Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills

It’s not a new saying, but whenever it’s used now everyone instantly agrees, it should be a resourcing mantra, particularly in tougher times.

As recruiters we spend most of our time looking for people with a skillset, with a historical CV that ticks the boxes that clients want.

It’s changing.

Job description tick lists are no good, because you will rarely find the people who tick every box, and if you do there is no guarantee that they will succeed.

Past performance can be a very unreliable indicator of future achievement.

I was intrigued to read a blog from Katie McNab – Customers Aren’t Always Right.

Read it! Because she is UK Recruitment Manager for one of the largest FMCG brands on the planet. And she wants her team to challenge hiring managers, forget what may suit them and start looking at what the business needs.

My favourite part is:

A line manager with a team of 5-6 people might recruit once a year.  He or she will have a very short-term goal in mind.  They want someone to fill the “empty chair”. And while they don’t recruit very often, they usually still have some very firm views about what “good” looks like.

But we recruit all the time.  We live and breathe this stuff.   We know our markets, our industries and our legal obligations.  And that gives us the right and the responsibility to challenge line managers on their requirements.

How many 3rd party recruiters challenge a client? We also live and breathe this stuff, but how many of us push back and really help the client to be creative?

Very few I guess.

Are we too scared of losing the brief? Scared of missing a fee? Do we want to just fill empty chairs?

Have we lost the bottle to invest time in building credibility with the client by bringing some real INSIGHT to the process? Because that’s how long-term relationships are developed.

Ah yes, INSIGHT.

If you read my last blog you’ll know that the good people from LinkedIn said that the number one priority for a 3rd party recruiter focusing on maintaining some form of market position is Insight over Data.

I would grab this as an opportunity to forget searching for historical CVs and start looking for real talent, with real potential and real attitude.

Clients use us because we can give them an insight to the market, a window onto the world of potential talent that is available, either actively or passively.

So stop giving them what they can find themselves…and start finding people that they can’t.

Rarely a day goes by without talk of a skill shortage…and most recruiters nod compliantly and see this as an opportunity…but an opportunity for what?

If the skills aren’t there, then they aren’t there. So instead of acquiescing, and firing out dozens of headhunt calls, and placing numerous online job ads, just STOP!

Remember Katie’s hypothetical example?

Given the choice of a solid Brand Manager from a global competitor or the owner of a small start up who has managed to launch a fantastic product with limited resources, and really creative solutions… I think the managers would instinctively lean towards one option. And I think the business as a whole would lean in the other direction.

3rd party recruiters need to be able to offer the same approach, the same confidence…and the same INSIGHT.

Stop looking for skills and start looking for attitude…then let the best companies take care of the upskilling.

6 thoughts on “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills

  1. Hey Mervyn – looking good 🙂 I will read this in more detail later but for now just wanted to say…congrats on one of the headlines of this year. Spot on – you can’t teach attitude – love it!

    1. Hi Mervyn,
      congratulations on making the top 5 “Recruitment Blog of the Year 2010”.
      I’ve just read a few articles on your blog and certainly agree.
      LinkedIn for corporates is changing the way 3rd party recruiters need to work so adding value and finding people they can not find is certainly going to be key for a recruiters survival!
      Let me know if you write about how a recruiter can add value.

      1. Thanks for reading Shafiq. How to add value will be the holy grail that most permanent niche recruiters will be seeking over then next year or two. I suspect that I will have some views as well on here!

  2. totally true, yet explaining this to line managers is a challenge! They think it’s all about skills & experience.

    While yes it is tedious to have to train someone, when you do it with someone who has the right attitude, you only have to do it once & you’ll gain a far more productive, effective employee who is a lot less likely to leave.
    It reduces recruitment costs and lowers turnover rates of staff AND is the best way to create a strong, productive effective happy culture.

    I remember when I first starting studying HR, one of my very first assignments was discussing a case study for a very prominent bank & how they could achieve their goals. I cited recruitment for attitude as the No. 1 priority. I got 92% in that assignment. What pains me is how slowly this knowledge trickles down to people within organisations.

    Why aren’t directors paying more attention to the people that KNOW this stuff?

    1. Thanks for the comment Claire, you make some very compelling points. I suspect that a different type of recruiter is emerging, able to work agency and inhouse, who’s main focus is unearthing talent and using all the tools, traditional and social, available. Attitude will play a more important role here as recruiters will be for the type of people that Katie refers to.

  3. I read this recruitment advice from a company that claims to successfully rehabilitate people who have difficulty coping with their everyday lives; ‘you can’t train people to have the right attitude. You’ve either got it or you haven’t’.

    Hmmm. There’s a contradiction in there somewhere.

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