What is more important: Attitude or Experience?

Attitude or experience? Which do you hire on? Which would get you hired?

For recruiters, the longstanding question remains – who makes for a better hire – someone with the perfect experience, or someone with the right attitude?

A picture containing drawing Description automatically generatedWho would you rather hire?

Candidate 1: ticks all the boxes for the role, but hasn’t tried to expand their skill sets in any of their recent roles

Candidate 2: doesn’t quite fulfil all your requirements today, but has a history of quickly expanding their skill set and improving in every previous role

A recent survey posted on our Linked In page shows that the dilemma has not gone away:

When asked – which is the most important factor you consider when hiring, a survey of over 340 Hiring Managers reported:

      • Qualifications                        9%
      • Languages                               3%
      • Industry Experience          43%
      • Candidate’s Attitude          45%

As the airline mogul Herb Kellher said “Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills”

So, if attitude is so important – how do we ensure that as candidates we demonstrate it (see here) and as hiring managers, we assess it properly?

Attitude is the way of behaving, based on our inner motivations, personal values and aims. Skills/experience are the activities/capabilities we are able to do/deliver, what we have learnt during our professional career.”

What experience/skills are really needed for the role?

No one is saying that experience and skills are not important, in fact 43% of our respondents cited that experience is THE most important factor. And, of course, most jobs require some level of professional and experience, however, job descriptions can often be too specific and narrow regarding the experience and skills that an employee needs to do the role.

As one of the respondents to our survey said: “I’m not sure how to feel about industry experience. Obviously if you are hiring for a management position, I can understand. But I see entry level positions with a 2 – 3 years criteria. The point of an “entry level” job is to enter the field for experience. Right? And sometimes the experience they ask for is absurd, I recently saw a management position criteria of “12- 15 years’ experience and below the age of 35.”

What training is available?

If the company truly needs someone who will hit the ground running, experience must come first.

However, if it is possible to invest more time into a new hire so they can really grow into the role, attitude can win.

Of course, it is not always that simple, and most candidates will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Experience is much easier to quantify on paper, which can make qualified candidates feel like “safe” hires.

However, research tells us that amongst customer facing staff, for the majority of people who fail at their role, it is not due to lack of skills or experience but rather down to their attitude towards customers/management.

Why are the candidate’s skills lacking?

A fresh graduate is not expected to have years of relevant experience; however, a more mature candidate may have had time out of the workplace to start and raise a family or care for a relative.

If there is clear evidence of ‘job-hopping’ 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 however 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, through different roles or through their personal life.

How will they fit in with the team?

Successful companies report spending much time and money on employee engagement and team building every year – studies suggest that an engaged employee is more likely to stay with their company and outperform those that are not.

Every workplace team has a unique dynamic and fitting in can be a real concern for new employees– a candidate can have all the experience in the world and still struggle to connect with their new colleagues. A recruiter must use their judgement to ensure that new hires will assimilate well.


Of course, every candidate will do their best to make a good impression at the interview, but by exploring their attitude and enthusiasm towards work situations rather than just looking at their workplace experience it is possible to make a long term hire who will make a positive impact on the role.

Processes and technical skills can be learned. It is far harder to teach skills such as determination and self-motivation. For some roles, it is simply about getting someone into the role as quickly as possible. But if you can afford to take a more strategic approach, thinking about the future and the candidate’s progression, you can make a big difference to the success of your team and the wider business.

If you need help finding the ideal ‘attitude’ for your team – get in touch with Inspire Selection.

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