Hire For Attitude vs. Hire For Skill – The Real Truth

*Hey Lee…I want to hire someone for their attitude & personality and I can train them for the skills the job will need. Can I do a structured interview for this?*

You’re willing to sacrifice having a fully skilled candidate for the role, in favour of someone less experienced but who has a great attitude and personality. Can you hire for both? The answer is of course, YES!

Attitude/personality are not mutually exclusive to skill/technical competency. You just have to decide how much of each you want and what each looks like in practice for the role.

So, you get your interview process all lined up and you’re ready to go…Yay.

Let’s say for example, you’ve got a junior position or a position that is a bit unique and may require some additional training for the candidate that you hire. How do you apply the methods of structured interviewing to hire for the role? The answer is pretty simple, but somehow is often missed by employers. Here’s the three steps to hiring for attitude or personality:

1- As with any hiring process, go back to the job description and make sure it aligns perfectly with the characteristics you want in your successful candidate. For example, if you’re looking for someone who has great interpersonal/people skills for a customer service role and you’re willing to train them for all the technical skills it may require, make a detailed list of what those ‘people skills’ look like in practice. Here’s some thoughts:

  • Demonstrates ability to quickly establish personal interpersonal connections with people.
  • Able to easily empathize with others through demonstrated verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Shows ability to gain personal trust with others in a short period of time.

These personality or attitudinal ‘competencies’ are samples of what you want to include in a job description where you need the person to quickly and effectively establish meaningful connections with people, as part of the role.

2- The next step is to create structured behavioural questions that directly address these crucial attitudinal or personality traits required by the role. Below are samples of the questions that address each required role characteristic, structured as behavioural questions, as follows:

  • Please tell me about a time when you were able to establish a personal connection with someone within a relatively short period of time, as part of your role. How did you approach the person? What did you say that allowed for that connection to form?
  • Can you provide an example of an experience you’ve had where you were able to demonstrate a high level of empathy towards someone? Talk to me about how this person responded to you? What did you do both verbally and non-verbally that showed you genuinely cared for them?
  • Talk to me about a time when you were able to establish a trusting relationship with a customer. What did you do and say to them that allowed them to feel like they could trust you? What was the outcome?

3- The final step is to actually use these questions in your interviews! You’ll be amazed at how quickly and effectively you are able to identify candidates with the exact personality traits you need, once you actually start looking for them in your interviews.


Don’t be fooled by people who tell you that hiring for BOTH personality AND skill can’t be done, or that you have to sacrifice one for another. It’s simply not true! The bottom line is, attitude and personality are both ‘competencies’ that can be measured, observed and hired for.

Happy Hiring!


Check out my latest Vlog on this subject here:


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Then leave a comment below on your experience, thoughts or advise on the above ideas.

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Lee Hodgins, CPHR works with entrepreneurs, business owners & hiring managers to leverage the power of hiring interviews to dramatically boost their effectiveness and accuracy in finding the most qualified job candidates. More information is awaiting you online at www.guerrillainterviewing.com

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