12 Ways To Actually Hire For Attitude (and Train For Skill)

12 Ways To Actually Hire For Attitude (and Train For Skill)
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Some things, like attitude, simply can’t be taught. If a candidate has the ideal attitude but lacks some of the hard skills needed, how can you respond? In this article, business executives discuss how they hire for attitude and when it is important to place skills over attitude. 

Unsurprisingly, these 12 professionals have differing opinions on the hiring for attitude concept. Read on for their insights on the matter.

Avoid Arrogance

Arrogance will never be hired.  Early career candidates will tend to express their drive and work ethic through their story and work history during school.  More experienced candidates tend to share their interest in learning and advancing through education, knowledge, and mentoring. 

Kristina DiMartino, Voya Financial

Create a Clear Path to Growth

While attitude is extremely important in success at Spear, we don’t hire strictly based on that.  We try to find individuals that have both a 90% chance of being successful in the role with their current skillset and a 90% chance that they will display the attitude and competencies that will be successful in our culture.  One thing we don’t require for hire in most roles is dental experience.  We train on industry, technology and tools and then once the candidate is up to speed on that, we create development plans to ensure that every single employee in the organization has a clear path to growth. 

Beth Gross, Spear Education

Look for Adaptable and Forward Thinking Candidates

I recently interviewed a candidate who was laid off because of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and instead of getting down about her situation she took the initiative to read books that inspired her to think positively and outside of the box.  She began to prepare herself for the next step in her life. This shows that she is forward-thinking and can adapt to change.  She answered 90% of the tech questions correctly and with good examples.  She displays the aptitude to pick up on the technical portion of the job with the help of training.

Karesha Barnes, GoDaddy

Develop a Statement to Support Values

Anyone can publish a set of values in an employee handbook, but we felt it was important to demonstrate how these values can improve the workplace in a genuine way. That’s why our staff created an “It’s Ok To…” statement to help express our company culture in a simple and concrete way. The statement includes items like “It’s Ok To…take time off for family. Make mistakes. Say you’re having a bad day.” It’s about being human. It’s a statement to support our values—to remind those that are already here, and to show the path to our values to new employees who come on board.

Kimberly Kriewald, Commercial Real Estate Lending

Create an Atmosphere of Kindness and Respect

We feel that attitude is subjective and can lead to affinity bias. When people lead with our wounds and fears, the results are disastrous from a diversity perspective. Our workplaces need to have an atmosphere of kindness and respect. When you do that, you open the business open to a new realm of possibilities. You can train people to do the necessary skills. You can’t teach someone to be a decent human being.

Erica Scott, Civilian Connections

Level the Playing Field

That is a tricky question because hiring for anything other than qualifications often leaves room for unconscious bias. Most companies that focus on ensuring a diverse workforce would likely not ascribe to this concept at this time. My suggestion is to level the playing field on paper first by mapping to the basic qualifications. Next, utilize behavioral interviewing techniques to select the best candidate for the position.

Kelly Chapman, Kegelbell

Attitude > Skill 

Skill acquisition is significantly easier than changing a person’s mindset. We look for individuals with a personality profile that demonstrates a level of grit and passion that we can direct to acquire any skill. How we test for this varies based on job function but typically it involves some sort of self-directed activity with an appropriate level of complexity.

Lukas Ruebbelke, BrieBug

Attitude < Skill 

Our company prefers to hire people with talent and mature skillsets versus training newbies. That said, prima donnas aren’t welcome. Attitude is having a point of view but not being a prima donna about it. Training for skill is difficult. In creative, it takes years on the job, plus a passion for the craft to become skilled.

DD Kullman, University of Phoenix

Dig Deep into the Candidate’s Background

We follow “Lou Adler’s Group” methodology of performance-based interviewing which definitely helps when hiring for attitude. It involves digging deep into a candidate’s background, looking for comparable accomplishments based on the position’s performance objectives as well as learning opportunities.

Evelyn Vega, Staffing Strong

Ask the Right Questions

We have successfully placed over 15,000 people in new roles. Assessing for “attitude” varies by company and the role. Obviously, attitude bows out to skill for some of the technical engineering roles we fill for companies. However, the importance and weight of “attitude” as an assessment metric should be discussed in the discovery phase of a candidate search. A hiring team should discuss and define the scope of the recruiting challenge at hand. Where did previous hires go wrong in the role? Where did they go right? How important was attitude in their overall success? By asking the right questions in the initial discovery phases of a hiring process, a company is able to determine for themselves how important attitude really is. 

Ryan Nouis, Executive Search Firm

Hire for Skill

As a criminal defense and personal injury lawyer, I understand that it is an extremely stressful situation our clients face when hiring the right attorney. But, what should clients look for when hiring an attorney? Should clients hire a lawyer for attitude, or for skill? The question seems silly when it is broken down to a situation like hiring an attorney to handle a legal case. Of course you would hire for skill! You want the best attorney to represent you. Why would it be any different when hiring an employee for your business? 

Court Will, Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney

Search for Self-Starters

Experience and skills are definitely important, but I really appreciate a candidate who is eager to learn. I would rather hire a self-starter who is excited to learn over a candidate with more experience who might not be as engaged. I think a great way to evaluate this is by determining how interested a candidate is in joining your team. Did they take the time to research your company? Did they look at your website? Did they check out your company’s social media channels? A great attitude and motivation are everything!

Grecia Olachea, Local SEO Company

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