What is a Better Indicator of Success: Attitude or Experience?

attitude or experience

“Attitude is everything. Would you rather have an employee with great skill and a poor attitude or one with average skill and a great attitude? Skills can be learned. Attitude can be changed, but it is much more difficult … People with positive attitudes are winners. They think positively. The words ‘don’t’ and ‘can’t’ are not in their vocabulary.”

When you are in the process of hiring a candidate to fill an open job, what is more important to their long-term success: their experience or their attitude?

In the thoughts stated above by author Tom Northrup, who wrote Five Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make: How to Unlock the Secrets that Drive Growth & Profitability, you can substitute the word “experience” for “skill” … because the two go virtually hand in hand. And, when it comes down to making a final hiring decision, opt for attitude.

Attitude over Aptitude

The benefits of hiring for attitude over experience, skills and aptitude include:

  • You become a coach, facilitator and mentor as you train a new hire and develop them as part of your effective team.
  • You can mould an employee as you teach them how to execute job duties using your preferred methods.
  • You can delegate tasks and duties with more confidence.

Hiring based only on experience could cause a potentially great employee to slip through the cracks of your system. Audrey McLaughlin, RN of adds these words of advice:

“Look for candidates with a positive attitude over aptitude. Many skills and technical aspects of a position are fairly simple to teach a person. It is much more difficult to change a person’s attitude. Look for people who are active listeners. This can be assessed in the interview process, or even over the phone. People who pay attention, nod in understanding, and follow through with tasks you request during the hiring process fall into this category.”

Virtually every job has tests to assess technical proficiency. But what you can’t test – or determine by checking references – is whether a candidate is motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, work as part of a team, communicate effectively or cope with failure. That’s where the right attitude comes strongly into play.