Soft Skills Count: Hire For Attitude

March 28, 2012
Posted by Link Staffing Services

Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO was fond of saying: “We can change skill levels through training, but we can’t change attitude.” He’s right, of course. While having the necessary technical skills to fill a particular job is important, it’s not the prime determinant of success. What we call “soft skills”— whether a worker is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, assimilate feedback and coaching, collaborate with teammates, and so forth —more often determine whether an employee struggles or thrives in a given environment. In fact, we’ve seen research indicating that 89% of workers who fail within the first 18 months in a position do so for attitudinal reasons.


The Right Attitude Is What’s Right For Your Business

When we talk about ‘attitude,” we’re not talking just about a sunny disposition (though that’s nice). We’re talking about an attitude that’s right for your business culture. For example, an executive with strong technical skills and a hard-driving, authoritarian style may fit in your culture, or he may not. A more “touchy-feely” individual may also not fit in some cultures.


Evaluate the Whole Candidate

The moral of this story is that you should certainly still evaluate candidates to make sure they have the technical skills you need. But you can’t stop there. You need to develop ways to determine whether they have the attitudinal right stuff. You may even have to alter the way you go about interviewing. Maybe you set up an interview section that tests for specific attitudinal traits.


Look High and Low

If you want to find workers with the right attitude, the first best place to search is with workers whom you already know have the right attitude: your own best performers. Increasingly, hiring is being done through networking and referrals. Because the already understand the corporate culture and attitudinal needs, your  own best employees may already know people who may be excellent candidates. 

But wherever you find candidates, make sure you check their attitudes at the door.


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