Maxwell Stephens

5 Personality traits for FM’s

I attended the BIFM London region event on behalf of Maxwell Stephens - “Question Time” at Somerset House at the end of September last year where one of the speakers made a comment which I thought was quite funny. When asked about the type of people he recruits, he said “we like anyone who is nice”.

There is a serious point to this, though. In an extremely competitive marketplace with lots of job seekers competing for the same roles – what personal attributes should job seekers show that to ensure they are one step ahead of the rest?

Research by Deloitte shows that 94% of executives are looking for a “cultural fit” of their next hire more important than skills, in a bid to boost staff retention rates. But the problem for hiring managers is that any candidate can behave like a ‘nice’ person in their job interview. So it’s worth drilling a little deeper and take a look at their soft skills and personalities. Here are the five personality traits we have found to be particularly relevant for facilities management jobs:


Confidence is one of the top three traits employers are looking for in new hires. According to Sweden-based employer branding company Universum, 61 per cent of big companies prefer candidates who believe in their own capabilities and can tackle problems independently. Only professionalism (86%) and a high-energy personality (78%) were more important. But while those two traits will get candidates employed in many industries, hiring managers should especially examine how self-assured interviewees come across the minute they walk in. It is this confidence in their decisions that will help future facilities managers to keep calm under pressure and in tricky situations.


It’s better for a line manager to know what staff really think rather than living in blissful ignorance. Covering up all problems is the wrong conception of being nice. While polite manners and professional communication skills are always essential, candidates should be honest about their expectations and openly admit when they made a mistake. Nobody is perfect, and we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Honest and clear communications can be especially important in facilities where managers have to work with many different stakeholders every day, like hospitals or universities.

It sometimes takes courage to be honest, and hiring managers should watch out for candidates that aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo in an organisation. Interviewers should ask facilities managers to talk about situations when they identified a problem and how they went about convincing their superiors to tackle it. People with courage take calculated risks to improve a situation for themselves and for others. Of course, they’re sometimes not the most low maintenance people to have in your team, but then, you don’t want to surround yourself just with yes-men, either.

In psychology, this trait is sometimes also defined as “agreeableness”. We all tend to gravitate towards people who easily seem to get along with anyone. They possess a positive outlook on life in general and often sport a smile on their face. Of course, everyone has good and bad days, but candidates with an optimistic personality are more likely to bring a positive vibe to work and lift morale in their team. Likewise, bad attitudes can be contagious and bring down a team. Beware of people who always complain and disrupt their colleagues to moan about work. Instead, in facilities management we need people who can see opportunities where people with a more pessimistic outlook on life may see only problems.

You should look for confident candidates, but beware of those who are arrogant. In facilities management, employees with a genuine desire to serve others will thrive best. That’s why humility is another key trait to look for in a candidate. The online shoe shop Zappos, pioneers in recruiting only staff that fits in with their company culture, have a special way to test how humble candidates are:

› After successfully completing a long interview day at headquarters in the desert outside Las Vegas, Zappos will only give you the job after asking the opinion of the bus driver that brought you there in the morning and picked you up in the evening.

› You may have impressed the bosses in the interview, but if you didn’t treat the bus driver with respect, your personality is not right for this job. I love this idea! What if hiring managers in the FM industry had their interviewees speak to the cleaner, too? For the successful candidate, this would certainly be a great head-start into their new role.

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