IT Employment

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...

74 comments
anurodh_sharma1
anurodh_sharma1

Hard skills, soft skills, attitude, man management...to name a few of issues that come to my mind which affect performance of an individual. I would like to add that you have been pretty brief & judgmental in your article about attitude.

kitty_23230
kitty_23230

I totally agree. Having background in MBA, IS concentration in e-commerce, I think Scott Lowe is absolutely correct. isn't that network admin notoriously known for being un-friendly to peopel??

hiralinit
hiralinit

I think its not attitude, but its a problem with ego, if my ego is not matching with other who is really smart in his work, then we say that his attitude is not right..... this is personal belief.... i should say that smart person should get work definately..... candidate 2 is also not wrong, but he should get second priority....

chowwk
chowwk

Just to clarify, your definition of "really good" attitude means he is willing to work his butt off? Is this what employers expect, that employees must be willing to work their butts off (at the expense of family life, health etc) to demonstrate "good" attitude. I think it's time to review what counts for "good" attitude in employers.

lobo
lobo

You can teach tech skills but how long will it take and will the person learn them after all? In our team we were looking for a tech support guy and my manager decided to go with the one with "attitude" whereas I would have selected the one with the "good background". 6 months on and I am still teaching this guy tech skills and although he still has a positive attitude, that doesn't alleviate the overload of supporting the platform and support him.

redux
redux

This is what keeps me in business. Why are you depending on your personal skill as an interviewer and resume reader to make a decision of such importance? And why would you ever settle for either your ?Candidate 1? or ?2? as you described them? If Candidate 1 really has an attitude problem, why did you ever waste your time interviewing him in the first place? Do you really have so little to do that you have that kind of time to waste? And are you really so selfish as to only be concerned about the immediate cost of a poor decision to you? It?s true that the cost to your organization of a poor choice is high (even if you can get rid of him within 3 months), but (again, we?ll assume that Candidate 1 is not a pathological criminal!), what of the cost to Candidate 1 ? and to your organization?s reputation for respecting (or not respecting) candidates you would consider hiring? (And your own reputation, as well?) Your candidate?s current employer may well find out he is considering leaving, and unless it is a (sadly) exceptional firm, that could hurt his career there. Of course it shouldn?t ? all employees are ultimately ?temporary? and an organization?s attitude should always be that it has wonderful employees who deserve the best career opportunities they can get, and that (hopefully) the organization can offer them those opportunities. When it can?t, an employer should be happy and honored that other organizations appreciate the worth of its alumni. But face it: in that interview in which you decide that a candidate is or is not for you, you do a whole lot of selling, too. If you hire the ?wrong? candidate ? and he accepts your offer ? my guess is that you misrepresented yourself or your organization or the position to the candidate. If he had known the ?truth? ? from his perspective ? he wouldn?t have considered your offer for a nanosecond. So those ?costs? of making a bad decision go on and on. Anyway, how in the world can you tell from a few short interviews that a candidate has an attitude problem, or that his skills are better than another candidate?s? Poor interviewers usually give ? and get ? a completely inaccurate picture of what a candidate (or, conversely, a hiring manager) is like, and skilled interviewers are skilled salesmen. My guess is that the problem has nothing to do with the candidate?s attitude (or skills, or aptitude) ? it has far more to do with your attitude and aptitude as a manager and your organization?s style and culture. Consider that a person?s ?attitude? in a job is usually based on how accepted and comfortable he feels in your (his new) organization. Does that mean that an ?attitude problem? is your fault, not the new hire?s? Taken as a whole, this doesn?t say that there isn?t a better ? or best candidate. Not at all. There is. You are just exhibiting a quite typical but extremely limiting way of thinking about the problem of new employees fitting into an organization. The first question to ask, in order to get out of your mess, is why you are going through a stack of resumes? Why aren?t you using a recruiter? Can?t afford one? You should be asking yourself how you can afford to take the risk alone? Do you work for an organization with such a low opinion of its people that it is willing to ?chew them up and spit them out?? Even the direct cost of hiring the wrong individual makes the cost of a recruiter a no-brainer ? or it should. Only the organization that thinks little of employees would avoid spending the time and effort to orient a new hire ? to introduce him to how to accomplish things at his new home. Six months go by, at least, before that new hire can have the confidence and knowledge to be truly effective. Before that? Unlike a contractor, the new hire needs to be sure he is accepted. His failures have to be his supervisor?s, not his. If your organization can?t handle that simple truth, then it thinks of all of you ? you too, by the way, so why aren?t you looking for a more rewarding job? ? as contractors, temporary workers: quickly replaceable. So if you are spending the time to absorb, orient, and develop that new hire, why haven?t you spent the time going through hundreds of resumes, talking to scores of potential candidates, interviewing ten to twenty of them, and narrowing your choices to the best that have the skills and the attitude and the aptitude, and that fit (which is, of course, why you hire an outside recruiter). Then you get to choose the best of the best, and you can feel comfortable basing your hiring decision ? not on your mistaken, preliminary guess as to ?skills? or ?attitude? ? on the compatibility your candidate shows with you, your boss, and the employees with whom he will be working. In short, you should never choose between ?skills? and ?attitude?. If a candidate doesn?t have both (to the extent that any of us, candidates included, can tell what those things are when you try to be quantitative about them), you are making a serious hiring blunder, one that can cost your organization ? or you personally, or the new hire ? dearly.

info
info

If you stick to skills you are acting like a tick box government department and hiring appropriately - 9-5 - end! Skills can be taught, acquired, learned. Give me a keen learner ANY DAY - people are better when they are struggling to achieve something, aspiration over condescension every day. And this is true in every field - manufacturing, sales, service etc. If you believe in people - push them and encourage them they will do more for you than you expected or wanted initially!!!! Peter Botting @ Message Craft.

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

I think both attitude and skill count but skill is some thing that can be learned if one shows the talent and ability to learn. Attitutude is some times a reflection of the evnironment. A very good, skilled, hard working employee's attitude could quickly change if he is not appreciatted, doesn't know what is expected of him, not given enough resources to get his job done and doesn't think his opinion counts.

steven.lock
steven.lock

Absolutely agree! I live it everyday. My team consist of folks from 6 different countries. You can imagine the challenges working with a team of people from 6 different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Those I had a hand in picking, I picked those with Attitude, Aptitude and Personality. Technical skills were rated second on my list. The result? My team consistently performs at the highest level, churning out project after project consistently within budget and on time. This team consistently outperforms other teams in the other regions. And I've had ZERO turnover for the last 3 years! I've been asked a couple of times how I pulled this off. And here's my answer: Pick those with great ATTITUDE, APTITUDE, and PERSONALITY -- all rolled into one. For a person with all three of the above ingredients, it would not be difficult to teach him/her technical skills. It isn't easy to find people with all of the three ingredients to start with, however it is definitely well worth your time and effort. So it's not just the attitude that matters. The Aptitude and Personality are just as critical.

jefflim66
jefflim66

While I agree that attitude is very important, a person who has been working for some years & have not acquired the necessary skills most probably would not be able to even with training provided. If not a new graduate, I would hire for both attitude AND skills. Thanks & God bless!

bhinton
bhinton

It seems to me that if you can't hire someone with both the skills required and the attitude there is something wrong with your recruitment process and/or the pay and conditions aren't enough to encourage the right kind of people to apply. Skills and attitude aren't mutually exclusinve!

riverab
riverab

As an IT Manager and someone that has a say in who I hire, I would rather get someone with good people skills and spend the time training him/her than get someone knowledgeable and make everyone mad.

captainrichardkelm
captainrichardkelm

To be successful you need both. We had the nicest fellow here, but in 5 years he couldn't make a tough decision. His job was to make disability determinations. It took him and his supervisor 5 years to recognize that things were just not going to get better. On the flip side, one of the toughest folks I have to work with has good technical skills, but weak people skills and even less humility.

Steve Romero
Steve Romero

I was hopeful when I saw the title of this post and the content did not let me down. I completely agree with Scott and wish more Managers of people adhered to this philosophy. I would add that you need to be more specific when you talk about something as subjective as attitude. To me, attitude is a result a person???s values and their associated behaviors. I had the fortunate opportunity to work for a company that based the measurement of our performance on our values and behaviors in addition to our ability to meet specific objectives. I will concede this was problematic due to the inconsistent nature in which it was instituted by Managers. I acknowledge the difficulty in this approach but I believe the benefits outweigh the problematic aspects. Below is the list of values and associated behaviors. Value 1: CUSTOMERS FIRST - Keeps commitments to customers - Understands and anticipates customer needs - Understands and promotes products and services - Acts in the best interest of the enterprise Value 2: INTEGRITY - Behaves in an honest and ethical manner - Embraces diversity by treating each individual with dignity and respect - Acts in an authentic, truthful, and straightforward manner - Actions are consistent with words - Deals with conflict in a timely and constructive manner Value 3: COLLABORATION - Thinks and acts beyond one's own work group - Puts enterprise needs and goals ahead of individual objectives - Takes responsibility to help others succeed - Freely shares information - Celebrates success Value 4: ADAPTABILITY - Willingly seeks and considers new ideas, approaches and best practices - Anticipates and embraces change - Willing to challenge current practices - Overcomes obstacles to meet goals Value 5: ACCOUNTABILITY - Accepts responsibility for individual and group decisions and actions - Holds self and others responsible for achieving results - Takes initiative to solve problems personally and avoid unnecessary handoffs - Acknowledges and learns from mistakes - Takes personal responsibility for the organization's success Value 6: EXCELLENCE - Consistently strives to deliver superior results - Demonstrates a sense of urgency regarding implementation - Seeks continuous learning and improvement - Sets and achieves high standards of performance Though I am no longer with this company, I still use and adhere to this approach to managing people. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

david.shane
david.shane

I've worked in the extremes of both kinds of shops. I've seen good people leave because we were all expected to pull the weight of those who wouldn't. And I've seen managers who hire those who they think have the best skills, only to find that they've brought in empire builders. I like the comment that one should be looking for people with whom a nearly life long commitment will be made. I would also value communication skills above technical skills. If the attitude is right and the people skills are there, the candidate will probably be eager to learn. And every shop has a different way of getting the job done. But have a mix of promoting from within and hiring from the outside. So you can still bring in new skillsets.

Tig2
Tig2

But I am looking at the question from the perspective of a consultant. If there are specific skills needed for a short term project, I am more inclined to consider skills first. But my requirement in that scenario is tactical and I know that the end of contract can be end of life for that person. I have had a case where I brought on a consultant that I had some doubts about the person's ability to fit the culture. What I discovered is that the person simply didn't interview well. Once in role, we consistently found reasons to extend because the person was so wonderful to work with. I have also had the opposite happen- a person I thought would be a wonderful fit simply interviewed REALLY well. Unfortunately, performance was not there. Fortunately I was able to get through the contract period and let the individual go. Tough choice but a necessary one. Edit: Clarity

johanajoe
johanajoe

I agree that technicalities can be taught but attitude is built throughtout the childhood and culture of the person, it is easy to learn a technical skills but very difficult for attitude.

richardblum
richardblum

Personally, I only look for candidates with a food attitude if I am hiring for the catering industry.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Would this same latitude in hiring apply in a strictly commercial enterprise? That is, the general work environment in the academy is heavily biased to those who "fit" and "won't rock the boat." Considering that academia still fails to come to grips with the concept that they are marketing a product--pure and simple--it is not surprising that "attitude" would trump "skill." However, in a business environment, the primary consideration should be (and most often is) "Can this person do what we are hiring him or her to do?" That is fundamentally different than the mindset of tenure; that every applicant should be considered a lifelong (or close to lifelong) associate. That mindset puts a personal spin on a process that should be primarily professional. As a manager, I understand the importance of hiring qualified people who will not be disruptive to the existing workforce. However, that does not mean I--or the existing employees--have to "like" that person. Employment is a place where things are done to the benefit of the organization, not a place where socialization is the primary motive.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

And what you mean by skills. Most of the time the latter is familiarity with a tool. And the recruiters input is a buzzword search. Kudos on the bravery angle by the way, very few recruiters have the minerals to come on here. The only thing an interview process can do, no matter how professional the people participating can do is -: Is pick the least worst of the bunch based on a very limited impression. If you don't get an axe weilding recently discovered amazonian village idiot, you are up on the game. :p

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

you get new things out of your current people, hiring is a costly and risky business.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

That I heard somewhere that your group has wildly inflated budgets :-) All kidding aside, you're absolutely correct in that aptitude, or ability to learn, is just as important as attitude. The days of the IT department being full of condescending geeks are over. Quite frankly, I fully believe that, to a point, attitude has played a part in outsourcing, although I have no data to back that up. But I do know that an IT department that's incapable of working collaboratively with people is doomed to failure, no matter how well they perform.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Let me guess; you are an employee? You are spending someone else's money, satisfied because you happened to avoid cost overruns or delivery delays on a project or two? Isn't that the old "volume of work expands to fill the time allocated for its performance" concept? The bottom line is whether or not your team is competitive in the real world. Or are they only stars when the budget is inflated, progress is minimal, and corporate pockets are deep? In short, can you take your teams out of the cloistered halls of corporate wherever, and have them compete on an equal footing with teams of independent contractors? For a lot of developers, the "performance" of corporate development teams is not exactly considered something to brag about. And "on time and within budget" are only meaningful in a competitive sense; projects with inflated time frames and even more inflated budgets are not particularly impressive. tekwrytr

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

Hiring someone just because someone has a good attitude doesn't cut it. One must show a TALENT to perform the job as well the TALENT to learn the skills to do the job and that is what the writer of this article is refering to. There is a BIG difference between someone who shows the ability to learn a skill and someone who has the TALENT for that skill to learn. You can't expect a Cook to be a good programmer just becuase he has a good attititude and has good cooking skills. Every skill requires TALENT and that is the key thing to recognize.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

after all it's your lot who want 10 years experience in VS2008 and think attitude is demonstrated by having more letters after your name than in it. Unfortunately non-technical people confuse skills with tools. VS2008 is a tool, development is a skill, so is influencing change, customer interaction and focus. Attitude is a desire become good at them, and hopefully gain recognition for it. My apologies if I've unfairly sterotyped you. It's something us arrogant stroppy propeller heads tend to do. :D :D

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

A good point. Managers should realize that the idea they can train a schmoozer to be a top drawer developer is a bit of a reach, and is totally out of the skill set of most managers. The schmoozer will leave with much the same skill set they entered with; the idea that a manager has such ability to train and develope a mediocre developer with a "good attitude" is a ploy. Specifically, the deficiency will appear to be on the part of the schmoozer (who should not have been hired in the first place) rather than of the manager. Good for the manager, very bad for the organization. tekwrytr

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

one should not have to make that choice.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

The whole point. Thank you for summarizing it! tekwrytr

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Skill trumps attitude. The weakness of many managers is their inability to manage; the person least likely to be hired is the person that manager perceives as being more skilled than the manager. The person most likely to be hired is the person that manager perceives as an inferior, who can be guided and nurtured to become skilled enough to be useful, but never, ever, skilled enough to recognize the deficiencies in the manager's skills. I think the term most often used by marginally competent hiring managers to justify not hiring someone who they perceive to have equal or superior technical skills is "over qualified." In that tackiest of all "mind reading" judgements, the managers delivers the opinion that the prospective new hire "wouldn't be happy" in the position. tekwrytr

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

management, you, a team or all of the above? After all only a complete halfwit can make it through life without annoying the f*** out of someone...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

it's a perception. Personally I've always found effective to be a nice attribute.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Attitude is the drive to succeeed, to be acknowledged by your peers as someone of value. Everything you quoted is a result, and will only occur if an employer consistently rewards it. If they don't then attitude will take said employee elsewhere.

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

You are mixing two completely different situations by comparing hiring a permanent staff person with hiring a consultant or contractor. There are more differences than I care to go into. That said, I think the author nailed it. Hiring someone with slightly lesser skills, but with a better attitude and people skills is the way to go (assuming the stronger skilled person has some attitude issues). I also agree that if the skills are too weak, and the attitude and people skills of canididate 1 are a concern, then keep looking. Maybe you bring in candidate 1 again to make sure you are reading him (or her) correctly. We always try to find the cream of the crop skillwise, but we are also very aware of how the candidate will fit into the team and the company culture. Thanks

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

What a comedian you are.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

attitude is important. The best administrators are those who value their department chairs and faculty, and show it. That's good attitude. The best department chairs value their faculty, and the students we serve. That's good attitude. The best faculty value their students and know that we are here to serve the student. That's good attitude. Some of the brightest and most highly educated people I know bungle their jobs for the simple reason that they think that all that paper they have hanging on the wall means that they know what's best for everybody - bad attitude.

svasani
svasani

A reasonable attitude and strong technical skills is good enough for an IT position. I don't think an IT person needs to be super social. I would probably hire someone with strong technical skills and a reasonably decent attitude. To say that hard skills are easy to gain is plain false. Training can only take you so far. There is no substitute to experience.

kevin
kevin

Wouldnt someone who has spent their own time and resources learning and improving skills represent them having a good attitude? Most of the time if an employee becomes under challenged, under appreciated and under paid, thats when they become problems, maybe companies should focus more on creating an environment of achievement and reward if they are having these issues. From experience most companies I have worked for have appreciated the fact that i could hit the ground running from a technical point of view. Then again I consider myself a friendly person so the above point is moot and there was no trade off.

dafle1
dafle1

"Employment is a place where things are done to the benefit of the organization, not a place where socialization is the primary motive." I understand where you are coming from but people with bad attitude can destroy an organization by refusing to do anything they don't enjoy working on or piss clients or other co-workers off. Good attitude does not mean to be playful, but it means understanding world does not resolve around one person, and other people (customers & co-workers) have needs too.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Obviously demonstrating some competence in the area is of value, already having the skills a bonus. Hiring person with the wrong attitude is foolish, it's worse than that if by skills you refer to Win 2k3 admin, or .net3.5 C# programmer. The primary consideration is not can this person do what we are hiring them for , it's will they. Employment is a place where things are done to the benefit of the employee on the basis that employer gets something in return. All depends on where you sit....

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

None of my staff is tenured, nor am I. We can be fired just like anyone in the corporate world.

DellS
DellS

I work for a company that provides services to mortgage banks. We're currently going through the interview process to hire a new senior person for our programming team. I have to say that, in our case, attitude is at least as important as skill. We have a VERY close-knit team that works well together. There are no "cowboys" and we all help each other out and the senior team members have an active mentoring relationship with the junior members. As a senior member of the team, I'm involved in the interview process and I would not recommend anyone whom I didn't think would mesh with the personality of the team.

djalvarez
djalvarez

I think that some readers misinterperet the point of the article. The writer of the article is not talking about "socializing" and "chitchatting". He does clearly state that he has enough qualifications to "do what we are asking him to do". He never states that the candidate cannot do what is asked. Candidate 1 has an excellent skillset, but his attitude is poor. Candidate 2 can do what is needed, although a lesser skillset than Candidate 1, but his ability to handle clients, customers, or associates is what makes him a better fit. Its not about socializing, its about communication. In fact, if Candidate 1 is better technically sound but his poor attitude holds him back from doing the best job possible, then he "cannot do what we are asking him to do". I wouldn't want a candidate that can do what I ask but his attitude holds him back. That is what makes him great but not the best. Personality is hard to change. The other candidate can always improve his knowledge, but he already has the intangibles that are difficult to teach. He has the potential to be the best. My two previous positions both were excellent teams that got the job done to the highest degree. My bosses were able to choose the best fit for the team, not always the best technical skillset of the choices. The staff worked together as a team at a high level. In fact, the team seemed to get even better when the one with the best skills but poorest attitude left the team. The IT world is enamoured with quantity of knowledge and certificates and diplomas, but the one thing that keeps us from being understood by the rest of the business world as equals and partners is attitude and communication. We are always too busy trying to show how much we know, when we should just be getting the job done in a great way. That's what really matters.

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

Certainly it is not about being friends. But being friends and being friendly, that is, being able to relate to and interact with people one-on-one and one-to-many, are 2 different things. I have been hiring technical people off and on since 1977 and the highly-qualified person with limited social skills has proven over and over again to be a nightmare. People who spend so much of their time learning their craft that they cannot or choose not to balance their time where they can learn and hone social skills tend to be uncomprimising, introspective, and narrow-minded. They have a very hard time peforming the basic skills required to work with others. Furthermore, your attempt to contrast the attitudes of business and academia is a thinly veiled attempt to justify your position by attacking academia. It reflects your ignorance of academia AND business. You make the false assumption that all businesses share your opinion, when in fact there are many very successful businesses who would reject your arguments. I agree 100% with Scott Lowe.

kyang12
kyang12

I agree that a work place shouldn't be a socialize place, but I think that customer services is a must for any IT or business to succeed. after all, the customers are the ones that keep us in business, not the company!

redux
redux

As you aptly point out, "the recruiters input is a buzzword search". Brother does that ever bug me. It's true, there are a tremendous number of "recruiters" who throw resumes at you at hope one sticks, ready to move on to the next lecherous opportunity. But not all of us act in such a reprehensible manner.

steven.lock
steven.lock

Yes, I'm an employee. And I spend other people's money. That's a fact I don't deny. 90% of the folks out there do the same. Don't you? The problem with folks like you is that you make all the assumptions before finding out the facts -- "Fire from the hip" as it is called. What makes you think the budgets are inflated? What makes you think this team of people I have aren't competitive in the market or real world as you call it? Perhaps you;ve had bad experiences in the past. So if that's the case, get over it and move on. I pity the people working for you. You have not the slightest idea how to motivate and engage your employees. So how are your folks doing?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you take that as a given then you can't swap out a less prevalent resource for a cheap abundant glorified clerk / button pusher, and your costs will be higher ! :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

degfinitley seems to be a few managerial posts from those who don't like boat rockers. The sort of annoying oik who points out disastrous flaws in their plans, especially ones of a technical nature.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

We can resort to saying that all personnel problems are the fault of managers, but I don't buy it. Personally, when I hire someone, I want the best mind I can get, even if they happen to know more than I do. Man... if my current DBA had my level of knowledge about what he does, we'd be in a heap of trouble as his skill set with databases far outstrips anything I can do. As for overqualified, I just hired a guy last week that is seriously overqualified for the job we had open and I couldn't be happier about it. He'll help make us, as a whole, a better team. I'm definitely not the best manager on the planet, but am far from being Dilbert's boss. That said, if I hired someone into my team that simply couldn't get along with our users, that would be a huge problem.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

[i]The weakness of many managers is their inability to manage[/i]...

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

of the type of person who has excellent skills, but an attitude that will not fit well with the team or your customers. His last 3 posts appear to have all been from the "wrong side of the bed". How you are perceived is what counts. But if you have good people skills and self-awareness, you will be perceived as "nice", or a team player, or someone who wants to help them and the company succeed. Reread your posts, and ask yourself if that is how you communicate with your peers and customers. I once had an attitude that was a problem, but I have (and I still am) worked on my self-awareness to make sure people understand that I am trying to do my best to help them and the company succeed. If I do that, I succeed.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

If an employee cannot get the job done that he or she was hired to do, it doesn't make a bit of difference how nice he or she is, how well liked she or he is, or how easily he or she assimilated into the corporate culture. He or she is still a drain on organizational assets that--with a bit more insightful hiring practices--need not be wasted.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is more than [i]the drive to succeeed, to be acknowledged by your peers as someone of value.[/i] Attitude is about how you treat others, taking satisfaction in your work whether or not it is appreciated by others, exercising the capacity to listen - and related, translate correctly. Attitude incorporates patience, mood, temperament. IMO.

j.eivers
j.eivers

sometimes what e need to be reminded of is the 'get out clause' for employers and the old attitude that 'a million and one other people can be found to do your job'. An IT Contractor with a great 'work' attitude and skills can be seen as a threat by less qualified superiors. This type of paranoia overshadows the specialism of the contractor to the point whereby, eventhough they are doing a great job, they are not 'gelling' and are not a 'cultural fit'. Better to have the attitude you employer wants and never show the skills you worked so hard to learn - you just might be sacked for dedication to your profession.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Agree completely. Anyone who believes a schmoozer with marginal skills will suddenly blossom into a super developer betrays a lack of knowledge of both software development and human nature. Consider; how did the shmoozer get so far with marginal skills? Given that, might not an astute hiring manager seek out the highly skilled technician with modest social skills over the schmoozer with marginal skills? The former is likely to focus more on task accomplishment, while the latter is busy solidifying his or her place in the corporate hierarchy and locating mentors a step or two up the corporate ladder to run interference for them. tekwrytr

info
info

Often people "buy" skills thinking the job is over with the employers first day. Tony's title gets it right, almost. I would prefer - hire, train, manage and encourage and challenge - then you are on the way. So many hire and then abdicate.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

I don't know about "equals and partners." If I hire someone to do xyz, I want someone who can start doing xyz right out of the gate, without going through the mindless rituals of group assimilation from some COM101 class taken as an undergraduate. Back to square one; it depends on whether you are hiring "lifers" or task-focused personnel for a specific project. If you are hiring lifers--that you anticipate will be employed for an extended period (years rather than months)--then you can afford to consider spending the organization's money to provide the training or whatever necessary to bring that person's skill set up to par. If you are hiring personnel for a "have-to-get-it-done-in-three-months" development project, the concept of preferring attitude over skills is not particularly useful. In academia, the mindset is that of lifers; otherwise known as "tenured faculty." There is very little tenure in software development; if you can't pull your weight from Day One, step out of the way,because there are 10 or more highly skilled people behind you who can. I want those people on my teams, because productivity and task-accomplishment trump "attitude" every time. It is a bit sad to realize that the most preferred hire of most managers is the person they believe will require the least management. Again, it is not the potential or skills of the prospective new hire that exerts the influence; it is the perceptual biases of the hiring manager. If that manager lacks the skills (or secretly believes that he or she lacks the skills) to competently manage, the tendency of that manager will be to concentrate on "getting the right people on the bus"--people who do not require effort or skill on the part of the manager. tekwrytr

BradTD
BradTD

Truer words have never been spoken. Of course skillsets are important, but in the longterm it means nothing if the employee can't work with his/her subordinates and especially if there is no ability or desire to communicate with the customer. I have seen it proven true time and time again in this field. I have hired and fired based on this criteria.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Your response goes right to the core of the problem. Based on a small sample of words, you immediately make value judgements and assumptions--with no evidence--based on your limited understanding. That is precisely the problem in allowing decisions to be made based on "attitude." What is being measured is not the attitude of the prospective hire, but the perceptual biases of the person doing the hiring. In reality, the emphasis on "social skills" is nothing of the sort; it is an emphasis on the supposed ability of the person hiring to accurately assess the "attitude" of a prospective new hire with limited input. That ability is severely restricted by the assumptions of the person hiring, not the social skills of the prospective new hire. I have no position to justify, other than a profound lack of respect for people who presume themselves capable of "mind reading" the innate character of a prospective new hire based on superficial contact.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

There is no relationship between the perceived "fit" of a potential new hire into the existing corporate culture and the ability of that potential new hire to provide excellent customer service. The unstated assumption is that the existing work force already excels at customer service; that is rarely the case. In more cases, the new hire is the perceived to be the least likely to "rock the boat," disturb the existing (and usually half-broken and dysfunctional) social network, and effect any kind of meaningful change.

dm
dm

It's all about attitude, of course the tech has to have basic skills in the area that they will be working, but it's their attitude that will bring success. I have been hiring (and firing) people for 30 years and every time I get seduced by skills and comprimise on attitude I get burned. You need to have someone who will make an effort at customer service. I actually use the SNL Nick Burns, The company computer guy skit for training. It's over the top but the underlying truth is there, that's why it's funny.

dallas_dc
dallas_dc

Steven. There are few replies from people that just spewing without thinking. Almost all of their replies are negative, and do not offer anything to the point of the conversation. I think your initial post was probably the most thoughtful and meaningful of the entire chain of comments. Keep up the good work.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

they can't be getting it all wrong, after all they hired me. :D

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

not all problems. But he hit the nail on the head in the bad manager department. And I have worked for one of those. Education is a bad, bad place to have bad managers, too.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Just managers who claim they are doing their best to help me. My peers show more respect for me than that. Well you are looking pretty tired Tony, Raja over in Delphi, is going to stand in for you, as soon as you have trained him up. Well Tony, despite major successes and really good performance, my bonus is based on reducing costs , so your annual appraisal resulted in a 0.001% increase due to your tie not being exactly perpendicular on the 19th of June.... Our goals are in conflict, you can only succeed and do your best to help me, by deciding what's best for me. Or We can negotiate and compromise, we can both try and get the best out of deal. Attempting redefine a desire to at least break even on my part as a bad attitude, is either a negotiating gambit or a sign of weakness. The former won't work and the latter I will exploit. So you seem to be an example of exactly what I was getting at with my question, our definition of what a good attitude is seems to be poles apart.

IT Generalist
IT Generalist

I think choosing between skill and attitude depends on your short and long term plans. If you want to hire someone temporarily due to lack of help for your new projects, than I think attitude should not be of big concern. Hiring someone fulltime is a totally different story because that person is expected to stay with the company for a long time. You want to make sure that a new hire has the ability to assimilate in the new environment, is a good communicator and know how to get the job done. If that person lacks in some of the technical skill but shows the ability to learn quickly, then you have nothing to worry about. Another thing that can be tried before hiring someone full time is to do a contract-to-hire. This should allow enough time to evaluate both, the attitude and skill set.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

Tekwrytr - from your comments, it appears that you're making the assumption that the choice here is to hire a great tech that has no people skills or hire someone with people skills that has no idea what he or she is doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I'm trying to say is that, given the choice between a "knock 'em out of the park" tech that has a crappy attitude and a tech with enough skills to get most of the job done (and who can learn the rest) that understands customer service, I'll go with the one that can communicate any day of the week. I'm not suggesting that IT managers start hiring a bunch of really friendly but clueless people into jobs that are necessary for organizational success. That would be more that a tad irresponsible on my part.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

if you aren't satisfied with your work. How are you going to be valued by your peers, if you are too easily satisfied Why would they value you if you trampled on their opinions and road roughshod over what they felt was imporant? I'll be the first to admit I can be confrontational, but sometimes someone needs to be. It's not just management who have to make hard choices and far too often they choose not to. It all depends on what you mean by success and value, if it's mere money, then yes there is more, but I never said there wasn't.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

A miltary maxim, business managers need to learn. You can delegate authority but you can't delegate responsibility. Nearly all of them get that the wrong way round.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

There are two sides to academia - the tenure-track side and the non-tenure-track side. The vast majority of the people who work in higher education are part of the latter category and do not have the automatic, built-in job security that is tenure (which, by the way, is not actually automatically granted to every new faculty member either). As the CIO at my college, I can be fired tomorrow on a whim, just like in any other organization. You're right in one thing: If you have 10 *behind the scenes* developers that have crappy attitudes but that are superstars otherwise, you're in good shape as long as the person that represents them is capable of dealing with people. You're also right in that I don't really want to hire people that require a ton of my time. I'd much prefer to find people that are able to work on their own with just general guidance and advice. If I hired someone that I KNEW was a jerk and I had to bring them in my office every other day because of complaints of user abuse, I'd have only myself to blame. I want smart people that can do their jobs with general guidance, offer me suggestions and advice on decisions, and then execute once I make a decision. I've been delegated the responsibility to make decisions for IT that affect the organization so I'm darn well going to get people that are, ALL AROUND, best suited to the environment.

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

That is a false dichotomy. Skills in a technical field do not translate to deficiencies in communication, either with subordinates or customers. It is rarely a case of "either or." More often, it is a case of schmoozers being hired because of a lack of analytical skill on the part of the person hiring, or a lack of focus on organizational objectives by that person. The entire argument of "skills vs attitude" carries the underlying (and totalled unsupported) assumption that the hiring manager (not the prospective new hire) has the skill to make such evaluations accurately. Most psychologists would be hard-pressed to make such evaluations, yet "hiring managers" think nothing of making such decisions based on their limited experience and insight. tekwrytr

tekwrytr
tekwrytr

Without considering this may be a false dichotomy to begin with, I think there is an almost overwhelming desire on the part of managers and HR to "play it safe." I may be missing something, but I don't quite follow the assumption that customer service is a requisite for a technician, unless we are talking about entry-level help desk or something similar. Any prospective new hire should be considered first and foremost for what he or she can offer the organization, not whether she or he has what the person hiring interprets as having "the right attitude." Having witnessed innumerable instances of otherwise rational people being mercilessly manipulated by a little flattery, a bit of schmoozing, and a few techniques straight out of "Instant Rapport," I am highly skeptical of the ability of people to "mind read" attitude. Specifically, given that professionals in the field of psychology are unable to make accurate character assessments with minimal information, I am far from convinced of the ability of managers or HR personnel to make objective, insightful, organization-focused hiring decisions based on the superficial impressions of "attitude" (or at least their perception of what constitutes "attitude") in a relatively brief period of time, in a relatively casual interview. In such cases, the "hiring decision" is based on heuristics gleaned from past experiences, rather than objectivity. In short, that thing we all agree is bad; prejudice. In this case, the prejudice is to rely on "gut feelings" that Person A fits the shortcut heuristic blueprint of someone with "the right attitude." My point is that so doing essentially robs the organization of the potential benefit that could accrue from hiring based on skills first, and attitude second. An example; a recent open position for business analyst went to the person perceived by the "hiring authority" (the IT department head) to offer the least problem to the IT department. That hire set an entire department back months in a complex software upgrade because--rather than skill as a business analyst--the BA was hired because he "had the right attitude." In this case, "the right attitude" equated to carte blanche acceptance of the department head's opinions. I am still trying to get that one straightened out.

dafle1
dafle1

Well said DM. If a person has good attitude with the basic skill necessary for the job then it's almost a recipe for success. Being in project management for about a year now, I see first hand the difference between a good attitude with little skill and bad attitude with skills. - Good attitude wins all the time.