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How Richard Branson Hires: Focus on Personality

Posted October 30, 2017

Imagine hiring people when you’re a billionaire entrepreneur like Richard Branson. Tons of people want to work for you. Resumes pour in from all over the world. Every applicant thinks they’re qualified, but are they? How do you begin to dig through the chaos and find the right people?

Every hiring manager faces the same situation as Branson, on a smaller scale of course: a pile of applicants with a challenge to find the right person. The key, according to Branson, is finding a good personality fit. Let’s look at his tried-and-true hiring methods.

Don’t Start with Qualifications

First, here’s what Branson doesn’t do. He doesn’t begin by looking at the person’s basic qualifications like education level or grades in school. In his LinkedIn blog, he explains why:

“Some managers get hung up on qualifications. I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job.”

He also doesn’t start by weeding out all the wild cards - the people with unusual backgrounds or varied work histories. Branson’s company welcomes entrepreneurs, so he doesn’t go with safe bets during the hiring process.

“Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks,” Branson says. “Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we’ve ever hired didn’t seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time.”

Focus on Personality

What Branson does focus on, right from the start, is assessing the personality type of applicants. Personality, he says, is something that is impossible to capture in a resume.

“The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture,” Branson explains. “Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality.”

In fact, Branson feels that even interviews – the traditional gold standard for gauging personality – don’t reveal someone’s day-to-day workplace persona.

“It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgment.”

Find the Fakers

Many human resources experts are starting to agree with Branson. Job applicants have heard years, even decades, of hiring advice and have learned how to put on an act for interviewers. It’s a well-intentioned act: professional, neutral, calm, reasonable. Those are the qualities many employers want. But it’s not how people always behave in day-to-day life. It’s fake.

And when your new hire’s actual personality begins to show through, it might be a total mismatch for your company culture. This creates friction that can result in beginning the hiring process all over again, at an average cost of more than $5,500. It’s vital to take time to discover the true personalities of your applicants.

As Branson explains, “When companies go through growth spurts, they often hire in bulk and company culture can suffer. While it may seem a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than hurrying and unbalancing your team.”

Modern Personality Testing

So, how can you identify and avoid personality mismatches? Many companies are turning to a new kind of personality assessment that gathers data from multiple real-world sources. It’s a tech tool integrated with mobile devices, private messages, social media, geolocation, and a type of professional “courting” that allows true personalities to shine through.

By scanning social media sites, personal and professional profiles, and other information volunteered by applicants, these tools reveal important details about candidates’ personalities. The report might show that a candidate exhibits judgmental attitudes or often speaks down to other people. It could show them to be highly organized and reliable. It could reveal a good sense of humor or bad habits with money.

Tech-infused assessment services can also allow employers to private-message top candidates and start casual conversations. Your applicants can let down their guards and be real with you. It’s a bit like online dating, except the goal is a great professional relationship.

Intrigued by the idea of tech tools for personality assessment? Sign up for a free trial of GoGig, the confidential hiring network. Our proprietary hiring algorithm will give you an in-depth look at a candidate's personality by analyzing their social profiles.

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