Ideally we want to hire people with both the right attitude and the right aptitude. However, if I can only choose one of those two I will choose the person with the right attitude every time.
This approach is backed up by studies which have shown that our 80 percent of our success is based on our EQ, compared to 20 percent for our IQ. This means that aptitude only accounts for a paltry 20 percent of our success.
Here are three reasons why it's better to recruit for attitude, than just aptitude.
1. It's easier to train aptitude than attitude.
When people have the right attitude they are both motivated and adaptable which makes them more open to learning new skills. With the right attitude and enough effort most new skills can be mastered quickly. Whereas improving attitude is often about changing behaviors which is always much more difficult to do, as people need to want to change and without the right attitude this is unlikely to happen.
2. Attitude can impact overall performance.
When people have the wrong attitude, getting them to fit into the organization can be like trying to bang a square peg through a round hole. They can just clash with the culture of the organization, disrupt teamwork, causing unrest and impacting overall performance.
According to Gallup surveys into employee engagement only around 30 percent of staff are engaged, with 50 percent disengaged and the remaining 20 percent are actively disengaged. These are usually the people with the worst attitude, not just content with being disengaged; they are looking to increase disengagement amongst the rest of the staff.
We often see this in sports where highly skilled players just don't fit in with their teammates, causing issues and discontent. Consequently, they are let go and then almost immediately team performance improves. There's even a term for this, "addition by subtraction."
As leaders, we're looking to create teams where the sum of the whole exceeds the sum parts and it's a good attitude that makes this possible.
3. The right attitude can overcome obstacles.
We've all heard the saying "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." Well if it were about having the right aptitude then saying would be 'when the going gets tough, the smart get going'. But it's not.
We're always going to face challenges, difficult times, and it's in these moments that things like determination, tenacity and resilience come to the fore. Having the right skills but lacking the will to use them isn't going to help us overcome the challenges and achieve success.
When hiring, we need to focus on attitude just as much as on the technical skills sets. However, most interview questions are focused on aptitude, and we need to make sure that we ask the right questions to uncover their attitude, such as their honesty, initiative, determination, tenacity, and resilience, etc.
We need to ask them about challenges they have overcome, how they dealt with failure or how they dealt with situations which were beyond their current capability.
People can fake attitude in an interview, and we need to make sure that we probe these areas, and listen to the language used, to try and understand their true attitude. Do they answer in the past tense, do they have specific examples and can go into details. If they can't then the probably don't have the attitude we're looking for.
We also need to understand the attitude of our organization and look to hire people that are a good fit. We need to create a template for the attitude that we are looking for. To do this, we should look at our top performers and see what are the attitudes that they possess. What are the soft skills that make them successful
The impact on hiring people with the wrong attitude is significant. According to the research 46 percent of new hires fail within the first 18 months and 89 percent of these fail because of attitude. This means that 40 percent of all new hires fail because of issues with their attitude.
As I said at the start, I would love to hire staff with both the right attitude and aptitude, but if I can only get one of those, then I am taking attitude every single time.