Attitude vs Skills. Which is better?

 Attitude-Is-better-than-skillsAttitude vs skills: which is better?

Perhaps your new job will have better working conditions, more money, increased responsibility or it’s an opportunity to have a new job that develops and stretches you?  Maybe, you’re heading the other way.  You’d like less hours, less stress, more fun, more flexibility.  Either way, you’re about to be subjected to the dreaded job hunt.

When looking for a new job, the first thing you’ll probably realise is that you’re not the only one doing so.  Its cyclical but right now it’s an employers market.  There are less jobs available and more people looking, making it a highly competitive process.  For one medical admin role recently advertised they fielded 180 applications.  And that’s not the highest response I’ve heard of!   This is tough for you because believe it or not, getting a new job is a bit of a numbers game.  I know, I know… surely talent, skills and enthusiasm rises to the top right?  We’d like to think so.  And the recruitment industry would like you to think so too, but the cold hard truth is that it doesn’t always and in my opinion, in a crowded market place it’s even harder to stand out.  You may be perfect for the job but still not even get a look in.  And that’s tough to handle emotionally.  This is why I think attitude is soooo important, and it’s for two reasons.

Think of the iceberg metaphor

Virtools Image

Well, when we look at the ice-berg from the side (above and below the water line) what we see is that the far larger part of the berg is that which is sitting below the waterline.  If you were looking at the iceberg from a boat on top of the, you wouldn’t see this bit (or at least not all of it).  When recruiters or interviews are selecting candidates they’re looking for your competencies to perform the job.  Competencies are a combination of the knowledge, skills and attributes required for success in the job.  The easy things to spot are those that are above the water line.  In this case, your knowledge and skills.  They can see your qualifications and industry experience (knowledge) through your work history.  Your skills are demonstrated both in interview (verbal communication for example) and again in the examples you provide when answering their questions.  Your attributes (personality characteristics that make you… well you) are much harder to objectively measure and although not impossible it does require a certain level of skill AND an accurate understanding of what’s actually needed (vs wanted).  So essentially they remain more hidden, much like the submerged part of the ice-berg.  There’s a saying in HR circles and if you’ve managed people you can probably also relate to it.

“We hire for skill and fire for attitude.”

So it stands to reason, that attitude is a great predictor of on the job performance.  It’s not a substitute for skills and knowledge, but seriously… a lot of that can actually be taught.  For instance, you can teach a worker to operate call centre technology and a computerised data-base, but it’s far harder to teach them customer service.  I mean really good customer service.  That’s an attribute, they’ve got to want to do it and enjoy doing it.  Sure you can teach a 5 step process of effective customer service, but if you’ve ever been served by someone who takes pride in their work and enjoys their job vs someone who’s just paying the bills, you’ll know what I mean.  So anyway, you need to understand what sort of attributes would be desirable (if you don’t know it’s a good question to ask) and model them at interview AND in your general approach to the job search.  Make sure you have examples that clearly demonstrate those attributes in action AND how they have benefited your former employers, and therefore your prospective new employer.  Just make sure they value it.  There’s no point showing someone you’re a world class document formatter with high levels of attention to detail, if that’s not required in the role is there?

The second reason why attitude is so important comes into play in how you come across at interview.  If you’ve experienced any level of rejection, or if there is significant pressure on you to gain employment (eg/ not working and bills are piling up) then you have to manage your attitude.  Desperation is unattractive and interviewers will run a mile.  If you don’t value yourself enough to be selective about the sort of work you will do, then why would they?  This matters if you’re selling yourself short just to get a job, or if you’re spraying and praying in the hope of just getting something.   As an employer I don’t want the person who will take anything.  I want a confident team member who knows how they will contribute to solving MY PROBLEMS and has thought about the sort of environment that’s conducive to their success.   That’s sexy.  That comes across as though you know your value are not holding your cap in hand and saying “please sir, may I have another…”  This may sound a little harsh but I want you to have the facts.  People want to be around and work with happy, confident, optimistic and positive people.  I mean you wouldn’t want to work with the worst version of yourself would you?  I know I wouldn’t.  Some days I can’t stand to be around me.  If I fronted up to a client meeting or an interview in that mindset I can almost guarantee I’d be unsuccessful.

Now.  It’s perfectly normal to have ups and downs.   Probably more downs than you’d like.  But hey, you’re human.  We’re emotional creatures and none of us really likes rejection now do we?  So, do whatever it takes to fluff your aura.  Talk to a trusted advisor, see a counsellor, do some exercise, go through some positive reflection about why you’re a good candidate, think on past successes, do some meditation to lower you anxiety about the future, plan to celebrate just getting an interview and don’t focus just on winning the job.  Educate yourself, help someone else, help lots of people.  Do WHATEVER it takes.  Watch out for maladaptive coping strategies.  You know the ones.  Comfort eating, drinking too much alcohol, drugs etc.  They are short term solutions at best and not very good ones at that.

I think Winston Churchill said it best  “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”


Sean Reddell

Our guest blogger Sean Reddell has spent much of his career working to improve the relationship between organisations and the people who work in them. Firmly believing that all the factors influencing a workforce's productivity, happiness and effectiveness are controllable, Sean has been working successfully in the learning, organisational development and change management fields within Government and private enterprise for well over 10 years.

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