Do you hire for Skills or Attitude?

Everyone probably knows by now that people are the biggest asset for any
business since it is they who drive the processes and strategies and pave the way for success. So, it goes without saying, that hiring the right people can take your business places! But how do you determine who is the right fit for your business when you are building a team?

Unlike machinery, human beings cannot be evaluated simply by the way they look on paper and their past deliverable matrix or experience. In fact, their fitment with the organization’s vision, culture, and values, as well as their soft-skills and overall attitude in general, are equally important (if not more) to determine how well they perform and add value to their current role and, hence, the organization.

That said, many organizations tend to focus more on the skill set or experience of a candidate rather than their attitude because they believe the experience brings in more value to their business. However, undermining the importance of soft skills and attitude, even though they are difficult to gauge, can prove disastrous for the organization in the long run.

I faced this conundrum several times, during my time in Emaar Properties, hiring the right people in technical and non-technical roles for my divisions. Being a large and well-known organization, I often had the best of talent keen to work with me. While our HR professionals often focused on the education, skills, and experience of the candidate, I almost always focused on their attitude. In the majority of the cases, my preference worked. I was able to hire the best talent, groom them, and up-skill them. They are still in the company today and among the rising stars of the organization.

I’m a firm believer that attitude is often the key that determines how far a person goes in life, including the corporate ladder. While there can be many employees who are equally competent in terms of skills, their attitude is often what sets them apart as it reflects their character and maturity, and therefore, how they react to different situations, people and challenges to ensure a positive outcome. It reflects their openness to continue to learn and adapt, yet thrive, as they evolve.

Former American baseball player Wade B0ggs once said, “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”

This is true not just for sportsmen, but for people in all spheres of life. It would not be wrong to say that for an organization, a candidate with the right attitude tends to turn out to be a better bet in most of the cases. This is because the zeal of the person to achieve something in life – both personally as well as professionally, works as a win-win for both the employee as well as the employer.

As a result, those with the right attitude often end up outshining those with a better experience and technical skills, because while it’s difficult to change someone’s attitude, it is not difficult to groom those with the right attitude with the core skills required to succeed in the role. They will never shy away from learning and adapting, given their positive approach. More often than not, it works to the organization’s advantage! I know that for a fact as I’ve experienced it.

I used to often tell my staff, “I can teach you how to be a good administrator or manager, I can’t teach you to be a good and enthusiastic person.”

Hiring a person with the wrong attitude will not only hinder their performance at work but also impacts the morale of their team members and others he/she deals with, which includes clients, vendors and other stakeholders who are vital to your company’s success. After all, people don’t work in isolation and are required to interact with others on a regular basis, so the spillover of their attitude will reflect far and wide. So there’s a lot more at stake than you realize!

Now let’s take the case of some leaders who are idolized for building brands that are respected the world over as an example – Bill Gates and Richard Branson. I’m sure they need no introduction. Now think about what these people have in common apart from being successful entrepreneurs? Well, they are both school drop-outs! But did that stop them from becoming successful? Obviously not. How did that happen?

Well, the answer clearly lies in their attitude. While they may not have completed their studies, they had a strong vision that they wanted to realize. Above all, they were go-getters who were willing to give it all it takes to make their vision a reality. So, despite not having completed their formal education, they never really stopped learning and picking up the relevant skills, and that’s one of the main reasons that Microsoft and Virgin are successful global brands today.

Richard Branson himself mentioned in a recent blog “I never judge people by their education and qualifications. The first thing we look for at Virgin when hiring new staff is personality, which always wins over book smarts or job-specific skills – the latter can be learned”.

‘Hire for attitude, train for skills’ has become a norm today for successful organizations and recruitment teams, that realize the importance of people as the means to drive success and reach greater heights. While building a team, it is important to remember that the right skills, while important, will only take a person to a certain point in the corporate ladder, beyond which they will stagnate and fail to add much value, if not backed with the right attitude.

Questions: Do you have the right attitude to succeed in life? Does your company hire for attitude? Let me know your thoughts.