Is choosing attitude over skills the secret to a successful hire?

Friday was a good day….one of my candidates got offered an employment contract, not because he was the most technically skilled but because his drive and ambition reassured my client that he would go the extra mile to achieve the desired results.

Let’s face it, it is almost impossible to hire against a perfect wish list. Every company seems to be looking for candidates in their mid-thirties with 15 years of successful experience in a similar position, preferably also in the same industry who are not too expensive …. Hence the reason why it makes so happy when a hiring manager can see beyond the technical skills and look at the potential a candidate has to be successful in an organization.

Recruitment based on technical skills is fairly easy. You can ask specific questions and the response will be right or wrong. Easy peasy, tick in the box. But that leaves you with no guarantee that that person will be successful in your organization in the years to come.

Recruitment based on attitude is a whole different game.

It all starts with defining what personality traits will make someone successful in your organization as a particular working environment will not suit all types of people. In order to hire successfully for attitude, you need to look at the specific characteristics your most successful employees have and how this differentiates from the ones who fail.

This profile will be the starting point of your selection process. But contrary to the selection based on experience and skills, a tick in the box is not that easy. No one can assess in a one-hour interview whether someone has what it takes to be successful. It can only show glimpses. It is during the entire process that the true attitudes of a candidate are shown.

This takes a strong human orientation, focus and attention from both the recruiter and the hiring manager beyond the formal interview.

I am not advocating here to hire just any candidate who displays the right attitude. A basic skillset that matches the position will always remain crucial but with an openness to coaching & feedback combined with desire and dedication, any skill can be learned.

Drive, ambition and the match with the key personality traits that will make someone successful in your organization are inherent to a person and cannot be learned, only further developed. Yet they are far more likely to have a long-term impact on how a person will thrive in your team.

The role you hire into may not exist in a year but flexible, agile workers who are able to upskill and cross-functionally move into new and emerging roles will always be an asset to your organization. So yes, choosing attitude over skills, if done right, can be the secret for successful hiring!

As always, let me know your thoughts and remarks and join me next time for the 3rd trend in recruitment of 2020…. the impact of technology.

I look forward to hearing from you,


Is choosing attitude over skills the secret to a successful hire? was originally published in Secrets of a headhunter on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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