there are no number or datapoints involved.

Analytics Tool > Microsoft Power Point >

Analytics Concept > Process Improvement >

YouTube Resource >

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