Do you have what it takes to be a ‘personality hire’?



Productivity comes second for charming employees who make workplaces more fun.

If you get further on charm than skill and carry a workload light enough to float atop your bubbly demeanor, then you might be a “personality hire."

Charismatic employees lay the foundations of positive corporate cultures—or leave teammates to pick up the slack. While some people proudly advertise themselves as personality hires on LinkedIn, others roll their eyes.

“It’s annoying," says Lauren Gomes Atwood, a project manager in upstate New York. “They always have time to hang out in the hallway, but when do they sit down and work?"

Atwood, 39 years old, says she worked with a personality hire in a previous job. Though fun to be around, the person eventually generated resentment and, after winning a promotion, prompted several co-workers to quit, she says.

Atwood started a remote job last month and says her search took longer than expected, partly because interviewers seemed as interested in her vibe as they were in her experience. She describes herself as matter-of-fact and says she doesn’t give off the effervescence some employers appeared to be looking for.

Bosses want the warm-and-fuzzies as the mood at work is generally sour. One-third of U.S. employees say they’re engaged in their jobs—near an all-time low, according to Gallup’s annual report on the state of the workforce, released this month. Half of workers say they feel a lot of stress, and 49% are interested in new job opportunities or actively applying.

With so many lonely, unhappy charges, bosses are desperate for good workplace energy. They say camaraderie is hard to build on hybrid schedules, so they prize upbeat employees whose energy is (hopefully) infectious.

Michael Zachary, a security manager at Pratt & Whitney, says he learned the value of a winning disposition in the Navy. He noticed qualities like collegiality and willingness to learn often proved more critical to new recruits’ success than natural talent.

Certain roles at the defense contractor where he works now are highly specialized and must be filled by the most technically qualified candidates, he says. But others, like data-entry clerks, could be performed adequately by dozens of applicants.

“In that case, I’m going to hire the nicest person to be part of the group," says Zachary, 38.

Meme to management strategy

The concept of a personality hire—like quiet quitting and lazy-girl jobs before—crystallized on social media. Few have captured the essence better than comedian Vienna Ayla, who plays a Miss Congeniality type in skits that have been viewed tens of millions of times on TikTok and Instagram.

The running joke is that her all-style-no-substance character contributes nothing, until she becomes a hero through schmoozing. In one bit, she gets her team a deadline extension by buttering up the chief executive. In another, she calls in a favor from the mayor, who happens to be her workout partner in an “ass and abs" exercise class.

Ayla, 27, tells me she hears from viewers who work with people like her character. Many feel frustrated, while others concede that personality hires can prove their worth in key moments, despite their lack of hustle.

“I kind of admire that type of person who doesn’t get so worked up but still manages to save the day," says Ayla, who describes her real-life persona as type A.

Businesses don’t want caricatures, but many judge applicants differently than they did during hiring sprees a couple of years ago, says Brian Vesce, co-founder and CEO of RefAssured, a candidate-reference startup.

Skill was king during the talent war of 2021 and 2022, but recent layoffs suggest a lot of companies believe they have enough, or even too many, capable employees.

“We are seeing more employers looking for the right personality when a role opens up," Vesce says.

Sensing the shift, he launched RefAssured last year in an attempt to measure characteristics in job candidates that are often called “intangibles." Using the company’s software, references answer a series of questions about how an applicant communicates, handles stress, takes feedback and manages conflict. The responses yield a candidate’s soft-skill rating on a five-point scale.

Customers include 10 of the country’s 100 largest staffing agencies, Vesce says, and he expects to triple that total by year-end.

Red flag or badge of honor

Personality hires are a growing presence in tech, as efficiency-minded companies seek engineers who can also make time with customers, says Lorde Astor West, founder of RadHash, which makes back-end software for startups. But people who excel at gabbing about technology products usually aren’t the best coders, in her experience.

“The life of the party might be an individual who isn’t as capable, and now you have other team members who are having to make up the difference and fix mistakes," she says.

Astor, 49, leads a team of about 100 employees and contractors and says she’s developed an appreciation for the snippy or introverted people who get things done. Give her a pricklebush over a personality hire any day.

Others wear the personality-hire label proudly. They say keeping their energy up takes effort and makes people around them better.

Danielle Norris calls herself a “personality hire meets hard work" on LinkedIn. She tells me emotional intelligence is among the top qualities she brings to her role as a marketing manager at the Jonus Group, a recruiting firm for insurance and finance companies. In meetings, she says she’s able to sense when a colleague is hesitant to share an idea and can help put that person at ease with a smile or encouraging word.

That leads to greater collaboration and results, according to Norris, 32.

“I bring the vibes," she says. “I’m always looking to have a good time, but I’m still able to drive my team to success."

Write to Callum Borchers at

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