Companies Often Hire People for “What They Know” and Fire for “Who They Are”


Companies often hire people for “what they know” and fire for “who they are”

Will Willemson, who, over 30 years ago, started a thriving, and still growing, retail food business in Canada. A very large part of Willemson’s success in business has been in “hiring the right people”. He has been quoted, many times over the years, as saying, “I don’t care how much experience candidates have in the food business … I care about if they can be good with customers … we can teach them the rest”. Wait a second … isn’t the notion of hiring “personality over experience” a bit counter intuitive to the executive search industry? After all, why would a company consult with a search firm, like DSML Executive Search, if they weren’t specifically seeking candidates with specific skills in their industry?

  More than 60 percent of CEOs say that it is “more difficult” to hire workers in their industry, up from 43 percent just seven years ago. Source: PwC – The Confidence Premium, 2019

Obviously, for many positions, accreditation, in addition to significant experience is a necessity for the position, however we see countless situations where sector experience, plus the right personality, may be preferred over specific industry experience.

DSML Executive Search finds that many companies have trouble in hiring that “right person” because of two common mistakes:

  • They hire people for what they know (and fire them for who they are)
  • They base their hiring decision solely on previous experience

Jack Welch has some advice on this topic. “Don’t use your gut and don’t hire based on experience alone. This is one reason why you can never hire alone. Make sure a team coolly analyzes the candidate’s credentials and conducts interviews.”

DSML Executive Search, firmly believes in the “team” approach which is why we task a minimum of two consultants to every assignment and, before a candidate is presented to a client, he/she will have been interviewed by two or more members of our team.

Our team, in assessing candidates, focuses questions relating to personal accomplishments, both in and out of work, and their motivation for making a career move. We inquire about relationships with those they report to as well as those who are direct reports to them and, from that, extract information regarding the focus and direction of the thorough reference checks that we conduct.

In conclusion, our team believes that not one size fits all. There is a blend of industry knowledge, acquired skills, communication style, personal motivation, eagerness and team orientation that is required for every successful search. Focusing on industry knowledge alone is a recipe for uncertainty.

If you’d like to discuss your current, or future, hiring needs please feel free to call, chat, or write to us today.