How Strong is Your Character?



Imagine spending hours tweaking your resume until it is just right and reciting answers to your own questions to practice for a job interview only to find out that none of it was important. CEO of Charles Scwabb, Walt Bettinger, thinks just this and decides if a potential candidate should be hired or not based solely on their character. How does he do it? He informs candidates that the interview will be over breakfast and then secretly asks the waitress to screw up the candidate’s order. When the wrong plate arrives, Mr. Bettinger takes notes on how the candidate reacts.

In a world where qualifications and years of experience are a precursor to even getting an interview, it was refreshing to see this CEO doing something different to find the right team member. 1/3 (or more) of nearly every day is spent surrounded by your co-workers, so why not put a little extra effort into finding someone who acts just as great in person as he/she looks on their resume?

But what is character? And can you really tell if someone has it after one staged situation? Simply put, your character is a sum of all the qualities that make you YOU. This includes, but is not limited to, kindness, respect, values, beliefs, punctuality, courage, confidence, wit, resourcefulness, reliability and much more. However, character is also a subjective quality. If a candidate in Mr. Bettinger’s were to complain about their order or send it back, he would send them packing. Why? Because that person’s character didn’t align with his own, or meet his expectations. He was looking for someone that could roll with the punches and handle situations well, and to him, complaining wasn’t the way to do things.

Whether you can really tell someone’s true character off of one mishap may or may not be possible. Yes, you can observe how someone handles a situation, but you don’t know their thought processes that lead up to the final decision. Perhaps the candidate was allergic to the food brought out, or didn’t want Mr. Bettinger to waste his money on a meal that was incorrect. We do not always know other people’s intentions for their behaviors, which makes it difficult to determine if this is a good way to judge character. What I do know, is that this can be a good jump-off point if you have several candidates to sift through and are looking for someone’s personality to mesh with your own.

A person’s character is extremely complex because it is comprised of so many different things. Sometime today, take a personal assessment of yourself on some of the qualities I listed above. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you place some attributes higher than others? The accumulation of all of this makes up YOU. The better you know yourself, the better you can become.