Great Technical Skills but the Wrong Personality for the Job

first assess a job candidate for technical skills, then assess their personality and behavioral characteristics

New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin wrote the book, The Four Tendencies, and in it she presents a unique personality framework to guide people in determining the right job fit. She asks one question: How do you respond to expectations? The answer determines which of the four personality categories the person falls within.

Four personality categories a person falls within:

  1. Upholders – people who readily meet inner and outer expectations, like work deadlines and personal goals
  2. Questioners – people who do not like arbitrariness or inefficiency, so question all expectations
  3. Obligers – people who are good at meeting outer expectations but have trouble meeting inner expectations, creating personal conflict
  4. Rebels – people who resist all outer and inner expectations, doing only what they want to do, and even then, doing it on their own time and in their own way

candidate On-The-Job Expectations depend on the personality traits

It is easy to see how each type of personality will experience a particular job and surrounding events. For example, the upholder tends to appreciate rigid work rules and planning, so a work environment that is flexible and gives people a lot of autonomy in time planning is not a good match. A questioner likes to get additional information before doing work or work projects and will not be a good fit in a work environment where the supervisor’s pat response is, “I don’t know. I am just telling you that my manager told me to do it this way.”

An obliger appreciates a work environment that offers well-defined accountability, but the person is at risk of taking on too much work and then feeling resentful. A rebel does not like being controlled, and wants full job autonomy and the right to make choices.

This type of personality often describes people in the younger generation of workers – millennials and Gen Z – who expect their employer to give them a project and then let them use their creativity to solve problems and prove their competencies with minimal supervision.

On-The-Job Reality for tech positions – what skills a candidate may not have or not want to do in a job

Most jobs today require some level of technical expertise or technical capabilities with training. Skills can be measured with a pre-hire assessment or specific skills assessments.


Digital natives expect technology to play a central role in the way they perform job duties. Unfortunately, a person with great technical skills may be a poor fit for the organization’s culture or the job because of their personality traits and expectations. Below are some examples of how a candidate can have high level technical skills but not like or care about other skills or job functions.

A candidate with high technical skills may not like or care about these skills:

  • Taking orders
  • Collaborating with coworkers who are less skilled (social interaction)
  • Listening to customers who want to ask the same question four times
  • Sharing their knowledge or experience
  • Having fixed work hours because they restrict a “free-spirit”
  • Having goals set by managers (they want to set their own)
  • Being tactful

How well would that person fit into a contact center with a customer service focused or collaborative culture or a supervisor position requiring daily contact with managers, coworkers, staff and customers? What if a new hire proves to be resistant to change, reluctant to learn or upgrade skills, or lacks enthusiasm for the work?

What if a new hire expects a promotion within three months, is overly assertive in meetings and assumes she already knows everything she should know or refuses to adopt new procedures? The purpose of a pre-hire assessment like Harver’s traditional behavioral assessment is to address these very kinds of traits that influence employee success.

Failure of job Expectations and not job skills

Many times, the reason qualified and skilled new hire employees fail to perform as expected is due to expectations not met and lack of soft skills, like the ability to effectively communicate with others or build collaborative relationships.

A person with high technical skills may be an excellent communicator when discussing data collection and analytics or hard facts but have no idea how to relate to coworkers who struggle to learn new tech skills.

A technically superior supervisor who is not a good fit may resent staff members who never offer new ideas or contribute useful information. It does not cross the mind of the wrong-fit personality that the employee avoids volunteering innovative ideas because the supervisor discourages it in various ways (another topic for another day).

To get a holistic understanding of a technical candidate, assess their tech skills first and then assess their personality and behavioral characteristics

The bottom line is that you should assess a job candidate for technical competence and then assess their personality and behavioral characteristics to get a holistic understanding of the person. Unless the job involves sitting in a closet-sized room alone with a computer, you need to consider a candidate who has the right skills and the right personality and attitude.

The person you hire should be able to do or learn the specific skills and fit into the organization’s culture. In return, you need to meet the person’s expectations which are part of their personality. It is not an “either or” process. Realistic job previews, like Harver’s contact center agent simulations, are particularly useful in identifying a job candidate’s expectations because they require responses based on both hard skills and social skills.

Why personality is at least as important as technical skills

Does your interview process focus on technical skills and experience because it is the easiest to assess and makes an unequivocal defense should anyone question why a particular person was hired over another?

Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, conducted a survey of 5,247 hiring managers. They accounted for the hiring of more than 20,000 employees over a three-year period. Eighty-nine (89) percent of the people who failed in their jobs did so because of traits associated with attitude or personality.

The top five reasons for job failure (ranked from highest to lowest):

  1. Lack of coachability
  2. Lack of emotional intelligence
  3. Lack of motivation
  4. Inappropriate temperament
  5. Lack of technical competence

This is one study among many that keep validating the same truth: personality is just as important as technical skills.


Harver customers have multiple options for assessing tech candidate disposition. For instance, our gamified behavioral assessments make things especially fun and engaging for software engineers and other tech job seekers. Schedule a demo today for a personal walkthrough with one of our experts who can answer any questions you have about assessing candidate personality,

Harver Team

Harver Team

Updated on:
June 6, 2023

Recommended Articles

Watch and Earn: Better Hiring Solutions for Retail and Hospitality Growth

Posted on:
August 25, 2023

Holistic Hiring for Technical Talent: Harver’s Q&A with New Partner HackerRank 

Posted on:
June 20, 2023

Harver wins 2023 HR Tech Award as Best Talent Intelligence Solution

Data-Driven Recruitment
Posted on:
May 24, 2023

Find the Best Hourly Employees for the Summer Rush

Posted on:
August 15, 2023

Learning more about making better talent decisions faster?

Get the answers you need to optimize
your TA and TM processes and results.

Outmatch is now part of Harver

Ready to serve you with our full suite of talent solutions and a fresh look!