Looking Beyond Skill Shortcomings

The concept of “hire for attitude, train for skill” might require a closer look. Certainly giving special attention to attitude seems reasonable, but you might want to think twice before you discount skills.

SkillsDetermining Position Requirements

At the very least, you should consider the minimum skills required for the job. What if it’s an entry-level job? Even many entry-level jobs have minimum skills requirements.

In order to determine minimum skill requirements, you may need to check with the hiring manager. Ask him or her to identify must-have skills, as opposed to those nice to have.

Then consider taking the conversation a step further. Ask the hiring manager if he or she would consider training for any or all of the must-have skills. This will tell you what skills are true must-haves when recruiting.

Why take this extra step? Because a hiring manager may want certain skills, but in reality will accept less. You won’t know this unless you press the issue.

Negotiable or Not

Examples of non-negotiable skills might include financial acumen for an accountant and organizational skills for a logistics manager.

These examples are straightforward. Things get murky when it comes to skills like , problem solving, and leadership.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that you can train for these skills, especially when the job for which you’re recruiting is not a senior-level position. Is this feasible, though?

For example, if the person isn’t accustomed to working as a member of the team, is it realistic to think you can train him or her to work—and work well—with others?

Similarly, does your company want to attempt to teach someone how to solve problems? Isn’t this a skill the person should have learned by now? Granted, the skill can be honed. However, if a person exhibits no problem-solving ability whatsoever and the job requires it, what is the likelihood the person will succeed in the role?

As for leadership, arguably it is a skill that can be developed. Nevertheless, you need to see evidence of leadership potential, especially if it’s a must-have for the position. Keep in mind, too, that leadership is a term. As such, you need to identify what it means in the context of the job for which you’re recruiting (get input from the hiring manager, if necessary). After you know what the role requires, you can look for signs that will help you determine if the person has the potential to grow into the job.

Other Considerations

Attitude is vitally important. And in fact, attitude impacts skills development. Be that as it may, skills also matter, especially in a busy work environment.

If your approach is to hire for attitude and train for skill, you risk creating a company where new hires can’t hit the ground running—and this will take a toll on your business.

Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.

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