When I first heard the phrase: “Hire Character. Train Skill.” I protested, not because of the character statement but rather the skill statement. The intention is to emphasize character over skill in hiring. But I think someone who has mastered his or her skills deserves commendation (getting hired). Skills have a very human element, especially when you start to talk about ‘soft skills’ and behaviors and analytical thinking skills, both of which are extremely hard to automate.
I got in a social quagmire trying to express my point of view as many argued hiring is all about character. So, I thought it was worth further exploration.
Hire Character. I understand you hire someone based on character. You always evaluate someone for sound character. The evaluation differs based on the type of role this person plays in your organization. A leader, manager, or someone in HR must have exceptional character. They are interfacing with your workers and lead by example. The bar for programmers might be lower – it is a highly technical skilled job with less interface with the team. (If an employee does not lie, cheat, or steal and has the skills, then they perform well and do not hurt the company.)
The type of company matters too; perhaps this is where the promotion versus prevention relationship comes into play. If a company is in marketing, branding, or hospitality, character is measured not only internally, but also externally by clients and the public in general; in a way, a company promotes the character of its employees. A software company hires engineers based on whether they can immediately start contributing; a company wants to prevent poor character from harming the normal flow of business.
Hire Skill. I think you hire based on skills. These candidates have already put the time, expense, and dedication to properly learn a set of skills. You have candidates prove they have the skills by demonstration and /or assessments. Furthermore, in applying, candidates signal they know what it takes to apply the skills and they want to move forward in learning them. In addition, you should assess the soft skills (non-technical, and subtle skills) that represent your company culture.
Train Skill. I believe in a growth mindset, where a student or professional feels motivated to acquire skills if they put in the necessary time and effort; part of a skills culture. Therefore, if a company is willing to pick up the expense (time, money, and resources), then they should be able to teach the necessary skills. However, there will be variances in the expenses and motivation levels of new hires. There is no guarantee a new hire sticks through the process.
So, all I did was insert “hire skill” into the phrase ahead of “train skill”.