Here is an exercise you could consider doing at workshops. Think of any job role you like. Now make a list of words you would use to describe someone who is good at that job.
Repeat this exercise for any management role. The results are always the same. We always end up with a very long list of attitudes and a very, very short list of skills.
What is an attitude?
Well the management role list looks something like this;
- Willing to listen
- Good communicator
- Willing to admit a mistake
All of the above are attitudes. Sure there may be a little skill mixed in as we can all learn to improve our communications, however it’s mostly attitude.
All of the above are personality issues. They are all strongly affected by personality type.
The Traditional Selection Process
If you look at the traditional selection process it works with facts. It deals with things that can be measured. In short it deals with skills.
Even if it claims that the above list of attitudes are important, there is almost nowhere in the traditional recruitment process that actually addresses anything on the above list. At best you only get to explore any of the above list at the interview stage.
But how many candidates have already been rejected before they even get to interview? Is it possible that the candidate who had all of the above in abundance was rejected before the interview stage?
Well the chances are that most of your best candidates have been rejected before the interview because the traditional application process would ignore all of the items on the list above in favour of looking at skills.
This could be even more the case if your recruitment procedure depended on candidates completing aptitude tests. Some organisations depend on these to provide a safety net. This is achieved by the employer being able to point to the fact that they ran measurable tests before the person was employed.
In the main what they do is provide a tick box safety net that the recruiter can point to when it all goes wrong with the candidate, once employed. People can be trained to pass aptitude tests and what this really says is they passed an aptitude test, but what has this got to do with their ability to do the job on offer?
It’s understandable because we tend to focus on what we can get our heads around and any tick box solution provides back up evidence. The above list of attitudes is something that most people do not believe they can get their heads around as it needs more than the ticking of boxes, so they simply ignore it.
At best you get to interview those who got through the tick box stage and from then on go on some gut feel.
Line manager and HR Conflict
There is often a conflict running between line managers and the HR department. This is simply because the line manager will be more interested in attitudes (the above list) than in skills (what can be measure, ticked and checked). It’s a simple conflict between “what’s measurable” and “what matters”.
Managers when hiring often talk about their gut feel for a candidate. The trouble is that gut feel is very unreliable. Given several meetings and a few hours together the effectiveness of gut feel improves but the trouble is that huge decisions are being made based on a 40 minute interview.
Even if you have the most reliable gut feel in the world, 40 minutes simply isn’t enough, leaving aside the fact that your best candidates may never have made it to interview in the first place.
The dilemma is that we are measuring and evaluating one set of criteria in the hope that it will reveal something about another set of criteria. We are looking at skills, qualifications and work experience in the hope it will tell us about whether the candidate is;
- Willing to listen
- Good communicator
- Willing to admit a mistake
Unfortunately the things we usually look at reveal nothing about what matters. What part of your application process reveals if this candidate is really willing to listen to a staff member?
What part of your recruitment process will reveal whether the manager is willing to admit making a mistake?
Have you ever fired someone because they lacked a specific skill?
Now before you answer this question I want you to think about it honestly. We may tell the employee that’s why we are firing them. We may even tell ourselves that’s why we are firing them but in truth if there was a skills gap, we would fill it with training.
If you had an excellent worker that you enjoyed working with but they lacked a specific skill, would you not just send them on a training course?
A classic example is where new computer systems come into play. If you have some sales people dragging their heels about using the new system, you train them. You may also take the opportunity to get rid of some people that have been annoying you for a while and put it down to a skills issue.
However you are not going to get rid of high performing sales people that you enjoy working with simply because they cannot work the new computer system.
We hire on skill and fire on attitude?
So how do you give more priority to attitude and less to skills? How do we change this?
Well one way of addressing this issue is to decide to actually hire on attitude. Few people dare however.
This was the decision a large Japanese car manufacturer made a few years ago. They used to hire new programmers based on the result from two tests;
1. Programming test
2. English language test
Once they discovered about attitude and the role it plays, they added a third category
3. Personality fit (attitude)
But they went a step further and relegated English Language Test to third position. Their new approach being, “If they do not have good English we can provide more training. However there is nothing we can do if they do not have the right personality for our workplace.”
They actually managed to separate out Skills from Attitude and changed their recruitment process accordingly.
It is possible to hire on attitude but it needs to be preceded by a clear decision to do so. One needs to relegate skills and promote attitude.
A personality report will help you look at attitude. Place it at the front of the recruitment process not the back end. Unless you do, you are in danger of rejecting good candidates at the beginning of the process.
Traditionally personality reports if used, have only ever been used for people on the short list. And the short list is based on skills assessment.
If you really want to make the change, create your shortlist using personality first, then look and see if they have the skills to do the job. This is a big change, however not a huge risk, as their experience, qualifications and training should have already provided you with evidence of their aptitude for the position offered.