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Employers: Should You Value Attitude Over Job Skills?

June 29th, 2012

You have an open position that you need to fill by the end of the week, and you’ve narrowed your pool of candidates down to two. As you agonize between the final contenders, you consider their skill sets as well as their personalities.

The first candidate is cheerful, funny, a bit of a clown, and has pleasant tendency toward self-deprecation. She’s clearly a team player and an extrovert, and she’s a quick learner. The other candidate is also a quick learner. But by contrast, she’s a highly driven perfectionist, a loner, and a fierce competitor. She’s all business, and if you need her to stay late, you know that she’ll burn the midnight oil as long as you ask.

Did I mention that your office is an easygoing and collaborative environment? Your employees are all young parents, and they cheerfully share the workload when family priorities arise. They leave at the stroke of five when they can, they enjoy team projects, and their greatest accomplishments have risen out of a sense of unity and a fruitful collective chemistry. They’re all very happy here, and your turnover is the lowest in your industry.

But…your easygoing candidate is fluent in only four of the software languages you use here, and your driven loner is fluent in all five.

What should you do?

Attitude Versus Job Skills

According to reliable HR studies and the evidence we see every day among our client firms, the answer is clear. Employers find greater success with their new hires when they prioritize attitude and cultural adaptability over trainable job skills.

All else being equal, candidates who blend well with your existing culture will be happier, more adaptable and ultimately more productive than those who have the skills but aren’t a social fit. In fact, this tends to hold true even when all else isn’t equal. Even candidates with a slight skill deficit should be considered above those who aren’t a cultural match. Especially if the skills are likely to be acquired on the job.

Why is this the case? We aren’t sure. Studies exploring the complex connection between cultural adaptability and job success are underway, and so far haven’t provided many definitive answers. But hiring managers making final round decisions should keep the take-home message in mind. Candidates who enjoy their social environment are better poised to stay, thrive, make strong connections, and demonstrate higher levels of commitment and productivity than those who don’t.

Need help with your agonizing final round hiring decisions? Contact your Connecticut employment staffing service at Merritt Staffing. We’ll use our extensive HR resources to help you fill your open position and move on.

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