Written by Lauren Burnside

You’re at the final stages of hiring for a new staff member, and while Candidate A ticks all the boxes for skills and experience, Candidate B really shines through with their enthusiasm and willingness to learn. Who do you choose for the job?

Think about the long term. Who would serve your business best going forward, and why? Candidate A could hit the ground running, but are they going to fit your business well in the future? Will they be willing to step outside of their comfort zone, work well with your team and truly be an advocate for all that they do? Candidate B may need time to learn the ropes, but their eager attitude and interest demonstrates how they could also be a fantastic fit for your team later down the line.

A 2019 white paper produced by Gartner (based on a study involving 3,500 hiring managers) stated that only 29% of new recruits possessed all the hard skills listed in their job descriptions. It was highlighted that many of these skills (especially those required in certain sectors and professions) were transient with an average shelf-life of 10 months before they need to be updated.

It has been reported that due to the increase of flexible e-learning and virtual training on-the-job, some employers are now shifting their focus away from traditional (and often costly) candidate searches – for instance, searching for those with high-level qualifications or vast amounts of previous experience – and are starting to lean towards those with the potential to learn, who can look to their future skills and opportunity to grow within a company. Hiring for attitude over skill also opens the door to diversity, offering more opportunities to those in minority groups as well as those who simply can’t afford to pay for university fees or other expensive training.

In their article, ‘To Make Better Hires, Learn What Predicts Success’, The Harvard Business Review analysed the nature of existing employees, and suggest that a business should review performance results and weigh these against recruitment requirements. Who works the best, and why? For example, David in the Support team has a relevant degree and suitable technical skills for the role, but his timekeeping and people skills are not particularly strong, which has raised concern among colleagues, and even negative feedback on online review pages. In the same team, Nikita holds few formal qualifications and her technical knowledge is not as advanced. Regardless, she is an excellent communicator, is always on time for work and happy to help, remaining positive even if she can’t answer certain technical questions. While she does occasionally ask colleagues for support, she has also been referenced in five-star customer reviews. Do you need more people like David, or Nikita?

Finally, Monster.co.uk believes that hiring for attitude is a good building block for creating a positive workplace culture, and that soft skills are harder to train – this also raises the ethical aspect of asking someone to change their personal attitude to fit their employer’s expectations.

Flexible and adaptable working, recruiting, and learning has been a major driver behind sustaining and re-growing successful business, and as we’ve seen since the 2020 pandemic, even a lifeline in some cases. By identifying strengths and potential over hard skills, and offering development opportunities, new recruits become less like expendable assets and more of a meaningful growth project within your business, working with you, not just for you.


Sources (accessed October 2022)
Gartner (2020) Advancing Recruiting’s Value Through Uncertain Times. Available at Advancing Recruiting Value: Shaping the Workforce (gartner.com)
The Harvard Business Review (2021) Reengineering the Recruitment Process. Available at https://hbr.org/2021/03/reengineering-the-recruitment-process
The Harvard Business Review (2022) To Make Better Hires, Learn What Predicts Success. Available at https://hbr.org/2022/08/to-make-better-hires-learn-what-predicts-success
Monster (2022) Hiring for Attitude, Training for Skill. Available at Hiring for Attitude, Training for Skill | Monster.co.uk