Attitude Beats Aptitude…Hands Down!

Put attitude first. Skills can be taught and attitude is a behavior which comes from within

In a study, by the noted author Mark Murphy a few years back, out of 20000 new hires. 46% of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising, was that when new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitude reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill.

The attitudinal problems were

a) lack of coachability

b) low levels of emotional intelligence

c) low motivation and

d) bad temperament.

The legendary Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO said, “we can change skill levels through training, but we can’t change attitude.”

Whenever I have hired, I have looked at attitude more than aptitude. And 90% of the time, the hires have been very good.

I would hire people even their aptitude was low because I knew they would try hard. On the flip side if candidates ranked high on aptitude but low on the attitude I would reject them.

Putting attitude first while recruiting is that skills can be taught. Attitude is a reflection of personality, something which is much harder to change. Look for personality traits like flexibility, passion, accepting feedback, and accountability that are required in this day and age.

Recruiting is expensive, and it’s estimated that associated costs of new hires can run as high as 150 per cent of a hire’s annual salary for experienced candidates, according to a study by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley. I am sure this will be much higher for lower-level employees.

The logical conclusion is that to recruit successfully, employers should look at the attitudes and personality traits of the majority of the employees especially top employees and then look for people who show the same traits.

So do not hire for just any attitude. Companies want attitudes that match their unique culture. South West, Tesla, 3M, Google, and Microsoft are great companies, but their cultures are different.

I read about a great example about South West – an organization I respect a lot.

Brown Shorts are specific attitudes that make your organization different from others. The name “Brown Shorts” comes from Southwest Airline’s lore. Their culture is about fun and a little bit of craziness. They were to hire pilots. The Southwest interviewer invited them to come in brown Bermuda shorts that were part of the Southwest summer uniform. But to many of these pilots, this seemed too frivolous and declined the invitation. While they may be great pilots, they did not fit into the SW culture.

So for any organization find out your Brown Shorts attitudes which will give you your Brown Shorts questions and hire the right people.

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