Hire for Attitude Train for Skill

I read an article recently about hiring the right kind of people and how true leadership was important when building a team. That made me remember working with a guy called Jim Reger more than twenty years ago. We ran a program that assisted people who were out of work and on unemployment insurance to rebuild their confidence; it also taught them a bunch of skills to help them look for work. This included creating first-classs resumes, how to job search effectively, interview skills and a whole lot more. More importantly, we worked on our clients’ attitudes. Often when people are out of work they get down and think the world is against them and this shows as defensive, or even agressive, when being interviewed. Some lost their previous jobs due to a poor attitude, others developed a poor attitude because of the way they had been treated. No matter, attitude was at the heart of the problem they had in finding meaningful and rewarding permanent employment.

When participants completed our course we held a graduation ceremony and handed out gold attitude pins to them. One very tall, large guy cried as he received his pin, telling us this was the first time he graduated from anything. More than a dozen years later I met a woman who was in a senior management position at a local store and she was wearing the pin – I was amazed especially when she told me she had worn it at her interview for the position and the interviewers had asked what it was. When she told them that she had been taught that employers should hire for attitude and train for skill, and that she had a great attitude, they agreed and she was offered the job.

Too often we come across people in the workplace with poor attitudes. They may be serving us in a store, or working alongside us but their negativity is like a dark aura which enshrouds all with whom they come into contact. As employers, it’s too easy to simply hire the person with the skills and experience we need, regardless of their attitude. The argument is that they will be up and running quicker and easier. That’s usually a big mistake. No matter how skilled someone is, if they have poor attitude and have any level of contact with your clients or customers it will likely cost you business.

So, hiring for attitude and training for skill is a good aphorism to remember if you want to have a great team.