The Pitfalls of Hiring Charming People

Is the charming person you’re about to hire truly capable – or just capable of charming you?

Merriam-Webster defines “charm” as:

  1. the chanting or reciting of a magic spell: incantation
  2. a trait that fascinates, allures, or delights. Compelling attractiveness.

Be very skeptical about hiring charming people.

The most mis-hired personality style I’ve seen is that of the charming person.

A great example is from a Canadian CEO I worked with years ago who told me about a new executive assistant he’d just hired. He said, “She was so impressive, I hired her on the spot.”


We mistake charm for capability.

The best executive assistants in the world are smart, technical, systems-and-processes people who keep others organized. They are clever technicians, not cheerleaders. Although likeable, they are not like the typical charming salesperson that makes you want to hire them on the spot.

He hired a charming cheerleader with a wonderful personality – and not much more.

I’ve seen it again and again. Now when I meet someone charming, a flashing red light goes off in my brain. I know I’m going to like them, and that my judgement will be clouded: I assume they’ll be good at their job.

In reality, they are simply very good at getting people to like them. And that’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous because we fall in love with the person and don’t scrutinize enough.

It’s dangerous because they are fun. They paint a beautiful story. They persuade us to get excited about new ideas and initiatives. Because we like and trust them, we give them a lot of responsibility. We let them run with very bad decisions. And often they make a very big mess because the idea was based on getting people excited, rather than good strategy.

I’ve seen executives do major damage in a companies because of this.

Companies need charming people in the right role – and need to leverage them on the team for their gifts. Otherwise, we give them credit for things they don’t have – and set them up to fail.

Match the gifts with the requirements (and few jobs do), and you’ve found the right person.

If the job is only about being charming you’ve found the right person. But if you really need strategy, detailed execution, analysis, then assume it’s not there – and search twice as hard to prove otherwise.

We make hiring mistakes for other reasons:

  • When we talk to someone from a well-known, reputable company, we get ‘brand blind’. We assume they are very good at their job – and stop looking for proof of their capability. We forget that every company has amazing, mediocre and horrible people.
  • When a partner or colleague recommends someone to us, we stop looking for proof of capability.
  • When a person was educated at a very good school, we stop looking for proof of capability.

The things that get us to drop our filters are the very reasons they should be increased – the reasons we should be more skeptical.


Learn more about leadership accountability and alignment here.