Hire for attitude or hire for skill?

Most companies underestimate the cost of a bad hire, when in actuality, a bad hire can impact an organization in a lot of ways. For example, online clothing shop Zappos found it was spending $100 million on bad hires and has now started offering new hires a $3,000 separation bonus to exit the organization within their first few months of joining if they are unhappy.

Employers mostly hire for skill and talent. The most common, and fatal, hiring mistake is to find someone with the right skills but with the wrong mind-set and hire them thinking that they can be changed. Although the new employee may be highly skilled, it doesn’t always mean the new hire will be beneficial to the company. It takes much more than talent and skill for an employee to be successful. It’s all about the attitude. Attitudes displayed in the workplace can directly affect the atmosphere and productivity within an organization. Yet this is often overlooked and receives little or no attention during the interview process. In far too many companies, hiring processes are poorly designed and badly executed.


However, there are some considerations worth pondering for changing this thought process:

  • With the baby boomers retiring, the pool of skilled people will decrease–so it is going to be extremely difficult to find and recruit skilled people. Hence, the key issue for employers is to check if there are enough workers in the pipeline who are trained and ready to step in when the baby boomers retire.
  • On top of this scarcity (and partly driven by it), the cost of hiring experienced people will be much higher.
  • Technology is changing so fast that upgrading knowledge will become critical and the aforementioned high cost “skill set” may become stale in comparison.
  • Due to the changing demands of businesses, companies need people who are more versatile. So there is a case to be made for hiring people with the right attitude, who can learn and develop themselves to face any challenges.
  • If a company hires and trains people properly, the probability of them staying with the company is better, as they believe that the company trusts them and invests in them. This will result in reduced employee turnover.

Hiring is not always about finding people with the right experience. It’s about finding people with the right mind-set. The core strength of a company lies in its people. Companies are therefore strategizing to hire smart people to ensure that they have the necessary assets to survive and succeed. The best way to select people who will thrive in your company is to identify the personal characteristics of people who are already thriving and hire people with a similar attitude.

Make “hire for attitude and train for skill” your mantra for the hiring process. It’s a simple technique, but one that has a profound impact on how to successfully recruit and select new employees. Take advantage of candidate self-selection by creating a good job description, clearly broadcasting what qualities you look for when bringing on new staff. 

While networking, if you see someone who clearly embodies the qualities you want on your team, introduce your organization to them and talk about your current job openings. Whatever attitude you seek to hire, the key is to look beyond words on the resume and search for more subtle clues about a candidate’s character during your interactions. 

Do remember, skills can be taught. An employee can be trained in technical skills but their personality and character cannot, and should not, be changed by an organization. Look for a candidate with the right attitude and embrace their personality once you make a decision to get them on board. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *