Finding Your Perfect Employee: Brains or Chemistry


Hiring people is just the beginning of a tough adventure. An employer can go for either the brains or people person, of course it is a given that both should have the skills needed for the job. The dilemma lies in what type of person will make a difference as a part of the team. For some weird reason there is only one bully in school and there’s only one nerd. But does that have something to do with this article? Find out.

When hiring people for a project, or a series, there are two basic questions that need to be answered to have the desired outcome:

1. Are we up for a long working relationship?

2. What kind of team are you trying to build?Is it the team where you’re the boss and the employees do what you tell them? Or is it a more democratic team where everybody’s opinion is needed, or welcome?

There are per-projectjobs where you don’t really need to think of whom to hire as long as they have the skill to execute the job. Output-oriented. Then there’s the long-term, continuous work, where interaction is needed for everyday work.

Employers hiring for long-term work need to consider what type of applicant to hire. Summed up there are two types: brains and the people person. Assuming that both already have the skills for the job, what only varies is on how efficient they are in terms of discussion and group dynamics.

Brains or Chemistry?


Image by: clix

My first job interview nobody really asked about my school grades. The interviewer asked me “can you work effectively with people?” When I was hired the first thing I did was learn everything from everyone. Yes, everyone. For the first month I had to learn every process even if I did not apply for that position. Now that I think of it, that sure helped with my relationship with the whole team because I understood what their jobs were, and how they were done.

What am I trying to imply? The company where I worked wanted their employees to be a family, a team acting as one, giving suggestions on how to make things better. Not robots waiting for paychecks. It doesn’t matter if your grades are off the chart, what matters is if you can do the job while maintaining that “cool” atmosphere around the workplace.

Hiring for Brains

Image by: Martin Boose

Image by: Martin Boose

Smart people learn fast and can take in different kinds of  information at the same time. They are what average people like me see as cool humans who do not worry about anything because everything is under control. Everyone chill out, I got this.


Hiring someone who has the brains was perhaps the trend a decade ago. Employers wanted employees whose grades and IQ surpassed that of an average person. Intelligent people can do the job without spending too much training them, that’s how employers viewed the world. Intelligent means less time to spend on training. Takes little effort to learn a lot.

The amount of intelligence is proportional to the amount of pride plus one. They’d rather work with minimum supervision because they know the answer to almost everything their employers ask of them. They are almost independent, which makes them great to have, especially on a critical project.


Intelligent people, or smart ones, tend to work alone. They have their own pace and they prefer to keep it that way. No one should get in their way because it will just ruin their momentum. If the team is brainstorming there are two possible things that may happen:

  1. When they share their very bright ideas the average person will tend to shy away.
  2. They know number 1 is a possibility, to avoid it they’d keep their ideas to themselves.

This is not baseless, this might even be the reason for the stereotype that silent people who sit in a corner are smart. Now I’m going to my corner and watch while you guys read this.

Hiring for Chemistry


Image by: Stephen Eastop

The people person knows how to properly strike a chord, they bring harmony inside the workplace and are loved by most. They are the easiest people to deal with, to ask for favors and work revisions. Free-flowing, almost no problem at all. They know how to give and handle criticism and how to make people in the workplace dance and have fun, even at the most critical moment of a project. The best thing about a people person is they bring the team together, someone who will think with the team.


Hiring a person who is easily liked by many, someone who can easily adapt to the changes in the environment and has that air of bringing people together is just as valuable as hiring the insanely intelligent employee, though for very different reasons. Suppose the team is experiencing discord, a cold war where no one seems to care about what’s happening to the person in the next cubicle/line, sad huh? If a team is like this, no matter how good they do their job, you can’t call it a team. A person who can stir the team to life is needed.


Not to undermine the ability of the people person, but there will be times when the team doesn’t have the time to teach them new skills, times when everyone’s hands are just too full. Someone who has good chemistry with the whole team might be too dependent at times, requiring constant communication and approval to function.

Why do I know this? I believe I belong in this category, the disadvantage category. I also know people who do great work within a team but when left alone even for just a single day their energy is drained easily.

Is it possible to have all?

It’s the same as the diagram below which applies to men and women:


While it is hard to find the perfect mix, it is still possible to have it all. Although, personally, I’d choose people who can think and work with the team. Those kind of people have a lot of potential.

Do you have an employee or colleague who is both brains and liked by the whole team? Share your stories with us and help future employers build a perfect team!



  1. I defenitely have a workmate that I consider smart and at the same time he has the chemistry to work together as team. Until some time ago I wouldn’t thinking that way, but after reading this article now I can notice he really shares with the same characteristics.

  2. Koan

    It may seem that I missed the point on this one, but I really like the comments on the Disadvantages part:
    “Intelligent people, or smart ones, tend to work alone”
    Nice Post,

  3. Tom Ross

    Whilst this post is a bit stereotypical it does raise some good points. I think most of the top internet companies either go for the smart people, or the smart+sociable people though. Things are so competitive these days that just being sociable, without the brains probably isn’t enough.