The Ultimate Battle of The Ages: Attitude vs Experience
You’ve posted ads, read more CVs than you can count, conducted interviews and examined psychometric test results – now all you have to do is decide who to hire. Sometimes it’s the easiest decision in the world, but occasionally you can find yourself going back and forth between candidates for days.
One thing that often has recruiters on the fence is the age-old question: should you hire someone with the experience you want or someone with the attitude you want? Here are some questions to ask yourself (and your candidates) to help you figure it out.
Why is the candidate lacking experience?
No one should expect a new graduate or school-leaver to come with years of relevant work experience. Similarly, older candidates might have taken time out of work to start a family or care for an elderly relative.
However, if they’ve job-hopped without staying anywhere longer than a few months, it could be a sign that they lack staying power or struggle to engage – even if they come across with a great attitude in an interview.
A good indication of a candidate’s potential is their willingness to learn new skills and build on existing ones wherever possible. For example, does their CV show that they continued learning into adulthood (especially if they lack school qualifications), participated in sporting events, or took up new hobbies? If they can talk about these things at-length in an interview, that’s a great start.
What kind of training will they get?
If you need someone who will hit the ground running, experience should come first. If you’re able to invest more time into a new hire so they can really grow into the role, look for someone with a fantastic attitude.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple, and most candidates will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Experience is much easier to quantify on paper – especially when it comes to educational qualifications – which can make qualified candidates feel like “safe” hires.
However, studies indicate that just 11% of front-line hires (i.e. those with roles heavy on customer contact or teamwork) who lose their jobs within 18 months do so due to technical incompetence. The remaining 89% are let go due to difficulties with their attitude or personality, indicating that it’s easier to hire for attitude and train for skills.
How will they fit in with the team?
Companies spend hundreds of millions on employee engagement and team building every year, and it’s easy to understand why; studies suggest that an engaged employee is 87% more likely to stay with their current company than a disengaged one.
Every workplace team has a unique dynamic and fitting in can be a real concern for job candidates – a candidate can have all the experience in the world and still struggle to connect with their new colleagues.
Including a meet-the-team activity in your recruitment process can be useful in this regard, but ultimately it’s all about the recruiter’s judgement.
The Ninja's JUMBO Guide to LinkedIn (Part One)
Of course, every candidate will do their best to make a good impression at the interview, which is why the questions a recruiter asks are pivotal in judging attitude. We’ve included some example questions below:
Q. Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond what was expected of you?
Look for: concrete and detailed examples, preferably from a previous job
Red flags: vague answers or examples that are not recent
Q. If we asked your current [or previous] co-workers about you, what would they say?
Look for: evidence of positive relationships with colleagues which should be backed up by their references
Red flags: keeping to themselves despite opportunities to do otherwise
Q. Can you tell me about a time you made a serious mistake? How did you handle it?
Look for: the ability to take responsibility for errors and learn from the experience
Red flags: not admitting to mistakes or failing to emphasise how the experience gave them the chance to improve
Q. What has been your best day at work and why?
Look for: genuine enthusiasm for their work and an overall positive outlook, even if they did not enjoy their previous role overall
Red flags: disliking their previous jobs so much that they struggle to answer
Q. Who do you aspire to be like?
Look for: the values that the candidate holds in high regard and consider whether they line up with those of the company
Red flags: lack of aspiration or high regard for values that will not be beneficial in the role
Jen gave some great insights, but if you feel you need more tips for interviewing candidates you need to check out the lessons on our platform!