Tech & Work

Hiring new people: Choosing between skills and attitude

Hiring the right person for a job is one of the most critical decisions a CIO makes. A bad hiring decision can take years to correct. What should you value more: skills or attitude? Scott Lowe believes that, to a point, attitude trumps skill.

Over the past couple of years, I've hired a number of people so I've had to deal with a  deluge of resumes across my desk. Filling a job, though, requires more than what is simply listed on a resume. The new person has to be a fit for the IT organization, the company as a whole, and must possess the skills necessary to get the job done.  A hiring mistake can come back to haunt you for years to come, particularly if the person is in a protected class of employee.

Sometimes, through the resume review and interview process, one person may just jump to the top of the list. That person is personable, understands IT's role in an organization, his experience is well matched against the requirements for the job, and the salary requirements for the position fall within the budget. This is a great situation to find yourself in.

However, consider the following: Candidate 1 has an incredible background and will accept the salary, but his attitude is a little off. Perhaps he feels that IT is in a "command and control" role or his ability to work with people is somewhat limited. Candidate 2 has a great attitude and works well with people, but his experience isn't quite up to par with Candidate 1, although he has enough knowledge to get by.

What would you do?

Here's what I'd do: Dismiss Candidate 1. You can teach hard skills, but teaching attitude or other soft skills is extremely difficult. As for Candidate 2, using a probationary period, I'd likely give that person a chance and see if he can come up to speed in the areas in which he's lacking. Failing that, or if Candidate 2's skill set was simply too weak, I'd go back to the well and start the process over.

I had this exact situation last summer when I hired a network administrator. We interviewed a number of people, but the person I ultimately selected wasn't the strongest from a technical perspective. That said, he was by no means "weak" from a technical perspective. His attitude, however, was (and is) really good and he works his butt off to get a job done. Since day one, he's worked hard to come up to speed in the necessary areas and has exceeded my every expectation. I continually receive feedback from people that he's gone out of his way to professionally handle a task for someone. That kind of support makes my job about 1000% easier than having to deal with someone that continually offends others.

My opinion: As long as the person has all of the skills, or satisfies enough of the skills requirements, if he has a good attitude, he's worth his weight in gold. After all, you can teach technical skills!

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

Editor's Picks