How to Catch a Character Flaw Before it Sidelines You


Years ago, we hired a technician to lead our church production team and help with our services and events. He had all the right qualifications and was a joy to work with most of the time. But something that didn’t show up on his resume, or in any of our reference calls, was that he had a temper. About two months after he started, he got upset at a meeting and threw a table across the room as he stormed out. We gave him a warning, but it was only a couple weeks before he got angry again and cussed out a volunteer loudly and publicly. This guy had a gaping character flaw, and we had to let him go.

As leaders, it’s crucial that the people we bring on our team do not have huge flaws in their integrity that could cripple their ability to lead. We shouldn’t have to worry about whether money will go missing, customers will get mistreated, or a sexual harassment accusation will divert our focus.

So how do you make sure you don’t hire someone with character flaws?

You can’t.

No one is perfect, and even if you ask all the right questions and call all the references in advance, it doesn’t mean someone won’t fall. You are not responsible for someone else’s personal choices, so don’t beat yourself up if you have a member of your team who makes a bad choice.

If someone has fallen more than once to the same issue, such as an extramarital affair or embezzlement, it is much more likely he or she will fall again. But there are some things you can do during the interview process to minimize the risk for yourself and your organization:

  1. Ask lots of questions up front of the candidates, their spouses, their references, and other close friends. You aren’t looking for dirt, but if you find out about chinks in their armor, you want to ask more questions.

  2. Be very concerned when you hear about character flaws from others that the candidate didn’t tell you about first. In my mind, that disqualifies the person.

  3. Be less concerned when a candidate comes out and tells you right away, “This is what happened, this is what I’ve done since, and please feel free to talk to anyone you want to ask more questions.” That shows a strengthening character and authenticity, and that is attractive.

  4. When team members do fall, do everything you can to restore them. They may not be able to stay on staff, but that does not relieve you of the responsibility to care for them through their recovery. Many times that means pressing through your own feelings of betrayal and abandonment, but it is something you must do.

Let’s do everything we can to have men and women of integrity leading our organizations.

Adapted from “Fairness is Overrated,” chapter 15.

Tim StevensComment