Every week or so, someone will post the Simon Sinek quote, “You don’t hire for skills. You hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”
The problem with this quote is that it assumes other people in the company have the skills that they can teach this person.
I have been part of companies that focus on hiring intelligent, dedicated people and letting them solve challenging problems. And generally, they find a solution. The problems come later.
If I decided to build a house independently, could I do it? Maybe. (I should start by saying I have limited skills in these areas.) Many videos online can teach you everything from pouring a foundation, framing, electrical work, and plumbing. With all of that and some help from friends, it might be possible.
But would you buy that house?
I wouldn’t. Odds are there are going to be issues.
What if I told you I had been working for a general contractor for five years, helping build houses, but this was my first time leading the project? You might have more confidence in the result (I know I would)).
What if, after five years of working closely with a general contractor, I had set off on my own and had built 100 houses? And now I was selling one of those houses I built. What kind of confidence would you have now?
Dave Snowden invented a framework called ASHEN to help talk about knowledge management. I think it can be helpful when thinking about knowledge acquisition.
ASHEN stands for Artifacts, Skills, Heuristics (habits), Experience, and Natural Talents.
In my first example, I would rely on artifacts as my source of knowledge (youtube videos), but I would have none of the other components. Some people, trying something for the first time, may find that they have some natural talent, but that wouldn’t be the case for me.
By the last example, even without any natural talents, I will have picked up Skills, Heuristics and Habits, and Experience that will allow me to have much more valuable knowledge to do a job well.
So should you hire for skills or attitude? It depends. Do you have more experienced folks that can mentor that person? Are the skills they need things that already exist in the organization? What are the immediate needs you have to address?