Why Hiring people with the right attitude is more important than people with experience?
It is a common practice that majority of the IT recruitments focus on candidate’s experience with technology X, Y, and Z. As I have experience both from recruitment and management sides, it raises my concerns. Are 4 years of experience better than 1,5 year? Does high score in online programming test prove anything about the candidate?
Most of those metrics aren’t that significant in practice. For me, it looks more like a benchmarking of products than hiring people. And those who know that they are attractive “products” also tend to be expensive.
A skill-checklist full of ticks in “yes” “skills” column is reassuring for the recruiters and their superiors but at the end of the day do they guarantee a successful hire?
Mike Murphy has carried out interesting research among managers concerning failed hires and pointed out reasons for unsuccessful relations with new employees:
- 26% weren’t coachable
- 23% had no emotional intelligence
- 17% had no motivation
- 15% didn’t fit the company’s ethos
- 11% were inadequate hires because of a lack of skills
The conclusion seems clear – if most failed hires are not related to skills and knowledge, what is the missing factor then?
Recruitment in IT – what is missing?
Apparently, it’s the attitude, commitment towards work and the organization, which makes the difference. My experience shows that following traits make the mentality:
- being proactive
- interest in an industry
- self-confidence (openness for feedback)
- emotional intelligence – especially communication skills
- a curiosity of the task context – often asking the question “why?” – not only “how?”
Why are they so important? Attitude reflects candidate’s personality, which is unlikely to change. In turn, hard skills and knowledge gaps can be obtained surprisingly fast. Even small amounts of coaching and mentorship bring astonishing effects when combined with a highly motivated person.
Are hard skills overrated?
According to countless reports, the best place to work is Netflix. What is its secret? To my mind, it’s the Reed Hasting, company’s CEO, who puts the focus on the attitude. Some would probably say that he goes too far after seeing a catchy title for an article: “Why Netflix Doesn’t Tolerate Brilliant Jerks”. My point in this context is not that skills are not necessary but definitely, in current IT world their blown out of proportion.
Focus on technical skills raises costs
As a head of Software House, I notice a lot of team/body leasing requests, and sometimes my eyes get wide open. It comes to the point in which I ask myself: “Do they really need it?”
Absurdly high requirements cause at least two things:
- 90% of candidates who would actually do the job are kicked out
- Those who go through the selection are usually aware that the doorways are too narrow and raise financial expectations
Let’s take a look at “wish list” that I have received recently:
|Skill||Skill level||My remarks|
|Angular 2||2-4 years of experience||How is it even possible? At the time this technology was not even 2 years on the market. For someone with general web development skills, it takes 2 days to be ready for first tasks, up to 1 week to be fluent and 1-month to cover 95% of scenarios in really good pace.|
|PrimeFaces versions 6.0 or 6.1||3 years||Exactly these versions, seriously? For someone with experience with numerous similar technologies it takes 2 days to switch, 7 days to master it.|
Do you need to recruit? How to hire for attitude then?
What is the right approach to recruiting people then? Since there are no scientific methods of measuring the attitude, a recruiter needs to have a proper… attitude. It means more trust in intuition and own judgment. My recipe is following:
- Identify “jerks” and troublemakers that are already in the organization. Maybe this recruitment is an excellent opportunity to get a replacement for them?
- Think about the attitude issues which were the source of the problems in the specific employee relations.
- List attitude aspects that are most important for the current recruitment.
- Move as many technical skills from “must” to “nice to have”, especially those which are easy to learn
- Prepare a job ad, which puts more focus on attitude than on skills
- Be cautious during resume screening. Resumes are not a good source of finding attitude issues, do not overestimate this element
- I give extra points to people who want to change industry because their hard skills are formally junior, but they come with regular/senior skills independent of the industry such as communication and time management. They also usually have a precise personal growth plan, which reveals a lot about attitude.
My hints for the interview
How to identify the mentioned qualities then during the interview? Here are my tips that might be helpful:
- Find out why the candidate left a position and how they interacted with their supervisor and others on their team
- Some inspiration may come if you Google phrases like “how to spot a narcissist on a job interview”
- Questions about candidate’s values also might be significant
- Use my favourite tool Moving Motivators – very simple, very insightful (very good also for periodic reviews)
- If a candidate has the right attitude I go to the skill check, in my case it is real life coding session which lasts 60-90 minutes.
The most important conclusions in IT recruitment
Hire for attitude and train for skill. Leaving the comfort zone of standardized assessments is not easy and requires courage (not only from managers but also the board), but the long-term benefits might be spectacular.
Attitude success story
How can my hints work in practice? Let me tell you story of Chris.
Chris has been making a successful career in logistics, but at the specific point, he has mastered all fields required by the regional business, which blocked further development in this area. He decided to switch to Software Development. His family did not support the decision, but he was stubborn enough to go through several months of intensive programming skill building – after day job and on weekends.
He applied to my team for a junior position. I’ve had several other candidates who have finished IT studies and even had some basic experience. On paper, they had better skills and knowledge base, but I have decided to pick Chris, cause I saw big potential in him. It turned out that I wasn’t wrong. Proactive attitude and scrutiny connected with frequent coaching gave the fantastic result. In two weeks time I had a person with required skills, and after a year Chris was a specialist that would beat other people with few years of experience and a formal degree.
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- On 09/01/2018