Last updated: Vibes over productivity? Meet the personality hire

Vibes over productivity? Meet the personality hire


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If you’ve scrolled through #CorporateTikTok lately, you’ve probably encountered the personality hire: someone who was hired for their temperament, rather than their technical skills.

While personality has played a role in hiring since… well, forever, this trend offers a new take on the practice, inviting self-proclaimed personality hires to laugh it off, or even celebrate it as a badge of honor. And it’s sparked quite a bit of conversation.

Whether you love it, hate it, or are it, let’s unpack this latest TikTok craze.

What is a personality hire?

A personality hire is someone who landed their job based on their positive energy and interpersonal skills, versus their technical prowess. The value they provide has more to do with creating a positive work culture than with doing the work itself.

Some may be unaware that they’re the personality hire, while others may intentionally use those traits to make up for a lack of other “hard skills.” Either way, the writing is on the wall when it comes to the personality hire: they’re becoming more and more needed within the workspace, primarily because they’re seen as bridge-builders and cooperative colleagues.

Randall Peterson, professor of organizational behavior at the London School of Business, notes that, “The pandemic really showed people the value in being this kind of even-tempered, cooperative type rather than the star who wants to put themselves in front of everybody.” He further explained:

“The basic truth is if you have one competitive person and one cooperative person, the competitive person will always win,” he says. “However, two cooperative people will outperform two competitive people every time.”

As the world of work changes, it only makes sense that hiring practices and role functions need to evolve, too.

Let’s delve into some examples of what a personality hire is: 

Personality hires are there to boost morale and camaraderie. They go on coffee runs, remember birthdays, serve as class clown, and peel you away from your desk to get fresh air during the day. They can seemingly befriend anyone, and are on a first-name basis with even the scariest of C-suite executives.

Companies have long recognized the importance of the “culture fit” when it comes to hiring. Interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork… these are all abilities that can help set one candidate apart from the rest.

But on TikTok, the idea is played to the extreme for comedic effect, showing friendly teammates cheerleading or distracting their colleagues and doing very little else.

They’re not there to be productive. They’re there to set a vibe.

And, of course, that has critics calling BS. Because while the videos may be designed as satire, many of us know all too well just how real they can be – not to mention the people who serve as the personality hire AND the person who does a lot of work … those unicorns deserve a post of their own.

Why now? The larger issues behind the trend’s popularity

There’s no shortage of hashtags and trends about corporate life, so why did personality hires suddenly take off?

For many, the videos are validating. Plenty of people feel a little lost or out of place at work—especially early on in their career. For years, we’ve talked about imposter syndrome and “faking it ‘til you make it.”

And what do we consistently tell people who are interviewing for jobs they may be “underqualified” for? Show them you’re easy to work with; highlight your communication skills; make them want to work with you every day.

By owning the title “Personality Hire,” employees who may have otherwise felt ashamed about relying on their interpersonal skills to land a job can instead feel empowered. (Leave it to Gen Z to put a positive spin on what generations before them tried to hide.)

The trend also signals a growing focus on office culture and employee engagement. Between rampant burnout and employees’ resistance to returning to the office, companies are looking for ways to boost engagement and morale at work. In that regard, it makes sense that they’d place a high value on employees who can uplift spirits and bring new energy into an office.

Are personality hires the be-all-end-all solution? Of course not. But the increased focus on creating positive work environment shows how valuable their skills really are.

The value of a vibe: Personality hiring benefits + risks

So, are personality hires profitable? It depends.

Personality hires who put in the work (wink/wink) can have a powerful impact on company culture and the overall employee experience. For example:

  1. They’re great at building relationships with colleagues, clients, and the C-suite alike.
  2. They’re effective communicators, able to get to the heart of what matters and translate corporate-speak into human-speak (and understanding)
  3. They help boost morale and contribute to a better work culture

And emotional intelligence is, in fact, an crucial skill in the workplace.

Not to mention that in some cases, “hard skills” can be easier to teach than “soft skills.” So employees hired based on the less tangible capabilities may have more opportunities to grow into a role over time.

But personality hiring isn’t without its downsides. If someone hired for their positive demeanor isn’t pulling their weight, it can backfire — fueling resentment among team members and causing more harm than good to the employee experience.

The trick is striking a delicate balance between professionalism and positivity, and looking for skills that complement each other — both within an individual hire, and within the larger team.

It’s me, hi! I’m the problem, it’s me! How to know when you’re the personality hire

Not sure if you’re the personality hire on your team? Here are a few telltale signs:

1. You have an inherent drive to fill awkward silences in meetings and calls

2. You take it upon yourself to make the team laugh

3. You keep track of your colleagues’ birthdays…and maybe their sun signs, too

4. You’re the self-appointed office DJ

5. No one has to ask if you’re up for coffee… or lunch… or after-work happy hour

6. Your manager cuts you some slack when you show up late

7. You’re actually just the office dog

If you need a few moments to collect yourself because you’ve just realized that you’re a personality hire, or that you carry two important roles: personality hire and hard-working employee, we understand. Support groups meet on TikTok 24/7 via the #CorporateLife tag.

Every digital moment matters.
Are you making the most of them?

1,000 business leaders dish on how to stand out from the crowd with a great CX. Get the details HERE. 

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