The hiring process can be tedious, often requiring quite a bit of legwork from your human resources team. For example, you must create an accurate job description, post it on applicable job boards, filter resumes, screen and interview job applicants, and then ultimately select the best candidate for the job. But how do you determine who the best candidate is? While many employers place high importance on an employee’s skill set and experience, experts find that this may not always be the best way to evaluate and compare job candidates.
Instead, employers often find better success in hiring for attitude over experience – that is, looking for a candidate that exemplifies your ideal employee and fits in well with your company culture. A candidate with a good attitude and a desire for learning and growth can be a great hire if you are looking for a long-term employee.
A debate about hiring for attitude versus aptitude has developed over the years. Nearly every job posting includes the type of experience an employer is seeking, which makes sense considering that companies want to locate applicants who have already demonstrated a certain level of skill in that particular industry or role.
However, many of those same ads reference “soft skills” that have little or nothing to do with experience, such as being a team player or being willing to learn. Both the experience (hard skills) and the attitude (soft skills) are given high priority in the initial job opening ads.
The debate comes to light during the interview and hiring process.
Although the initial ads highlight soft skills and personality traits as important parts of the job applicant’s qualifications, during interviews, many hiring managers focus on hard skills and experience because they are easier to discuss and judge. As a result, many applicants end up being hired based exclusively on their experience rather than on their attitude.
Although some positions may require a very specific set of skills or experience, prioritizing job candidates’ attitudes is also important for several reasons.
Studies show that skilled and experienced employees with rotten attitudes fail quickly while employees with excellent attitudes succeed in the long run regardless of prior experience. This finding has been demonstrated across a wide range of industries, positions and salaries.
Here are a few eye-opening statistics on employee success, from LeadershipIQ:
Through professional training and development, you can teach employees new techniques and skills, allowing them to grow within your organization. However, attitude is hard – if not impossible – to teach. It can be difficult to fix an employee’s bad attitude, especially if they don’t want to change it. Those with good attitudes, on the other hand, are more receptive to learning and growth, which is what you want in a long-term employee.
When you’re hiring someone who will interact with customers or clients on a routine basis, it’s crucial to hire for attitude. Employees are the face of your company, and they represent your organization when speaking with your customers or clients. An employee with a bad attitude can quickly give your organization a bad reputation or result in negative online reviews, which can be hard to recover from. [Are people saying bad things about your business or products online? See why it’s important to respond to negative reviews.]
In the current job market, many job seekers are prioritizing company culture, so it’s important for employers to place a high priority on hiring employees who fit well with the company culture. Employers can do this by carefully evaluating employee attitude during the hiring process.
You can take certain measures to evaluate job applicants’ attitudes during the hiring process:
Although it’s clear that attitude should play a major role in your hiring process, there may be some instances when skills and experience really are of utmost importance. In that case, you may want to consider hiring freelancers to design websites, create content or code for you, for example. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when determining whether attitude or skill set should rank higher:
Although this isn’t a comprehensive list, these questions can help you determine what to evaluate during the hiring process.
Adam Toren contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.