What employers look for in employees: Self-identity vs. reputation

3 minute read


Recruiters and HR managers have a lot at stake when assessing and selecting new talent. There’s the pressure to get it right, to choose those candidates who are most likely to succeed at work and be a positive force within the corporate environment.

Of course, without the proper guide posts, it’s not an easy task. One of the keys is to properly weigh the two lenses through which we commonly see or assess a personality — self-identity vs. reputation.

As quoted by Bob Hogan, “Freud would say the ‘you’ that you think you are is hardly worth knowing, because you made it all up”. So it seems we must go deeper than a candidate’s own self-perception to truly predict how they will relate to colleagues and function on a daily basis if hired.

Why is this the case? Below, we present some astute observations from Hogan Assessments, which will help us take a closer look.

The meaning of identity and reputation

Identity can be defined as personality from the inside, or in other words, what you as an individual think of yourself. It’s the ‘you’ that ‘you’ know, the story you tell yourself about the image you present to the world.

Intrinsic to our self-identity as humans is a personal, private sense of what makes us unique and gives us meaning.

Reputation is different. It is what others think of you, based on past behaviour; the ‘you’ that ‘we’ (other people) know. A person’s reputation is not the story hidden within, but the collective observations of others about how that person actually acts.


The effect of employee identity and reputation on the employer

Identity, as a construct of self, provides employees with an inward guide on how to manage their own behaviour. By using it, we might feel satisfied and comfortable in knowing we’re putting our best foot forward, socially and professionally.

However, identity has little or no effect on an employer. Because it’s a story — a private interpretation that’s invisible to everyone else and not based in fact — an employee’s self-identity says nothing about how he or she will truly perform in a certain role or get along with colleagues over time.

Reputation, on the other hand, does truly affect the employer. Reputation builds as a worker interacts with peers and real, consistent judgements begin to form about that person’s character. By examining past and present behaviour, you can see where an employee is ‘headed’ from the start.

All said, reputation is by far a better predictor of performance than self-identity. Employers can reliably use a candidate’s behaviour, a fact-based body of information, as a window into what a future with that person on the team could look like.


The bottom line: For better selection, consider reputation

It was Shakespeare who wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. Indeed, human behaviour on the individual level is quite the performance for a shrewd audience. Recruiters can choose better talent by adhering to a simple view: pay more attention to what candidates do than who they believe themselves to be.

A reliable way to achieve this is with scientifically-validated personality tests, such as the Hogan Assessments, which look at stable patterns of behaviour. With psychometric tools such as these, employers can hone in on what really matters in a potential hire.

Then, it becomes easier to select the brightest talent, with the best chance of enhancing the corporate culture, time after time.

If you’re looking to sharpen your hiring processes, we at Winsborough would love to help. Click here to get in touch.