An Employee's Personality Is More Important Than Skills According To A New Talent Study

Looking to understand what makes a digital professional marketable, Hyper Island surveyed over 500 business leaders in the communication and tech fields to find out what they're looking for in new employees. Turns out being flexible and personable are more important than tech wizardry.

One of the greatest traps when thinking about bolstering a company’s digital capabilities is focusing too myopically on the technology. Sure, great digital teams require technical wizards, but it turns out that in the eyes of employers hard skills take a back seat to personal qualities such as creativity, drive, and open-mindedness when it comes to employability.

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This is the finding of a recent study from digital education company Hyper Island titled "Tomorrow’s Most Wanted." In the study, conducted over a three-month period in 2013, Hyper Island surveyed over 500 leaders and employees across companies within the communication, tech, and business development industries, looking at future challenges and the skills and qualities needed to meet them.

Of those surveyed, 78% cited "personality" as the most desirable quality in employees, followed in importance by "cultural alignment," and then finally "skill-set." When it comes to specific personality traits, 14% of respondents listed drive as most important, followed by creativity (12% of respondents) and "open mind" (11%). The biggest overall industry challenge is finding, keeping, and developing the right talent, according to 20% of respondents; 10% of participants listed technical and digital development as the top challenge. You can read more findings from the study here.

Johanna Frelin, CEO of Hyper Island attributes the results, which some might find surprising, to the rapid speed of technological change. "The development of tech is so fast right now and there are no signs it will slow down. So skills become outdated very fast," she says. "But how you work, the ability for self-leadership, and being an effective team member will make you employable for a long time. A personality that is curious and can un-learn and re-learn according to new environments and realities."

Frelin says that this study helps define the idea of a digital professional in broader terms. "We are beyond looking at digital as something techy. We are relieved that the market finally understands that it is all about people and to have the right team players," she says, noting that the findings will help employers understand how to find the best talent, and will additionally help Hyper Island "‘produce’ employable and attractive talent and meet market demands."

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"Employers should see this as an opportunity to be able to prepare for a trend that will be stronger. They need to create value-driven and un-hierarchical work places that will be able to retain talent."

[Image: Flickr user R. Nial Bradshaw]

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  • Tom Walker

    It may be the technical skills that results in the initial contact and follow-up as has been stated here, but when in comes to the phone interview and personal interview that's where the personality can come through. It is also important to understand that while the term "personality" is used here the real issue may be is the person able to work effectively with others? Leaders must get things dome through others and if they do not have this ability there will be issues.

  • Great article Rae Ann.

    There's a contradiction here.

    Companies may say that they value personality and cultural alignment over skill-sets however the Applicant Tracking Systems those same organizations use to screen candidates cannot measure "drive or creativity" therefore the most qualified talent in terms of those attributes doesn't have a chance to demonstrate because their skills were not aligned with the ATS.

    As helpful as ATS are in wading through the piles of applicants, there's a real need for a paradim shift in how companies recruit talent.

  • sheila.finn


    That is a great point... no ATS does not provide analytics on "drive or creativity". One of the things our mid-size firm wanted within the ATS software that we the ability to allow our candidate an opportunity to be creative. So, the software that we chose has the capacity to allow our candidates an "opportunity" to upload a Video Cover Letter (VCL). No, it's not a requirement, but for those candidate who are creative and want to be able to display her/his drive, the VCL allows them to do so! It has really been a FUN to see their creative, competitiveness and zest show up in the VCL's.

  • “Employers should see this as an opportunity to be able to prepare for a trend that will be stronger. They need to create value-driven and un-hierarchical work places that will be able to retain talent.”

    Love it! Excellent article Rae Ann!