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When hiring, focus on attitude or aptitude?

(EDITORIAL) The main idea behind hiring for attitude first is that skills can be taught, while attitude is a reflection of personality, something which is much harder to change.

Attitude over skills

That mindset has served me well over the years not only as a manager of people but as a worker-bee. Certainly job knowledge is important. But that can be taught. Give me someone who is malleable. Someone who is teachable and I’ll give them all the tools they need to build the skyscrapers that never end.

A recent Fortune article supports that same endgame. Comments guest author Mitali Rakhit, “If a new hire doesn’t necessarily have all ideal background points that you’re looking for, don’t immediately write them off… A good attitude and willingness to learn quickly will allow a new employee to be able to accomplish more, even if he or she doesn’t know everything at the get-go.”

Hire for attitude, train for skills?

That said, some jobs do dictate that employees have a specific skill-set or at the very least the aptitude for the same. Dissects the Aptitude vs Attitude argument, author Sarah Willis posits that, “Hire-for-attitude proponents point out that one of the main reason new hires fail is due to personality or attitude issues, with failing being defined as getting negative appraisals, disciplinary action, being forced to leave, or getting fired.”

Teach an old dog new tricks

Conversely, explains Willis, “[Even] if an entry-level recruit does have the willingness to learn essential skills from scratch, it’s still an expensive, time-consuming process. Developing in depth industry-specific skill-sets, let alone communication skills and critical thinking, can take months.”

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The logical conclusion, say many managers in Human Resources, is that to recruit successfully, employers should look at the attitudes and personality traits of their top staff and then hunt for candidates who exhibit the same characteristics.


Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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