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Human Resources
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6 min read

The One Crucial Element Missing From Your Job Postings

Bruce Weinstein
· Aug 2, 2022
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Note: there's a discount on one of my online HR ethics courses here on LearnFormula waiting for you at the end of this article. But you'll want to read the article first.

Most job postings do an excellent job in explaining exactly what a successful applicant needs to know and be able to do. Knowledge and skill are important, but they’re not sufficient. To be a great member of the team, a person applying to work for you also needs to be honest and accountable.

Why, then, aren’t you looking for people with these qualities?

Let’s take a closer look.

A typical job description

Let’s suppose your organization is looking for an accountant. This is what the heart of the job posting probably looks like. What follows is an amalgam of several different postings currently online (without any references to the organizations themselves).

Qualifications

  • At least three years of accounting experience
  • Proficiency in Excel and QuickBooks
  • Attention to detail and problem-solving skills
  • Excellent communication, organization and time management skills
  • A passion for success
  • Proven understanding of finance and accounting principles

The employer is looking for two kinds of things in a financial professional: knowledge and skill. On a scale from one to ten, with one being completely unimportant and ten being essential, how critical is it for a new member on your team to be knowledgeable and skilled?

Ten, of course. The best accountants are deeply knowledgable about accounting principles and are skilled in applying them.

But are knowledge and skill sufficient? Bernie Madoff had a detailed knowledge of finance, was highly organized, and had a passion for success

He also used this knowledge and skill to orchestrate the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He died in prison while serving 150 years for his crimes.

If you’re looking for someone to excel on your team, knowledge and skill are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. The best employees are also people of high character.

What exactly is high character?

People of high character are, more often than not, these things:

  • Honest
  • Accountable
  • Caring
  • Courageous
  • Fair
  • Grateful
  • Humble
  • Loyal
  • Patient
  • Present

This list suggests that only saints can legitimately be considered people of high character. Not so. We all make mistakes, and we make them over and over again.

The distinguishing feature of high character people, however, is that they are honest more often than not. They keep their promises to the best of their abilities, although from time to time they don’t. They usually, but not always, take responsibility for their mistakes.

The people you’re looking for are, like you, prone to slipping up from time to time. But like you, they do their level best to do the right thing.

A terrifying but true story

Here’s what can happen if you don’t actively look for a person of high character to fill a position at your organization.

Years ago I needed to hire an IT person, so I placed an ad and was deluged with responses. One applicant put himself ahead of the pack. I’ll call him Sly. He described in great detail how he would solve the problems I’d presented. He listed his qualifications, which were impressive.

Then he blew it. In the last line of his letter, he wrote, “You can pay me X dollars with a business check or X-Y dollars in cash.” Why would someone offer a discount if they’re paid in cash? So they wouldn’t have to declare it as income on their taxes.

When I wrote Sly back and explained why I wasn’t going to hire him, he was livid. “I thought I’d be saving you money!” he replied. Yes, I want to save money, but not that way.

I reviewed the ad and noticed that there was no reference to honesty in it. I ran it again but added “honesty” to the list of qualifications I was looking for. I got far fewer responses this time. But I also found someone who is just as knowledgable and skilled as Sly was, and she is an honest, accountable person to boot.

I know this for a fact, because she has been with us for years. When she can’t solve a problem, she tells me so. When she’s going to be late, she lets me know this. She cares deeply about her work, and I can depend on her to do what she says she’s going to do.

The way I found her was by including a reference to character in the job description.

Call to action

Review every current job description you’ve published. Rewrite each one to include references to your organization’s values. You’re more likely to find what you’re looking for if you make it clear what you’re looking for.

This call to action is one of several steps you must take to hire and keep people of high character on your team. In future articles, I’ll explain what those other steps are, how you can take them, and what can happen if you don’t.

If you'd like to learn more about these zombie ideas and how to avoid letting them derail your career in HR (and get 1 continuing education credit in ethics in the process), sign up for my LearnFormula course, Successful HR Professionals Just Say No to Zombie Ethics. If you use this link to register, you'll get 20% off the listed price.

Thank you for reading my blog post! I hope you're having a good day.

Gratefully,

Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., The Ethics Guy
Forbes Contributor
Ethics Trainer and Speaker

P.S. Take my free ethics test here and find out how ethical you are! This article was originally published in Forbes.

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