Hire for attitude or skill?


Yes, says Kay Willmore (pictured left), HR officer at Stamford Hotels and Resorts

I’ve long been an advocate of hiring for attitude and training for skill. I strongly believe that, with poor attitude, even the highest of achievers will fail, in turn impacting the company.

This very question came up recently in discussions with a hiring manager. We’d just brought on a new staff member, on the manager’s personal recommendation, based on her previous experiences working with the employee. While the positions and skill sets were different, when making our hiring decision we also took into account the candidate’s attitude, commitment in getting the job done and dedication to the previous role.

A few weeks in, we found ourselves wondering if we’d discussed the skill set and system requirements sufficiently, as it was apparent some were lacking. We decided we hadn’t made a hiring failure and took the discussion back to the reason we hired the person in the first place: attitude.

From here, we decided to support the employee to gain the extra skills and computer literacy needed to succeed in the role, rather than go through the hiring process again.

One thing we have implemented to maximise our chances of hiring success is behavioural interviews, as they delve deeper into the personality traits that will carry the person through when things get challenging. I’m confident that this is the reason the majority of hires work out. You’ll always have the odd problem, but implementing processes like this will reduce the likelihood of a hiring failure.

No, says Ian Welsh (pictured right), independent HR professional

Hiring based on attitude is, in most cases, bogus.

Very few organisations have a culture that consistently drives the organisation and affects the way work is performed. Most attitude or corporate culture hiring really reflects the recruiting manager hiring someone they like the look of, and, similarly, the recruiter seeking candidates to match the manager’s preferences. In effect, the hiring is, in many cases, to satisfy the biases of the manager, not to strengthen the organisation. Yet, foremost, employees need to be competent.

An organisation should be structured to accommodate all kinds of people, and managers should be competent in building and motivating diverse teams. The organisation should set the tone. The employees should have the skills and competencies to perform the role and, whatever their style, in turn be appropriately assimilated into the organisation.

Most recruiters are not professionally competent (they don’t have appropriate training and skills) to accurately assess the attitude of a candidate based on limited exposure during interviews, which typically involve candidates playing a role. Frequently, when hiring for attitude, the best actors with an attractive disposition get the job.

Recruiting should be based on the skills required to perform the job role. Hiring for attitude rather than competence can directly result in discrimination and perpetuating sameness in an environment of continuing change.

A legal opinion

“Australian laws prohibit rejecting a job applicant because of his or her sexual orientation, religion or political opinion (except in a few specific situations), including whether a candidate bears a characteristic that relates generally to a person having those attributes. If a person’s CV reveals an association with a church group, political party or the Mardi Gras, and the reason for the rejection is ‘cultural unfitness’, employers will need to be able to show that the recruitment decision was not influenced by these activities.” – Charles Power, partner and accredited specialist in workplace relations at Holding Redlich, and an AHRI affiliate member.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the October 14 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘For or against’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

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David Wilson
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David Wilson

Both commentators make valid points. Kay’s situation succeeded because the applicant had the right attitudes only had to learn some new skills which is not too hard. Had it been the other way around, a skillful person with poor attitudes, it probably would not have worked. Ian on the other hand in saying that “hiring for attitude is in most cases bogus” points out that many recruiters don’t have the objectivity or skills to assess attitude appropriately. Interestingly, Ian doesn’t say attitudes are not important, he seems to be saying if you can’t judge them objectively, you are better off… Read more »

joseph Sanders
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joseph Sanders

The importance of attitude depends on the role for which the person is being selected.To what extent their attitude/values will influence colleagues/clients? I agree that avoiding introducing a negative element as a result of
proper consideration of attitudes is sensible.

I agree with Ian that ensuring the candidate is intellectually and technically capable of doing the job is fundamental.I think this is the initial acceptance criteria applied by existing staff.In my experience,where this not the case,respect and acceptance is often not forthcoming.

This why I advocate role descriptions which are holistic,and include key relationships as well as task elements.

More on HRM

Hire for attitude or skill?


Yes, says Kay Willmore (pictured left), HR officer at Stamford Hotels and Resorts

I’ve long been an advocate of hiring for attitude and training for skill. I strongly believe that, with poor attitude, even the highest of achievers will fail, in turn impacting the company.

This very question came up recently in discussions with a hiring manager. We’d just brought on a new staff member, on the manager’s personal recommendation, based on her previous experiences working with the employee. While the positions and skill sets were different, when making our hiring decision we also took into account the candidate’s attitude, commitment in getting the job done and dedication to the previous role.

A few weeks in, we found ourselves wondering if we’d discussed the skill set and system requirements sufficiently, as it was apparent some were lacking. We decided we hadn’t made a hiring failure and took the discussion back to the reason we hired the person in the first place: attitude.

From here, we decided to support the employee to gain the extra skills and computer literacy needed to succeed in the role, rather than go through the hiring process again.

One thing we have implemented to maximise our chances of hiring success is behavioural interviews, as they delve deeper into the personality traits that will carry the person through when things get challenging. I’m confident that this is the reason the majority of hires work out. You’ll always have the odd problem, but implementing processes like this will reduce the likelihood of a hiring failure.

No, says Ian Welsh (pictured right), independent HR professional

Hiring based on attitude is, in most cases, bogus.

Very few organisations have a culture that consistently drives the organisation and affects the way work is performed. Most attitude or corporate culture hiring really reflects the recruiting manager hiring someone they like the look of, and, similarly, the recruiter seeking candidates to match the manager’s preferences. In effect, the hiring is, in many cases, to satisfy the biases of the manager, not to strengthen the organisation. Yet, foremost, employees need to be competent.

An organisation should be structured to accommodate all kinds of people, and managers should be competent in building and motivating diverse teams. The organisation should set the tone. The employees should have the skills and competencies to perform the role and, whatever their style, in turn be appropriately assimilated into the organisation.

Most recruiters are not professionally competent (they don’t have appropriate training and skills) to accurately assess the attitude of a candidate based on limited exposure during interviews, which typically involve candidates playing a role. Frequently, when hiring for attitude, the best actors with an attractive disposition get the job.

Recruiting should be based on the skills required to perform the job role. Hiring for attitude rather than competence can directly result in discrimination and perpetuating sameness in an environment of continuing change.

A legal opinion

“Australian laws prohibit rejecting a job applicant because of his or her sexual orientation, religion or political opinion (except in a few specific situations), including whether a candidate bears a characteristic that relates generally to a person having those attributes. If a person’s CV reveals an association with a church group, political party or the Mardi Gras, and the reason for the rejection is ‘cultural unfitness’, employers will need to be able to show that the recruitment decision was not influenced by these activities.” – Charles Power, partner and accredited specialist in workplace relations at Holding Redlich, and an AHRI affiliate member.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the October 14 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘For or against’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

What’s your view?

Share your thoughts below.

2
Leave a reply

avatar
500
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
David Wilson
Guest
David Wilson

Both commentators make valid points. Kay’s situation succeeded because the applicant had the right attitudes only had to learn some new skills which is not too hard. Had it been the other way around, a skillful person with poor attitudes, it probably would not have worked. Ian on the other hand in saying that “hiring for attitude is in most cases bogus” points out that many recruiters don’t have the objectivity or skills to assess attitude appropriately. Interestingly, Ian doesn’t say attitudes are not important, he seems to be saying if you can’t judge them objectively, you are better off… Read more »

joseph Sanders
Guest
joseph Sanders

The importance of attitude depends on the role for which the person is being selected.To what extent their attitude/values will influence colleagues/clients? I agree that avoiding introducing a negative element as a result of
proper consideration of attitudes is sensible.

I agree with Ian that ensuring the candidate is intellectually and technically capable of doing the job is fundamental.I think this is the initial acceptance criteria applied by existing staff.In my experience,where this not the case,respect and acceptance is often not forthcoming.

This why I advocate role descriptions which are holistic,and include key relationships as well as task elements.

More on HRM