Forget skills - hire for attitude first

Pete Jansons

If you have an opening at your small business but nobody to fill it, you’re not alone. According to CareerBuilder researchsmall business employers have many positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates.

Waiting for the right talent to come along can be frustrating and slow down productivity. Instead, it might be time to adopt a “hire for attitude, train for skills” philosophy. Here’s how it works, what your small business stands to gain and some guidelines to follow.

The reasoning

Placing attitude and potential at the forefront of hiring decisions does more than expand the candidate pool it can be a positive long-term strategy for your small business. The tasks required of your staff will evolve over time due to technological advancements, market changes and company growth, so the skill sets you prize today may become obsolete or unimportant down the line. Options then become training current team members in new techniques or returning to the recruitment process once again.

This isn’t to say that aptitude lacks importance. Someone who never went to medical school should not be expected to suddenly learn neurosurgery. But by looking at applicants with basic competencies who possess traits in line with your small business’s mission and culture, you may discover valuable candidates worth training to fill the vacancy.

Evaluating candidates for attitude over skill

So how can you identify which people with skill gaps might be worth training? While there’s no magic formula, keep an eye out for evidence of these things:

Progression: A person who has steadily moved up in her field likely has impressed past bosses with his or her achievements and work ethic. Their comfort entrusting the candidate with increasing responsibility bodes well for you being able to do the same.

Transferable skills: The abilities you desire may be there on a resume, just in a different context. An outstanding communicator or a top-notch proofreader doesn’t lose his or her talents moving to a different industry; the candidate simply needs to be taught how to apply them in ways relevant to your industry.

Penchant for learning: New certifications, additional courses, specialized training — what self-improvement measures has the applicant taken since earning her degree? People with a commitment to lifelong learning tend to be easier to train.

Passion: Give a second glance to those who display genuine enthusiasm for your small business and its mission. Interviewees brimming with ideas or asking thoughtful questions may be delighted to partake in whatever training you deem necessary for the position.

And when you’re thinking about who might be worth grooming into the position, pay particularly close attention to employee referrals. Your workers have a keen sense of what it takes to be successful at your small business. People they can identify as a potentially good fit may be mere steps away from being the answer to your unfilled-position dilemma.

Ready to start interviewing? Check out 5 must-ask interview questions for small-business job candidates


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