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Grow Your Business Your Team

5 Personality Traits to Beware of When You're Hiring

5 Personality Traits to Beware of When You're Hiring
Credit: ra2studio/Shutterstock

Interviewing someone for a job involves more than looking at the person's work experience and background. Today's hiring managers place a high premium on a candidate's overall fit, both as a skilled professional and as a person who meshes well with the existing team.

"Personality has to be as important, if not more so, than skills and experience," said Tricia Sciortino, president of virtual assistant service eaHELP. "You run a tremendous risk by bringing on a hire that could potentially disrupt what you've built, simply by not being a good personality or culture fit."

While diverse personality types are important to creating a great team, there are some characteristics that can be detrimental to your team's success. Career and hiring experts warned business owners to proceed with caution if they encounter a candidate with one or more of these toxic traits. [See Related Story: Common Hiring Mistakes and How to Avoid Them]

Confidence is important in a candidate, but if the person starts showing an elitist or entitled mentality, that should be a red flag, said Brigette McInnis-Day, executive vice president of human resources at software company SAP.

"Someone who is too full of him or herself is toxic to a team," added John West Hadley,  principal and career search counselor at John Hadley Associates. "It's one thing to be quietly confident in what you bring to the table, and to express the results of your work naturally and in context. It's entirely another to be aggressively pushy about those qualities and results."

Narrow-minded candidates who seem stuck in their ways won't be a good fit if your company thrives on innovation and new ways of thinking.

"One of the biggest predictors of job success is an open mind and capacity to incorporate new ideas into one's work," said Todd Horton, founder and CEO of KangoGift. "People who are set in their ways may not adapt to work conditions as they change."

Similarly, Sciortino said to be wary of candidates who believe they already know everything.

"Someone who has all the answers won't fit in an organization that wants to build a culture around innovation and market leadership," Sciortino told Business News Daily. "Ideally, candidates need to be hungry to learn and value acquiring new skills and knowledge."

In fast-paced business environments, employees must focus on the possibilities instead of barriers to succeed, so negativity is not a good quality in an employee, said McInnis-Day. Pat Goodwin, executive coach and career transition counselor, agreed, and said that a candidate who never seems satisfied and complains excessively will likely be a detriment to your team.

"There are personalities who see the glass half full, and those that see the glass half empty, but it is very difficult to work with people who are always shooting holes in the glass," Goodwin said. "These personalities ... drive negative behavior and can create a lack of [productivity]."

A candidate who doesn't care about much will probably not be a very productive member of your team. McInnis-Day noted that employees need to be passionate about their work to keep up with changing business models, products, customers, and if that passion is noticeably absent during the interview, it's unlikely to appear if you hire the person.

"If you can't get an excited response about anything from a candidate, be cautious," Sciortino added. "Passion drives results, and will keep an employee going through the tough times."

A candidate who is quick to blame others for mistakes or shortcomings may not be the right person to join your team. When this personality type is asked about conflicts or problems they experienced at previous employers, they will continually point the guilty finger at others, said Leigh Davis, a partner at recruitment and retention company Davis + Delany.

"As an employer, you or your employees will probably be in the cross hairs of blame when things go awry with this personality type," Davis said.

"Nobody wants to work with the employee who's always pointing fingers or finding a reason why every misstep is someone else's fault," Sciortino added.

Nobody is perfect, and if an otherwise-qualified candidate exhibits one or two of the above traits, you shouldn't automatically disqualify him or her from the job. Personality factors can make or break a great candidate, said McInnis-Day, but make sure you're looking past the surface and digging deeper into what the candidate can actually accomplish.

"Not everyone interviews well, and you may pass up great talent just because their [true] personality didn't come out right away," McInnis-Day said.

Judson Van Allen, director of recruiting at Computer Task Group, advised determining exactly what attributes someone needs to be successful at the job, and seeing if the candidate aligns with (or opposes) those traits.

"Consider the interpersonal scenarios that the candidate will encounter on the job — will he or she lead meetings? Interact with C-level leadership? Handle customer escalations?" Van Allen said. "Determine the right personality [traits] and 'soft skills' a candidate must have to succeed, and then ask behavioral questions during the interview process to assess."

If you're on the fence about a candidate, Sciortino said you should ask yourself whether this particular hire is really worth the potential effect he or she could have on your company.

"Be very aware of how this individual could change the dynamics of your existing teams and client relationships," Sciortino said. "If you know in your gut that this person wouldn't be a great culture or personality fit, trust that feeling. Skills and competencies can be taught; personality and attitude can't."

Additional reporting by Brittney Helmrich. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Nicole Fallon Taylor
Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.