#126: The Single Most Important Thing You Need To Know About Potential Employees

I was only a few months into my first management assignment when I was teamed up with one of P&G’s recruiting managers for training on how to interview and hire prospective employees.

Mountain Character

I remember it like it was yesterday (or maybe like the day before yesterday). It was a beautiful day in Seattle, and we were interviewing graduates from the University of Washington for positions as sales representatives.

I listened intently as the recruiter breezed through the interview questions with a couple of prospects, asking probing questions along the way to determine if they were candidates for a second interview.

Suddenly it was my turn, and the full weight of making a decision hit me. In a few minutes I had to assess someone’s fit for a career in sales. To accept someone who was not a good fit would cost the company a ton of money and time. Pass up someone truly talented and the company would miss out on their potential contributions.

The interview questions explored what the candidates had done, their problem solving ability, and their ability to influence others. These were all important skills for a prospective salesperson.

What I realize now is that these interview questions missed the most important aspect of a person’s qualifications to work for the company; their character!

Over the course of my career I worked with several managers who had great skills sets; they were achievers, they were problem solvers, and they had the ability to influence others, but they were less than desirable as leaders because of issues with their character.

Character is important because character drives behavior, but what character traits are important in business?

What Character Traits Are Important?

King David had some lapses in character (the whole Bathsheba incident comes to mind). But in Psalm 15 David wondered what kind of person might be permitted to live with God, because he wanted to be that kind of person.

His conclusions provide us with excellent guidelines for the kind of Godly character traits that will serve us well in business:

1) A person of character speaks the truth

A person of character has truth deep in their hearts, they do not slander, nor do they discredit others.

…Who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, (Psalm 15:2-3)

2) A person of character despises the morally wicked

A person of character despises the morally wicked, offensive people, but has great respect for those who seek the Lord.

…Who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD (Psalm 15:4)

3) A person of character keep his word

A person of character keeps his word even when it is inconvenient.

…Who keeps his oath even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4)

4) A person of character does not take advantage of others

A person of character does not take advantage of someone in their time of need.

…Who lends his money without usury (Psalm 15:5)

5) A person of character cannot be bribed

A person of character champions the cause of the innocent they do not take bribes against them.

…[Who] does not accept a bribe against the innocent. (Psalm 15:5)


David believed that a person who demonstrated these character traits in their lives would be solid, not one who would be led astray, but remain true to their core beliefs.

He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:5 (NIV)


Now really, think about it. What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with in your organization? Certainly not liars, people who are morally deficient, someone who does not keep their word, someone who takes advantage of others, and surely you don’t want someone who can be bribed.

You want someone with character. Someone who cannot be shaken!

The challenge obviously is finding these kinds of people. The usual interview questions don’t get at issues of character so you’ll have to do your best to assess character another way, which is why my mantra now is “hire slow, and fire fast.”

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you been ‘stung’ by someone with character deficiencies in your workplace? How did you deal with it?


Category: Personal Development | Character

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