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Hiring man picked from line with the right attitude

Will vs Skill: Hiring suitable talent for long-term growth

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You can’t build a great company without great people. Anna Clark-Hall, country manager at font, discusses the benefits of hiring for attitude as well as apititude.

Have some of your best hiring decisions ever backfired? That candidate who looked perfect on paper – plenty of work experience, a long list of skills and a reputable university degree – but quits right when you needed the team to pull finger. Or worse, that seat warmer who has no desire to learn or achieve beyond what they have done for the past 10 years.

Hiring managers scrutinise a candidate’s skills and experience and compare it to the skills and experience outlined in the job description. But we cannot overlook a very important soft skill in the recruitment process – their will.

Over the years, we have noticed people with the right desire to succeed have the potential to learn necessary skills for their role, even if they aren’t equipped at the time of interview, and they can even perform better than other candidates who seem to fit the bill.

Candidates with ‘will’ are even more important in the marketing, digital and creative industries. Turnover rates are high, fueled by long working hours, demanding clients, high-strung colleagues and much more. It takes a high level of perseverance for someone to stay in such challenging work environments, and that’s where will and passion come into play.

These candidates aren’t easy to come by, and you’ll have to identify those qualities during interview sessions by asking the right questions. Brief as they might be, the interview process can tell you a lot about a candidate who has the will to succeed. Here are some attributes to keep in mind.

1.  Passion

A candidate’s interaction during the interview can reveal how passionate they are about the role, and how likely they are to do well. Are they asking questions and finding out more about the job, or do they seem content with the job description online? Some candidates apply because they are genuinely interested, while others are resigned to a role similar to their previous job because it’s the only thing they know how to do well.

With candidates who lack experience, were they attracted because of the scope of work and the opportunity to pursue what they desire, or was it purely the paycheck and status? Be attentive to their tone of voice and body language to tell how keen they actually are.

Outside of work, are they generally passionate about other things in life? Do they care about and participate in non-work related causes and projects or volunteer in organisations? Are they part of special interest groups, or do they lack the zeal? A passionate staff will inject energy to the team and be a valuable investment.

What you’re looking for is a candidate’s passion ‘trigger button’. Find out what makes them tick, instead of putting them to the test with horror stories of the profession.

This will help you assess whether they can get passionate about the job, which parts of the role they are driven by, and allows you to then find out their knowledge of challenges associated with the position and how they would handle them. The right candidates will manage problems well.

2. Initiative

If you are going to hiring someone who needs to quickly learn important skills, you’ll want someone who will go above and beyond expectations. Find out if they have started or worked on initiatives in their previous roles to enhance the workplace – have they taken up the mantle to organise company events or volunteered in company-wide improvement schemes and CSR projects? Taking part in these activities requires effort, perseverance and time, which are all qualities of someone with the ‘will’ to succeed.

Ask what they have done to understand the company and role. Have they read  about the company history, values and key projects? If they are interested but lack in certain areas for the role, what steps have they taken to better themselves?

Do the candidates possess an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit? Are they voracious readers who keep themselves informed, and idea generators who tackle problems from a different perspective? Hiring people with initiative will ensure your company and team grows and tries new approaches to projects.

3.  Self-learners  

Starting a new role is challenging and the candidate can’t expect to be handheld. Someone who can self-learn by researching and asking smart questions will be crucial.

To find out if they learn quickly and can manage on their own, ask for specific examples of how they have adapted to a new role. Do they prefer structured learning programs, or are they self-sufficient? Have they been in positions where they knew little about the subject matter and had to figure it out on their own? Self-learners need minimal supervision and ensure you don’t exhaust valuable resources on training.

Identifying a candidate who possesses the ‘will’ is an important first step. After your selection, you’ll want to determine the gap between someone’s current abilities and the required skill sets for that role.

Put in place a development plan to help the candidate learn the necessary skills – make sure there are mentors available to help the candidate transition, and map out specific timelines and goals for the candidate so they are working towards a tangible target.

The first few months may be challenging, but remember that you’re making a longer-term investment in the candidate who can flourish and stay on to contribute to the company.

Image: Shutterstock

HR Masterclass from Human Resources magazine: High-level HR strategy training workshops
led by the world's most respected HR thought leaders & strategists.
Review the 2018 programme here »

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