How can you actually hire for attitude and train for skills?

Hiring for attitude instead of skills is the key for recruiting and retaining motivated top talent. In this blog post, find out how you should go about it!

Jan Söderström

You easily spend a month of working time in hiring and getting a new employee up to speed in the job. It is extremely helpful to be very confident that you have made the right decision when both parties sign the employment contract.


Skills are the basic requirements to be able to do the job in question. You may require certain language skills, knowledge of programming languages, or accounting practices. There may be formal requirements like having a degree in law or from a medical school. Sometimes a driver’s license is a basic requirement.

Often employers come up with a long list of skill requirements and almost as often the list of required skills is too long. A good programmer can easily learn a new development tool and a salesperson can quickly learn how to use another CRM system.

Current knowledge is not that important when you are dealing with a fast learner.  Skills should be relatively easy to assess based on the CV of the applicant – but even if the skills are written in the CV, the hiring manager should make a sensible evaluation that the basic knowledge actually exists. There are plenty of resources available for a job applicant to write a nice CV where the skills are presented and you can not always be sure whether the applicant is embellishing the truth. After all, they are trying to convince you.

Obviously, it is quite short_sighted for an applicant to claim to have skills that they don’t possess, luckily, you as the recruiter can take the applicant’s word in most cases and believe that the CV is truthful. Reading a candidate’s CV can tell you about the applicant’s skills and experience, but CV’s don’t reveal to you something that’s way more important – attitude.


As the old saying goes “people are hired for skills and fired for attitude”. This brings us to the more tricky area of assessing a candidate’s motivation and attitude towards working in your company. Motivation and cultural fit define success in the longer term anyway. The company cultures and the motivational requirements differ a lot between different companies and jobs and all “formally competent” candidates are not equally good for your job.

The employer’s responsibility is to describe the motivational aspects or requirements in a realistic manner in order to make good hiring and signing decisions. It can happen that life in the new job is a bit more challenging than the marketing letter in the form of job advertisement implies.

Make sure you have a clear idea of the personal traits you look for in your candidate. Evaluate your candidates against those qualities and decide who should move to the stage of the recruitment process. To help you make better hiring decisions, here are three factors we recommend you to keep an eye out for when interacting with candidates:

1. Have they done their research on your company and the position in advance?

If your candidate went out of their way to dive into your company and company culture – that’s a good sign! This tells that the candidate is genuinely interested in your company and, chances are high, they will be a great cultural fit for you.

2. Have they checked whether they know anybody in the company?

Yes? Good! Another sign of a proactive and motivated candidate! Plus, when you learn the name of the person you know, you can conduct a reference check to get a better sense of the candidate’s job performance and personal qualities.

3. Do they bring ideas to the table?

Did they already think about how they can improve your company at this job, if they get hired? Yes? Amazing! This shows not only that the person has some fresh ideas that you could implement and that they understand the work well, but also demonstrates that the candidate already can see themselves working in your company.

A good idea is to study the top performers in your company. Their attitude is something to look for in the new hires. Your top performers are a good resource in the on-boarding process to increase the likelihood of the success of your new hires.