(As published in the Sunday Star-Times, July 13: www.stuff.co.nz/business/small-business/10464723/Attitude-is-key-make-no-excuses)
About a decade ago, I had a business colleague who was hiring to fill a junior position. She was in the final stages of the process and had shortlisted two really great candidates, but she was having a moment of angst over which one to go with. One candidate was technically brilliant – she’d come top of her class at university, she was very intelligent and she aced the homework my colleague had set her as a trial. She was a very studious and diligent type and would have performed well at any task asked of her.
The other candidate wasn’t so good technically – he didn’t have as much experience and the homework he’d done needed a bit of work. He had potential, but his work needed refining. Hiring him would mean more work for my colleague and her team, to get him up to speed. But this candidate’s personality really shone. He was bubbly, positive and inquisitive. Rather than sitting meekly in the interviews, he participated, asking questions about the company and how it worked and what the culture was like. He leaned into the questions and laughed readily – basically, he made a heck of a first (and second) impression. He even mentioned how he liked to bake on Sunday nights and would share his chocolate cake with the team on Monday morning. We (I was a part of the interview panel) didn’t let that sway our decision, but we did think that gave us an insight into what sort of person he was – caring, a team player and a cultural fit.
My colleague hired the second candidate – the one with the least experience and technical proficiency but with the best attitude and personality. It was a fantastic lesson to me and one I’ve never forgotten.
Hiring the best people for your business doesn’t mean hiring the ones with the most experience or the ones with the most technical skill. The lesson here is to hire for attitude and train for aptitude. A job can be learned – an attitude can’t.
Attitude is what will take your company to the next level. Attitude is what will inspire others and create great workplace engagement and means a better customer experience. Attitude is what will get you, your team and your business through the tough times.
Not only that, it’s much nicer to work with people with a good attitude and a magnetic personality. They can actually make you look forward to going to work! Hire people that you’re proud to work alongside.
When I work with businesses, I’ll ask who their most valuable employees are, the ones they’d hate to lose. Nine out of ten describe someone who is a team player, passionate and positive. To me, it’s very telling that 90% of employers would find more value in someone with a good attitude than someone who has an amazing skill-set.
Recruitment is time-consuming and costly and to get it wrong can be dangerous. With this in mind you might think that you should stick with someone who is proficient at the job, but don’t: a study I read recently said that 89 percent of the time, the failure of new hires was down to attitudinal reasons. Only 11 percent of new hire failures were because of a lack of skill.
Obviously, personality isn’t everything. Along with the good personality and attitude, the person must also have the intelligence and aptitude to work and learn, and they must have a good work ethic. But you really shouldn’t be hiring anybody without these essential traits anyway!
What I’m saying is, don’t write off somebody because they don’t currently have the skill set that you need. You’re better to train someone up than go for the employee who can do the job but won’t add anything else to the company or your culture. Go for the candidate with the great personality and can-do attitude
Zac de Silva is a business coach who works with many NZ companies. See more at www.businesschanging.com or contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org