Recruiting for Attitude versus Skill

You’re reviewing candidates for a new role in the company…

There’s the candidate with the right technical ability and track record, but their attitude doesn’t completely align with your core values (leaving you with the feeling that they may not gel well with the rest of your team)

Then there’s the candidate with an amazing outlook and energy, you know their approach and presence will uplift the entire team (but they’re missing some core competencies)

And you can’t recruit them both…

So who do you choose?

There’s plenty of debate around whether to recruit for attitude or whether you should recruit for skills and proven background experience.

You likely know why you should recruit for either skills or attitude, however I’d like to introduce you to the potential negatives to help balance your viewpoint.

The argument against recruiting on attitude
Recruiting solely on attitude can bring with it a personal bias and potentially discriminate against people if you are only looking at similar traits of people who may fit into your team. Sometimes, the time it may take to train people and the fact that you are not necessarily bringing experts in to lift the current standards can also be a negative for the organisation.

The argument against recruiting on skills 
Recruiting solely on skills can mean you have the best technical operator in the world come into your business, but if they don’t work effectively with your team, customers and yourself, they’ll end up requiring significant time to manage and ultimately, will never be a great fit.

My view is that you first want to ensure that the candidate will be able to do the job, and therefore their skills and background experience are critical in helping to determine this. BUT, don’t move forward if attitude and culture do not align.

So how does this impact the hiring process?

Next we’re going to look at how to recruit for both skills and attitude so that you can combine them and make sure you hire the right person!

Hiring For Skills

Firstly, you need to be able to clearly articulate the skills that are critical to the success of the role.

They may be technical skills (i.e. Advanced Excel) or they may be softer skills (like problem solving, creative thinking, etc.).

Once you have your skills requirements:

  • Ask specific questions about projects and background experience and their approach to tasks i.e. ‘Walk me through the steps you would follow in setting up a new project’.
  • Test them where applicable and possible (confidentiality permitting).
  • We are seeing a lot more ‘play dates’ (particularly in the health practitioner space) where candidates are brought in to observe to provide a basis to ask comparison questions.
  • Other skill tests may also be available (i.e. numeric reasoning, typing etc.).
  • Review their prior training, educational experience and results.
  • During reference checking, ask specific questions about how the candidate would go about their duties (try asking them to rate their skills out of 10).

Now that you’ve got a handle on whether the candidate has the right skills for the role, move into evaluating attitude…

Hiring For Attitude

As with hiring for skills, you need to be able clearly articulate attitude and culture fit for your organisation.

Commonly, they will be based around your company values (or ‘how things are done around here’).

Techniques to assess attitude:

  • Ask the candidate to highlight 3 values that are important to them.
  • Utilise behavioural questioning techniques. Behavioural questioning is based on the principle that your past behaviour is the best indicator of how you will perform in the future. These questions are focused on asking candidates to share previous examples of when or how they have conducted something. They give the candidate an opportunity to present examples that not only indicate whether they have the required skills but also showcase their attributes and style.
  • Ask them to provide 3 words that best describe themselves.
  • Share your values and ask them how they believe they would fit into that culture and whether they demonstrated these qualities in their previous role.
  • During reference checking, ask specific questions around the environment that the candidate would work best in and would frustrate them.

Having both the skills for the role and the attitude for your company will ensure that your next hire is good for your business long-term.

You might be thinking that all this sounds a bit complicated, and putting into practice will be hard work.

Any questions?

If you have questions on this topic or any others, feel free to reach me by email or set up a free one-on-one consultation session, or drop me a comment below.

Thanks for sharing!